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Scootering Around Maliko Gulch | Maui.Net - All Things Maui
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Michael Elam's Maui Snorkel & Dive Guide

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Sep. 23, 2007 by Michael Elam

Scootering Around Maliko Gulch

Remember the underwater scooter battle in the James Bond movie, "Thunderball?" I got to play my own version of underwater James Bond with my good friend Bobby Baker of Maui Sun Divers. Bobby has been a scuba instructor here on Maui for 28 years. He knows everything there is to know about diving on Maui and, of course, can get you through all the certification courses your little heart desires.

Name an environment on earth, and humans have invented a personal motor craft for traveling through it. From motorcycles and snowmobiles to jet skis and ultra light aircraft, we've invented a means for easy mobility wherever we've found ourselves. One of the last frontiers for motorized fun was under the ocean itself, but since the invention of the dive scooter, SCUBA divers have been able to zoom through the undersea world, saving the effort of kicking and adding a whole new level of excitement to the sport.

Scooter diving happens to be one of Bobby Baker’s specialties. As Bobby always says: “Scooters can knock 20% or more off your air consumption and will knock your socks off at the same time!” Scooters do all the work for you. They can move at about 2.5-3 knots, much faster than you can swim. You can reach spots almost 2 miles out on a scooter that you would never be able to get to otherwise. And Bobby uses longer-lasting batteries that give a third more bottom time and much more range than the traditional scooter batteries. So he is able to cover more territory, see more critters, and have much more fun!

An underwater scooter is a battery-powered device that has a small propeller on it. Only a couple feet long and shaped like a torpedo, the scooter has two handles, one of which has an on/off trigger for the propeller. A diver grips these handles and gets towed along behind the device. If the diver lets go for any reason, the trigger will release and the scooter will shut off. Steering is easy and intuitive. Just by angling the scooter or sometimes even just with a turn of the head, a diver can get the device to tow him or her in any direction.

You can ride by holding the scooter in your hands allowing it to pull you along…OR…you can ride it like I do “cowboy style” with the scooter between your legs and FLY THROUGH THE WATER LIKE SUPERMAN!

Because you move much faster you have to be very aware of your surroundings to be sure you don’t accidentally ram in to anything. You also have to remember your safe-diving rules…no rapid ascents or descents allowed. And scooter diving is not for those who enjoy up-close observation of marine life…you’re mostly zipping right past whatever creatures you see. But it is a kick!!

Yours truly riding an Apollo AV-1 Divers Propulsion Vehicle (DPV) at Maliko Gulch. Photo courtesy Bobby Baker.

There aren’t many sites that are more awesome to dive with scooters than Maliko Gulch on Maui’s north shore. Maliko Gulch is one of the easiest North Shore sites to enter and exit, and is a great place to dive in the summer months. During the winter the runoff from the rainfall and the large north swells make this site too dangerous for diving, but a Mecca for tow-in surfing!

Entry is via a small boat ramp (we divers always yield to boaters of course). The main hazard here is being run over by boats or jet skis in the bay so keep your dive flag nearby!

The reef below is amazing, with plate corals and rice corals dominating the bottom. Eel, turtles, game fish, and lots of other critters abound here. The underwater topography at Maliko Gulch is very different from most other dive spots on Maui’s south and west shores with more huge rock walls, canyons, undercuts, and lava tubes. It’s more of what you might expect to see while diving on the Big Island.

Checking out the lava tubes at Maliko Gulch. Photo courtesy William Stohler.The Left Side of Maliko Gulch offers a “maze” of inter-connected lava tubes and swim-thru’s that are great to explore on scooters.


View of the canyon at Maliko Gulch. Photo courtesy William Stohler. The Right Side of Maliko Gulch has several deep canyons and some of the largest Green Sea Turtles you’ll find anywhere.


Yours truly with dive buddies Shel and Dave at the anchors at Maliko Gulch. Photo courtesy Bobby Baker. There are also a couple of very large turn-of-the-19th-century anchors here that make for great photo ops!


All photos provided courtesy of Bobby Baker.

Dive stats:

Dive 1: Maliko Gulch Right Side and Anchors
Maximum Depth: 71 feet
Bottom Time: 40 minutes
Visibility: 60-80 feet
Water Temp: 75°

Dive 2: Maliko Gulch Left Side through the lava tubes
Maximum Depth: 58 feet
Bottom Time: 46 minutes
Visibility: 60-80 feet
Water Temp: 75°


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