Dive leader Stephen Kaplan, co-owner of Trident Adventures, led me into a long cave with a low ceiling 30 feet below the ocean surface off the coast of Oahu.
He pointed to the corner, and I swept the flashlight's beam past schools of brightly colored tropical fish until it landed on a resting whitetip reef shark. At this point I had questions not easily communicated underwater. Is he upset I ruined his nap? If this shark wants to leave, will it come through me?
Kaplan recognized I was trying to make a quick exit and shot me a reassuring look. I quickly calmed and cast my light back on the shark, which was harmlessly swimming away from us. Diving with a retired Navy SEAL has a certain way of calming unexpected heart rate spikes.
That background also allows Trident to offer activities that span the entire thrill-seeker spectrum, from kid's introductory diving to scuba excursions that jump-start with a leap out of a helicopter hovering above the ocean.
It also made them an ideal partner for the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, which was looking for a tour company that could meet the demands of a wide range of guests. On a recent trip hosted by Four Seasons, after I pushed my own limits over two days and multiple dives, I came away with a deeper appreciation for Oahu's underwater wonders and the special access scuba offers.
Trident's co-owner, James Beck, is also a retired SEAL, and he and Kaplan make full use of their backgrounds to craft a unique menu of activities. Trident Adventures offers skydiving from a helicopter, tactical shooting training with a variety of military pistols and rifles and a SEAL for a Day experience that combines the helicopter jump scuba dive with skydiving and tactical shooting.
His passion for diving evident, Kaplan was eager to both counsel beginners who had trouble controlling their nerves and teach experienced divers new skills.
"We were really motivated to open a tour company that we would want to go out with," Kaplan said. "We've been diving in Hawaii for years, and we wanted to share our love for the place and felt we could bring something extra to it."
While diving near Electric Beach, Kaplan introduced our group to Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPV), essentially a handheld propeller attached to a battery that shoots the rider through the water like a (slow-moving) torpedo. We cruised past green sea turtles, butterflyfish and eagle rays before a pod of dolphins stopped to inspect us. Thanks to the DPVs, we were able to glide along with the pod for several hundred feet without serious exertion that would have quickly depleted our oxygen.
Trident focuses on dive sites along the west, leeward coast of Oahu, where there are coral reefs, lava tubes and shipwrecks to explore. They also offer snorkeling, free-diving instruction and other activities for groups that include a mix of interests. Trident Adventures also holds introductory scuba classes for different age groups in the Four Seasons Resort Oahu serenity pool and its ocean lagoon.