I can officially say that I was on the Guinness Book of World Records largest passenger submarine. Atlantis Submarines Hawaii took me 110 feet below the surface of the water in a 64 passenger premium submarine to explore the underworld in Hawaii. With Atlantis Submarines just celebrating their 25th anniversary of underwater exploration in Hawaii, it was the perfect time to explore the ocean with Atlantis. With natural and artificial reef below the surface, the abundance of aquatic life was surreal.
I’ve not had the opportunity previously to go on a vessel that can be submerged completely underwater. My first time on a submarine was enlightening. My fascination with all forms of transportation led me to be extremely curious about submarines. The amazingly sleek and swift vessels can provide an underwater experience like no other.
Atlantis submarines are designed to comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations and have an upper deck with railings to assure passenger safety. The subs have an underwater wireless telephone which is used to maintain communication at all times with a surface vessel while submerged. When boarded on the Atlantis, passengers are seated back-to-back on molded seats in two rows down the center of the vessel. Crew members are situated at the front and the back of the sub. Aboard the premium submarine, there is more than six feet of headroom and a 65% greater viewing opportunity than on the standard Atlantis 48 submarine.
Specifications for the premium Atlantis 64 (TS XIV M64) submarine: Over 100 feet in length, 19.75 feet high, 320,000 pounds, a beam of 15 feet, internal cabin diameter of 8 feet, internal cabin length of 60 feet, 32 side viewports, 2.5 knots speed, and a certified depth of 150 feet.
Riding in a submarine is the perfect way to learn about reefs, coral, and aquatic life, while still getting up close and personal to the marine life. The view is magnificent and there is no need to get wet (no need to clean your snorkel on this tour). Thankfully, Atlantis Submarines has a belief for protecting the undersea environment through research exploration, educating others, and preservation. Due to much of the natural reef disappearing over the last 100 years, many of the man-made reefs off the coast of Waikiki has increased the amount of coral, fish, and marine life in the area.
Waikiki is Atlantis’ largest artificial reef dive site consisting of two sunken ships: the YO-257 U.S. Navy vessel and the St. Pedro, a 111 foot fishing boat, four pyramid reef structures, and the remains of two airplanes. Much of the artificial reef has been assembled in collaboration with the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program. Many marine and fishers researchers study Hawaii’s undersea ecology at these unique dive spots.
Due to the fact that we were submerged so deep in the sea, we started to lose the vibrancy of colour that would normally be seen just below the water’s surface (these colours would be seen when snorkelling in shallow water for example). Reds, purples, and oranges lose their hue the deeper you go. From the submarine, everything was in shades of blue, green, and gray. However, these three yellow fish: Milletseed Butterfly, Yellow Tang, and Longnose Butterfly held their colour and could be easily spotted at the dive sites. They are among the few vibrant fishes that hold their colour deep below surface. The submarine captains and crew were extremely knowledgeable about the vessel itself, marine life, and the ocean. I learned a wealth of information during tour. The director provided information about everything the vessel was doing and all that we were seeing along the way. I liked the additional information while looking out the viewing portal. Audio tours are also provided in Korean, Japanese, and Spanish.
During the tour I saw a variety of marine life. A Green Sea Turtle was lazily hanging out on one of the sunken ships. Schools of Mackerel Scad swam quickly by the vessel, while Amberjack and Bluefin Trevally swam slowing around the reef. Other sightings included: Hawaiian Dascyllus, Hawaiian Sergeant, Pennantfish, Spiny Puffer, Pyramid fish, Scribbled Filefish, Black Dragon, Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse, and the unique Bullethead Parrotfish. Although not seen on my tour, some passengers have seen a Spinner Dolphin, Humpback Whale, Spotted Eagle Ray, White Reef Shark, or the Blacktip Shark with Atlantis. The possibilities are boundless.
Regardless if you are sitting on the portside or starboard side you have the same viewing opportunity. The submarine passes along its approved route and then turns around to pass the same way so that you get a look on the other side. Conveniently, there is no need to look behind you during the tour. The tour was organized and timely. From being shuttled out to the submarine, getting off and on the submarine, and docking, the process was quick and easy. I really enjoyed taking the shuttle boat Discovery out to the subma0rine because I was able to get an incredible view of Diamond Head, Honolulu, and Waikiki from the sea. Atlantis Submarines provides its passengers with an enjoying learning experience off shore from Waikiki.
After the submarine tour you will be offered an optional free 20-30 minute tour of Maui Divers of Hawaii. Maui Divers of Hawaii creates fine jewellery from the precious pearls and corals from Hawaii’s waters. The tour includes free Hawaiian juice or Champaign, a short film documenting the history of Maui Divers, and a tour of the design and manufacturing center. After the tour, you will have the opportunity to purchase jewellery in the show room or gift shop if desired. You will be provided with free transportation to the design center and return to any destination you would like in Waikiki. The tour doesn’t have to end after the underwater adventure. If you are not interested in the design of jewellery (or purchasing jewellery) then there is no obligation to continue this portion of the tour after the submarine dive. Atlantis Submarines Waikiki also provides a free trolley from designated Waikiki hotels to and from the Atlantis ticket kiosk at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa.
As quickly as the submarine dove! dove! dove!, the submarine ascends rapidly to the surface of the water. How exciting it is to say that I was on one of world’s most technologically advanced passenger submarines. I will not forget this tour after seeing the “Pail O Pano” ancient lava flow encrusted with coral reef and the abundance of tropical fish dancing on the sea floor.
*Media coverage for Atlantis Submarines Hawaii