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Dive Dive Dive!

Posted on October 20, 2009

The following is a guest blog from Kim Tracy Prince and the original article can be found here.
Turtle
What’s your Twitter handle, pal?

Here’s how I learned to never underestimate a tourist attraction.

One advantage of being a social person is that I get to meet lots of different people and I’m not afraid to find out what their stories are.  I’m truly interested in them.  And because of that, interesting things come my way.  And so it happened that during my very short stay in Hawaii, I found myself in a submarine 107 feet below the surface of Waikiki bay.  And it was awesome.

Atlantis Adventures
is a company that operates commercial marine excursions around the world.  Their main attraction on Oahu is the Atlantis submarine, which takes passengers on a 45-minute tour of a section of the bay that is home to several artificial reefs.  Their ticket booth and pier are located outside the Hilton Hotel (with a lovely outdoor bar called Tropics right there to greet you when you are done).  There are ads and signs all over the tourist information areas in the airport and the hotels and even random carts along the beach.  You seriously cannot miss the colorful logo for this company.  Which is exactly why I dismissed this activity as a tourist trap and it barely even registered in my brain when I first got to Honolulu.

But then I met a woman at a tweetup who works for the company, and she invited me to be her guest aboard the sub the next day.  What the heck?  Why not?

Let me tell you something.  It was incredible.  From start to finish, this outfit has got it right.  I was impressed with everything from the ticket booth to the knowledge of the tour guide to the orderly way we boarded and filed into our seats, to the way safety was handled.  And I haven’t even gotten to the main attraction yet.

Here’s how it works.  You can take a dedicated trolley from many points in Waikiki to the pier.  At the pier you board a transportation ferry, where you watch a safety video, and you are taken out to the submarine in the bay.  It is towed out there in the morning and back again at night to save battery power.  Once you reach the submarine, you step off the ferry onto the top of the sub, which is flat.  You descend a ladder and then make your way to the seats, which face giant portholes, the coolest, highest-def vision of tropical fish and coral reefs you can imagine.

Descending Atlantis Sub
Family in Sub
Passengers in Viewports

The captain then pilots the submarine around several different reefs that Atlantis created out of metal structures which include an old boat and an old airplane.  The company acquired these old vessels as scrap, then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean them properly so they would be safe for the underwater environment.  Within years, coral grew on the surfaces, and became hospitable places for brilliant tropical fish to live and feed.

I was on the “premium” tour which apparently is on a larger sub with more leg room and some extra features.  Our tour guide, Sean, had been with the company only about a year and a half, but his knowledge of the aquatic life the history of the company and its methods was encyclopedic.  His narration of what we saw was easy to understand and very helpful.  We were all given a pictorial checklist of types of tropical fish that we might see, and we saw almost all of them, including a white-tipped reef shark and three enormous sea turtles.
Shark under reef
Fish are friends!
Fish-Coral
Fish with coral

Fish-gazing is the main activity of this attraction, but it was plenty.  Everyone on board the sub I rode was fixated by what we saw, even up to the very end of the ride when the sub went back up to the surface.  The view of Waikiki from out there on the impossibly blue water is breathtaking.
Surfaced Sub with Diamond Head
Atlantis gussies up that tour with all kinds of fun goodies, however.  They offer special packages that include dinner, or a sunset cruise on their snazzy SWATH vessel Navatek I (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull), and the Navatek even has a vow renewal package for couples.  If they do those other options as smoothly and professionally as their main attraction, I would bet they’re worth the extra cost.
The basic submarine tour costs $99 per adult and $45.00 per child, who must be at least 36 inches tall and able to descend a vertical ladder.

About Kim Tracy Prince

Kim Tracy Prince is a television producer and freelance writer in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. With two little boys under 4, she writes about the messy underbelly of family life at House of Prince, contributes to the colorful group of voices at Los Angeles Moms Blog, and guides parents to enriching activities at Being Savvy San Fernando. Kim also writes a column in the local newspaper The SFV News. When she and her husband can wrestle the kids into their car seats successfully, they enjoy trips within a 7-hour drive, max. Kim’s Favorite Vacations: My favorite vacations are the ones that get me away from as many people as possible. My honeymoon, spent aboard a 32-foot Beneteau in the British Virgin Islands, was the most relaxing time of my life. That said, family trips to places that delight my children can be worth the crowds. A recent vacation to SeaWorld for the opening of Sesame Place now ranks up there among the faves.

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