You can find Honolulu tourist activities that take place well above sea level — helicopter rides and parasailing — ones that occur right at sea level — whale watching, sailing and surfing — and several underwater. ( Surfers spend short periods of time under water, but that isn’t their goal.) For our big splurge, or should I say plunge, we chose to travel below the sea. Since neither of us is a diver or even a good swimmer, we opted for a submarine ride.
The Nautilus, the submarine in Jules Verne’s adventure, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, operated at depths deeper than the Atlantis submarine we sailed on. It could dive as deep as four leagues or about ten miles. Ours only submerged to a depth of one hundred and twenty feet. Verne’s story features a giant sea monster capable of damaging an ocean liner. And its most famous scene is a battle against a giant squid. Our story featured many small and colorful fish and a few large ones, all of which were pretty, but none of which posed a threat to our safety.
According to our underwater tour guide, natural reefs off the coast of Waikiki have been disappearing for a hundred years. Artificial reefs, “a series of concrete pyramids,” are helping recreate new habitat for coral, fish, spiny urchins and other marine life. Two deliberately sunken ships and an airplane also aid in the recovery process. Large openings in these structures give cover for predators waiting to ambush smaller fish.
Vertical structures first attract plankton, which draw small fish that then attract larger fish. In time algae and corals grow. All these elements were at play on the Waikiki reefs.
The submarine accommodated sixty-four passengers with one viewing porthole for every two people. The color of the water changed the deeper the sub went. It was a beautiful aqua at the surface. As we submerged and found ourselves farther and farther from sunlight, we lost red and then orange. At sixty feet, the water looked yellow and below that, green and finally, blue.
The trip was peaceful, the fish calming. Our only battle took place in a restaurant that evening as we fought with forks over a plate of calamari and dipping sauce.