Hawaii is not thought of as a top dive-dive-dive destination for travellers from around the world. But for many US west coast divers, Hawaii diving has been the gateway drug that hooks them on scuba. For quite a few of us, Hawaii holds the the fond, “you always remember your first” position. This is because it is a great destination to do your open water cert dives instead of in the cold waters of the California or Pacific Northwest coasts. Another draw is that West coast to Hawaii airfares are relatively cheap which offers you a chance to get a taste of Pacific ocean diving with its unique creatures not found in the Caribbean. Hawaii is also offers a the best US vacation option for a family that needs access to both dive and shore based attractions.
Even with those plusses, before our most recent trip to Maui in our dreams, we never felt like we just had to go back to Hawaii. But our warm and memorable time with the crew of Mike Severns Diving was so great that we now want to go back to Maui just to dive with them.
Our dive experiences
There are numerous dive operations to choose from in Maui. Before we left we heard consistent recommendations to dive Mike Severns Diving. That is the crew we chose. When we arrived at the boat launch at 6 am, the sparkling clean white boat was parked and easy to find. We were greeted by AJ Hill, a bright woman with a sunny disposition. She hauled our gear aboard the boat and sent us to talk with Andy Schwanke, the captain of the boat. Andy got us signed in, joking with us the entire time. He is a funny guy, yet handles every aspect of the dive operation with professionalism and care for your safety and well being.
After getting us out of the dock, Andy followed standard practice and briefed us on the boat, the safety equipment, use of the head and other useful and important information. He then drove us towards our first dive, the outer wall of Molokini. AJ gave us a thorough pre-dive briefing of procedures to follow, as well as what to look for under the sea. Owner Pauline later told us that they are known for there long and educational dive briefings. Not only did AJ give us more in-depth knowledge of what we would see than any other briefing, the jokes and routines between her, Andy and other crew were smart, funny and felt like a professional theater act. We were told to keep an eye out for mantas, sharks, pyramid butterfly fish, long-nose hawkfish and other species large and small.
Named the best wall dive in the U.S. by Scuba Diving Magazine, I splashed at the back wall of Molokini with both high expectations and a seriously bad attitude, having dived the beautifully abundant walls of British Columbia in prior months, as well as Palau as our last tropical adventure. As a result, I found the outer wall of Molokini to be a disappointment. Admittedly, we did see a giant manta ray, but not much else. Topside, AJ admitted that the wall did not have as much to show on that dive as it typically did. While waiting to splash again, I decided to adjust my attitude and appreciate all that Maui diving has to offer. Our second dive did not disappoint, with the discovery of a frogfish, a couple of cooperative sea turtles, and critters of every size and shape.
We dove three days with Mike Severns Diving. The next two days we splashed in the inner crater of Molokini and were pleased with the results, seeing an abundance of life, from eels to sharks to tiny octos to nudibranchs and more. After each Molokini dive we headed towards the shore to find turtles, more frogfish, and lots of critters.
As critical reviewers it a rare case when we cannot find anything on the con side to say. There is always at least that one thing we wish would have been better. But with Mike Severns Diving we only found the positive. This crew has customer service nailed. The comedic banter during the briefing is lively, intelligent and professional. No hokey or off-color jokes here. We never experienced or heard any condescension. Even when Captain Andy was telling me individuals to move to different parts of the boat (as he had already told us), it felt friendly.
AJ (Autumn Hill) is the most expressive divemaster I have ever met. She uses her whole body and face to communicate underwater and it is so easy to understand her that if feels like you wearing a com system.
About Mike Severns Diving
With thirty-two years of operation, Mike Severns Diving prides itself on being accident-free. The only part of their business that rivals there remarkable customer service is safety. They carry the most current and well maintained high quality oxygen system and make sure that all crew members are well-trained in its use, as well as being current in CPR and first aid. The operation is a charter only with no associated dive shop. The crew, consisting of owner Pauline Fiene, captain Andy Schwanke, DMs AJ Hill, Warren Blum and Seth Waller, are all avid and enthusiastic divers and often talked about the dives they did on their “days off.” You can read more about each of them on their website.
The boat is a comfortable 38-foot painted aluminum Munson with twin 300 hp engines, a hard top sun roof, a head, broad swim platform and well designed ladders. I greatly appreciated the easy to climb ladders, having injured my back on a boat ladder in the spring. In fact, having mentioned my injury and fear of re-injury to the crew, I was allowed to roll forward off the back of the boat to enter and assisted onto the boat upon exit to reduce load bearing on my back. Thanks to their excellent care, no re-injury ensued. They take a maximum of 12 divers per boat which allows for a max of 6 divers per DM, a comfortable amount to dive with. Unlike many tropical dive boats, this one has a head. Divers using the the company’s rental suits were thoughtfully requested to use the head to keep the suits fresh for other customers.
Diving from the boat was as easy as it gets. The crew loads the gear and by the time you board you notice your gear is ready to dive. After the briefing you just don mask and fins and sit on the bench while they heft your tank to your back and help strap you in. During surface interval the crew swaps out your tanks while you relax and chat.
Between dives there are fresh baked cookies, cinnamon rolls, bagels, fruit, juices, water and sodas available and lots of time to chat with the friendly crew. If needed, you can rent gear ScubaPro BCs and ScubaPro regulators with Oceanic computers, as well as 3mm or 7mm wetsuits. Water temps vary from 72 degrees F to 82 degrees F. When we dove the water temps were between 78 and 79 degrees F. They provide 80 cu ft.tanks.
After the trip, if you are diving the next day, you can just leave you gear on board and the crew will rinse and prep everything for tomorrow.
Based on their organization and professionalism from the moment we arrived to the moment we left, their love for and knowledge of the Hawaiian waters, and their friendly warmth, we highly recommend Mike Severns Diving to anyone diving in Maui. We left feeling like the crew were more like friends than just another dive operator. Next time you’re in Maui, give them a call.