Passengers are taken out to the sub (which when surfaced can be seen from shore) via boat. The trip out is only about 5-10 minutes, during which time the crew reviews safety precautions. In fact, the entire tour only took a little over an hour, but a lot is packed into that hour. The benefit of this is that you can easily fit an Atlantis trip into a day's itinerary with plenty of time to do other things.
Our guide was a very funny, personable guy who bore more than a passing resemblance to Zachary Levi on Chuck, in fact I don't remember his name because I just thought of him as "Chuck". In addition to being a fun host, Chuck is also a Hawaii native and had great stories about his own experiences with Hawaiian reefs and ocean life that added an aspect to the experience that you just don't get with someone who is guiding a tour from a script, no matter how well-written.
Pulling up alongside the Atlantis. Forget everything you learned about submarine rides from Disneyland - this is the real thing!
The Atlantis descends into the coral reef slowly, eventually reaching a depth of 100+ feet. On the way you get to see a ton of local sea life. During our trip I spotted parrotfish, a puffer fish, butterflyfish, pennantfish, durgons and yellow tangs (see fish card at the end of the post). No sharks though - they are nocturnal. The tour also included a couple of sunken boats, including one that bit the dust after its owner got drunk and accidentally set it on fire. Not to worry - the ocean and its residents have taken full possession of the boats and they now support vibrant reef life. The thing about sunken boats is that until you see one up close and personal, you really don't get the full force of just how surreal it is, both in terms of seeing them dead on the ocean floor and how easily the sea co-opts them.
Some interesting factoids about the Atlantis tour:
- The sub is battery-powered. The batteries runs the length of the bottom of the sub and can last up to 100 hours, although they recharge every 50 hours. Our sub, the Atlantis VII, can carry 48 passengers and is 65 feet in length.
- During our dive, we reached a depth of 109 feet. When the tour ended, it took them about a minute to get back up to the surface. The sub is capable of diving as deep as 150 feet.
- When not in use, the sub is docked at the Honokohau Marina, which lies roughly halfway between Kona Village, where the tour originates, and Kona Airport. It is towed back and forth between the marina and the waters off the village each day. We had actually seen the sub docked when we came back to shore after my Dad's burial.
- In addition to Kona, Atlantis tours are available in Waikiki and Maui in Hawaii, as well as Guam, Aruba, Barbados, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Curacao and St. Martin.
As we headed back to shore, Not Chuck told us that these crew members are contractually obligated to keep waving until we're out of sight. We thought he was kidding.
A few days later I was hanging out at Old Airport Beach around 4pm and noticed a boat offshore that reminded me of the one that took us out to the sub, heading north away from Kona Village and toward the marina. And sure enough...
Atlantis and mothership heading home.
Links: Atlantis Submarines Kona - Atlantis Hawaii on Twitter - Atlantis Hawaii on Facebook
Hawaiian reef fish. We actually saw some of these: