Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

I heard a light hum and squinted at what appeared to be a large white whale surfacing in the distance. My eyes widened. This was no sea mammal — it was a submarine, and I was about to board.

I’m always surprised when non-divers tell me, “I could never do it, I’m too claustrophobic!” To be diving in the vast open ocean is the opposite of constricting, and I should know — I’m prone to bouts of claustrophobia myself. Which is why despite several opportunities I’ve never hopped into a tourist submarine on my travels. This trip to Maui however was full of plenty of firsts. I’d already reached crazy heights paragliding, why not go super deep in a submarine to balance things out?

Which is how I found myself adrift in the bay of West Maui, watching ascend to greet us.

My partners on this mission were the lovely Pete and Dalene of — and our forty five fellow passengers, of course. Luck was on our side. As they boarded us by seating area we were the last ones into the sub, which landed us the best seats in the house, right behind the captain.

I found that that extra bit of breathing room being seated on the end helped abate any anxiety I had about the experience. Though I admit I did take a few deep breaths as the hatch closed.

I laughed at myself when I saw the controls and thought, “Wow, it’s a real submarine!” I guess I was expecting a toy? Between the guide’s commentary we were able to chat with the captain and he even invited us up to take photos from the front at one point. I was impressed. It might be full of tourists but this is no simulation — it’s a full on submarine experience.

As we began our descent I stared out into the blue somewhat skeptically. Having just went for two fabulous scuba dives, I wondered if this one could live up.

We were on our way around Twin Peak Dive site. I have to give the guide credit. I know he’s probably made the same jokes a billion times and has them down to a science, but damn if I didn’t laugh. My favorite gag? “My Heart Will Go On” pouring out of the loudspeakers as we descended upon a shipwreck.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, there were fish. And coral. And one frustrated blogger trying to take pictures that had a hue other than blue in them.

And then there was the Carthaginian. Purposefully sunk in 2005 as an artificial reef, we had front row seats to this popular dive site. It was beautifully framed by the submarine portholes and I appreciated that the captain drove us by twice, making sure both sides of the sub got equal views of everything.

When we reached our deepest depth, 130 ft, the guide pointed out the depth gauge so we all could ooh and ahh — and take pictures, of course. But I was way more impressed by what was about to happen next. I was concentrating on taking a picture of something completely unmemorable when I heard Pete exclaiming something excitedly from the captain’s area. “Hmmm?” I replied, and jumped out of my seat at the reply.

“EAGLE RAYS!” I cried, fumbling with my camera while admiring what would be a rare and celebrated sighting for any scuba diver. They were out of my view before I could compose anything framable, but the memory was picture perfect.

With a final sighting of a sleeping nurse shark rounding out the trip, it was time to head back to dry land. Am I going to turn in my scuba gear any time soon in favor of subs? Heck no. But I loved marveling at the technology and engineering of the submarine experience, and the wreck and the rays were pretty amazing bonuses.

Have you ever been in a submarine? Would you?

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Many thanks to the Maui Visitors Bureau and to Atlantis Submarine for hosting me and showing me so much aloha. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

  • Looks crowded in there! I’m not claustrophobic but seeing all those people in a small space didn’t bring good thoughts! The scenery looks cool though
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Yeah, I was super grateful for our location in the front! Gave us a bit more breathing room 🙂

  • Katie
    July 25 2014

    I’m also surprised when people don’t want to dive because they’re claustrophobic… I’d be more claustrophobic and nervous in a submarine! haha! I’d still do it… The eagle rays are super cool!
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Totally agree! I never feel claustrophobic diving, but this one did test me a bit.

  • Leah
    July 25 2014

    Cool experience! Different, at least…how many people can say they’ve been on a submarine?

    I’m getting ready to make a bunch of travel-related purchases…I’m about to become Eagle Creek’s favorite customer…and I might need to ask you some camera questions!
    Leah recently posted..

  • Krystle
    July 25 2014

    My breathing is shallow and my heart rate is up just by reading this post! I too am claustrophobic. I don’t get claustrophobic from scuba diving but put me in an elevator with close to ten people and I feel like I’m about to pass out. Your photos are amazing, and I wish that I could participate, but I want to scramble out of my seat and I wasn’t even there 😉 Glad you were able to enjoy yourself! And those eagle rays… what an incredible sight!
    Krystle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Well, that’s the magic of experiencing through blogs 🙂 You can get a lot of the gist of it without having to be there yourself! Which in this case sounds like the best case scenario!

  • I’ve experienced something similar with a glass bottom boat tour of the coral reefs in Cancun. It was not exactly pleasant. Everyone got seasick. One poor girl reenacted The Exorcist while we all tried to enjoy the majestic reefs. I did enjoy the sights, though!
    Candice @ The Let’s Go Ladies recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Yikes! I was a bit worried about being motion sick — occasionally an issue for me — but didn’t feel a thing. Thank goodness. I’ve been on ferries like what you described, ugh.

