Timing, mooring placement, size of the boat all have key parts in the decision as to what boat to take to Molokini specifically.
Leaving the house right before dawn there was almost no traffic, so leaving from anywhere (besides Hana :) is an easy ride down to South Kihei. There's lots of parking ( I recommend just pulling into the upper parking lot that's on the right as soon as you turn, it's a quick walk down to the trailers with boats in the parking lot) Redline Rafting checks in at their bright red brand new boat, which is still on the trailer in the lower parking lot of the Kihei Boat Ramp. There is a quick succession of boat companies lowering their vessels into the water as we wait for our turn and then after a quick orientation by the Captain we're off quickly to explore the south part of Maui. The two men aboard today are both Captains and owners, having worked on other boats here in Maui previously, they came together with one more mate and a common vision...they built a unique boat and an uncommon trip.
First we headed toward Molokini, getting there while just one other boat was moored in the crater, just as Redline is always the second. Jumping off the boat into that clear pool of water was an eye opener, but it was a reaction more to my sensibilities than temperature, as the air is about the same temperature as the water, which is year round, 76 degrees or so warm.
One of the Captains jumped in the water with us for a little educational reef tour and then some free time to snorkel back around before heading back to the boat, we quickly warmed up in our towels, as we watched the big boats and the sun pour into the crater. Although many people will say that Molokini Crater has lost some of its color and ocean life, there's was an amazing amount of curious fish feeding in the nooks and crannies of the coral beds before they get all stirred up by a couple of hundred flippers.
Next stop was the backside of Molokini, which I happen to personally LOVE. The water was fairly calm and so we got to spend a full half an hour in the water back there, swimming further along the wall that I've ever been able to do with other boats. The amount of fish was as vast, like a 'wall of fish' as the startlingly blue of unending water and the pure depth before us brought humility and a quiet to the boat as we boarded again and were instructed to 'hold on tight'! Our next stop was down by the sea caves towards the Kanio Coast for a historical look back at what makes this island so special, while keeping our eyes peeled for some of the Hawaiian spinner dolphins pods that make these waters their habitat. The water this early is routinely smooth and glassy and we have no trouble jumping in for about a 45 minute snorkel over some great lava fingers and archways, keeping fairly close to the guide who takes many opportunities to bring sea life up to the surface for explanation and offering the option to touch these watery treasures before replacing them exactly where he'd found them. Love how they let us off the boat to snorkel a ways, and then bring the boat around to pick us up, conserved time and energy for our next (yes 4!) location with some green Hawaiian sea turtles. Although many of the boats that go to Molokini also go to "Turtle Town", they are strung out by exact location and timing, many of those locations have kayakers that are in the water as well..echos of 'Turtle! Here!' resonate over the soft rush of waves as the white water swirls over the lava fingers , intricate underwater tendrils of lava rock where the turtles love to hide. They have to breathe at least 15 minutes so they're always coming up for air (and a close encounter).
With Redline Rafting I felt I had discovered a gem, a microsm of a tropical universe, with each destination it's own planet of watery wonders.
One of the greatest things about Kihei Boat Ramp is the outdoor showers and bathroom building. Be sure to take a change of clothing and rinse that salt off. Sometimes in the upper parking lot (where you would have parked if you were me ;) there are kite enthusiasts as a bonus. I like to stop into Kihei Caffe on my way home, get a latte and one last look at the south side before I head away from the beach.
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