Dive shop offers snorkeling at Molokini crater

Hawaii bureau chief Doug Oakley spent an afternoon snorkeling at Molokini crater on a Maui Dive Shop tour. His report follows:

Molokini crater sits off the Wailea coast in deep, clear blue water and is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the area.

For visitors, the only practical way to get there is to book a snorkel tour on a boat.

Maui Dive Shop, a dive and snorkel outfit with seven shops on Maui, was recommended to me by personnel at the Kea Lani Resort in Wailea.

Our snorkel tour went first to Molokini, then to a spot closer to shore and unofficially called Turtle Town, so named for the large numbers of sea turtles swimming in the area.

A guide with Maui Dive Shop gives a lesson on how to use a mask and snorkel. I found Maui Dive Shop guides personable, knowledgeable and professional.

Although our boat was about 40 minutes overdue from its previous morning tour because of a ruptured radiator hose, the operation gained my respect by the way it handled the situation.

While waiting at the Kihei boat ramp for our tour to begin, we were told by a representative that the returning boat was idling in on one of two engines and that a mechanic was waiting on the dock to replace the hose.

He also told us that even though the boat could make our tour with the one remaining engine, it wouldn't leave until both engines were working properly.

The boat came in, the hose was fixed, the mechanic tested the engine and away we went.

We headed for Molokini, about 25 minutes away.

On this particular day the seas were very calm, an anomaly for the 10 a.m. tour that we were on.

Calm seas make for good snorkeling. The morning tour, which leaves at 7 a.m., usually has better snorkeling conditions due to calmer seas.

Maui Dive Shop fed us coffee, soft drinks and muffins. The guides offered instruction to those who had never used a mask and snorkel and gave us a brief rundown of the kinds of fish we might see as we snorkeled around a crater in the middle of the ocean.

After about an hour at Molokini, we headed for Turtle Town for another 40 minutes or so of snorkeling with sea turtles. This time, a guide came with us into the water and led us to the place where we could see the turtles.

The Molokini & Turtle Town tour costs $39.98 for adults and $35.88 for kids ages 4 through 12.

Maui Dive Shop also offers scuba-diving trips and other snorkel trips. It rents snorkel gear for those who want to go snorkeling by themselves from the shore.

The Maui Dive Shop publishes the Maui Dive Guide with a map of shore-snorkeling spots along with information on how to get in and out of the water, how much experience you need for a particular spot and the availability of bathrooms and showers.

Maui Dive Shop has locations in Lahaina, Kaanapali, Honokowai and Kahana on the west side of the island, in Maalaea on the south side and in Kihei on the east side.

For information on tours, call (800) 542-3483 or visit the Web at www.mauidiveshop.com.

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