  • I’m pretty sure I would have a panic attack as I am claustrophobic. Although, I think I would try it… maybe? Are Eagle Rays rare in Hawaii or in general? I saw one snorkeling in Belize! They are definitely pretty 🙂
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Everywhere I’ve been they’ve been pretty rare! I think they are quite shy and typically are in deeper open waters than divers frequent (don’t quote me on that though!)

  • Justine
    July 25 2014

    The Eagle Rays are beautiful! As a kid I went on the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland…but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t count 🙁 I think a submarine ride would be fun. Plus, it seems like a great alternative for people who don’t want to dive.
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      I was just at Disneyland, how did I miss this magical submarine ride?! A good reason to go back!

  • Erika
    July 25 2014

    So fun! It totally makes sense, but I didn’t even think about submarine tours as being a thing. The only submarine I’ve been on was at Disneyland, which is hardly the same thing. Another thing to add to my bucket list…
    Erika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      You are the second one to mention this, and now I’m devastated I missed it when I was at Disney! Argh, sounds like an AMAZING ride!

  • MCVK
    July 25 2014

    Oh, Meihoukai, I get such a kick out of living through you vicariously. Did they give you and the others any test before taking you on board, to make sure no one freaked out once they were locked in and submerged? And did you ask them if the operators ever had to surface to let someone out?

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      I actually asked about that! They said if someone is going to freak, they do it as soon as the hatch is closed — so before they descend. Personally I think I might have had an issue had I not been up front!

  • Emily
    July 25 2014

    What an awesome experience! I’ve never done scuba diving and think that I would more happily go the way of a sub, though it does look a bit crowded in there!
    Emily recently posted..

  • Caity
    July 25 2014

    Wow! Who knew that submarine tours existed? Certainly not me. Given the oppurtunity I would definitely partake!

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      I’d had the opportunity before, in Cayman and Roatan and on previous trips to Hawaii, but it took me a while to take the plunge! Well worth the wait.

  • Ron
    July 25 2014

    I saw the Atlantis submarine in Cozumel… apparently the name Atlantis is popular. We were diving and the sub arrived and it was noisy. We waved at the people in the sub and you could see how excited they were.

    My diving buddy is doing a deep water sub over 1000′, that sounds dark.

    Another interesting post but I generally like your view. Enjoy the concert!

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      It is actually all part of the same company! They also have ones in the Cayman Islands and on the Big Island, and I’m sure many other spots around the globe. Some of my friends in Cayman saw the sub there on dives occasionally as well.

  • Shaun
    July 26 2014

    Haven’t been but would go in a heartbeat. I never knew there was commercial submarines! The eagle rays look amazing! Great experience, how long did the ride last?
    Shaun recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      The whole shebang is about an hour and forty five minutes, which includes the boat ride out to the sub as well. I still need to return to Hawaii someday in the winter — the captain said they often see them in the harbor during the ride out during that time!

  • What a cool experience! I remember when I was a kid, my favorite ride at Disney World (when I grew out of being scared of it…) was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. So, this would totally be something I’d like to do once in my lifetime. I doubt I’d want to trade in my own fins for it as well, but the experience once would certainly be cool.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Yeah, I think this is something to experience once, while diving is something to experience…. as often as possible 🙂 And man, this is the third mention of that darn ride. I really need to try it!

  • Chris
    July 27 2014

    So, how much would this cost the average punter..?
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      Booking online is about $100, though they also have combo packages available that bundle in other major Maui attractions.

  • Wow that is so cool! I have never been in a submarine but I would definitely do it if the opportunity arises
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 28 2014

      You should check their site — Atlantis has subs scattered around the world!

  • Ed
    July 30 2014

    Submarines are cool. I’ve been on several in various parts of the world both vintage and touristy. I wouldn’t want to be on one for more than a 3 hour tour though. I spent two years on a 372 foot Coast Guard Cutter and that got old and confining really fast. I can’t imagine how mentally tiring the confines of a sub would be after a few days…
    Ed recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 30 2014

      Yeah… no thanks! I think this ride was about 45 minutes, the perfect length 🙂

  • Stacey
    August 5 2014

    I’ve done the submarine thing myself before and it’s super exciting!

    Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      August 8 2014

      You are so welcome Stacey! Glad you’ve had a good time too 🙂

  • tammyonthemove
    August 15 2014

    Now this I could totally do. Diving still terrifies me, but this submarine would make me feel far less vulnerable I think.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 19 2014

      Give it a try and let me know how it goes, Tammy! I’d love it if it inspired you to try scuba 🙂

  • Camels & Chocolate
    September 2 2014

    And I’m one of those very people you reference: Just seeing all those people crammed in the sub sent me into a fit of hysterics. I went on the Nemo submarine ride at Disney and had a full-blown panic attack. The difference is that in open water, you know you can surface if it gets bad; in a submarine, you can’t just pop open the hatch…
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 3 2014

      Yeah, this is definitively not the activity for anyone with extreme claustrophobia! Sorry you didn’t get to find Nemo… 😉