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With a wealth of World War II artifacts, Maui has plenty of wreck diving opportunities. Nonetheless, the Carthaginian, Maui, trumps them all. It’s a legendary shipwreck and a must-visit spot giving lucky divers a unique opportunity to explore the Hawaiian island’s rich history and stunning ocean life.
Let’s look into what you can expect when diving the Carthaginian Maui, from its history and location to required certifications and what you should bring along.
The Carthaginian off the coast of Lahaina is one of the most popular wreck dive sites in Maui. It’s home to an extensive artificial coral reef system and a great dive for certified scuba divers looking for an unforgettable experience. Underwater explorers usually embark on a 2-tank guided boat dive to explore this underwater treasure and commonly make it as a stop back from Lanai Cathedrals.
Guided Carthaginian dive tours will take you on dives to two or three locations making the “Carth” one stop along the way. This dive explores the Carthaginian wreck itself. It rests at about 100 feet deep and is semi-penetrable.
The wreck is the gathering place of white-tip reef sharks, eagle rays, frogfish, and other species. You get to circumnavigate the wreck, observing marine life and diving into the penetrable hull.
You may also get a chance to see the Atlantis submarine that frequents the “Carth” at various times throughout the day. This makes for an entertaining experience to hear and see a moving submarine underwater and throw a shaka or wave hello to the passing guests.
Boat charters that dive the Carthaginian may organize this as the first dive site on the trip or the second/third dive site, making Lanai Cathedrals, Mala Wharf, or other nearby sites the first stop.
The Carthaginian was once Wandia, a three-masted schooner built in Denmark in 1921. The original ship served as a cargo vessel in the Baltic Sea and, later on, as a commercial fishing vessel based in Iceland.
In 1964, a Hollywood production company bought it and renovated it to look like a 19th-century whaler for the movie “Hawaii.” Based on a James Michener novel, the movie was a work of fiction masterfully integrating elements from the actual history of the island.
Lahaina Harbor was once a thriving whaling port with a rich history of royalty, missionaries, and sailors. To reflect the time period, the Carthaginian underwent complicated rigging work to look like a whaling vessel used at the time.
Once the filming was finished, the non-profit Lahaina Restoration Foundation decided to keep the Carthaginian. The foundation converted it into a floating museum that showcased the history of the whaling industry in Hawaii.
The Carthaginian was eventually destroyed in 1972 after running into the Lahaina reef, and the Carthaginian II replaced it in 1973
To replace the original Carthaginian, the non-profit Lahaina Restoration Foundation purchased a new ship, the Carthaginian II, in 1973. It used to be a steel-hulled brig formerly known as Komet. Built in 1920 in Kiel, Germany, the ship initially sailed the Baltic Sea as a cement carrier.
After the purchase, the all Lahaina crew sailed the ship to Maui, Hawaii, where it was fitted as a square-rigged whaling ship to become the new floating museum of whaling history in Lāhainā Harbor.
By 2005, the Carthaginian II had served for over 30 years, and its hull became increasingly more expensive to repair. The Honolulu Advertiser reported that the Lahaina Restoration Foundation was spending a whopping $50,000 a year on repairs alone. Eventually, marine engineers advised against performing further repairs.
So, Atlantis Adventures, a tour company operating submarine tours in Lahaina, claimed the ship and sunk it to establish an artificial reef. Nowadays, it is a destination for scuba diving expeditions and submarine tours.
Scuba diving publications and dive companies rate it as one of the top locations for wreck diving even today. Scuba divers can explore the ship and marvel at its historical significance. As it sites at 100 feet, you’ll want to watch your max depth, no decompression limits, and always dive with a dive computer.
Once your boat takes you and your fellow divers to the location, you’ll use a mooring line to descend toward the sandy bottom the ship sits on. Tours usually begin by diving into the Carthaginian’s semi-penetrable wreck. The roof and the walls of the main cabin have partially deteriorated, with numerous holes in the hold allowing easy access.
While the forward compartment and the engine room of the ship are blocked by a gate, you can still view the area and take amazing photos. Meanwhile, the rear end of the Carthaginian is relatively clear.
You can see a wide array of fish, such as frog fish, Pacific trumpet fish, parrotfish, unicornfish, Sergeant Majors, and many more, as well as crustaceans, starfish, eels, rainbow cleaner wrasse, macro critters, and other marine species in and around the ship. Smaller creatures stay close to it due to safety.
Meanwhile, larger marine life like spotted eagle rays, dolphins, white-tip reef sharks, and even whales can be spotted passing by as it sits offshore. If you are in luck, you may spot a reef shark resting inside the hull.
Watch out for a loud noise. You may be able to observe the Atlantis Submarine and wave at its passengers. There are several Atlantis Submarine tours a day, taking visitors around the Carthaginian wreck (and divers like you).
Experienced instructors typically lead the Carthaginian dive. They will help you spot marine life, optimize your bottom time, and guide you back to the boat, making a safety stop on the way.
After a surface interval and some snacks, you’ll explore the shallower coral reef – home to sea turtles, reef fish, and vibrant coral unless your charter is making the “Carth” your second or third dive.
The Carthaginian II wreck lies at 100 feet of water off the coast of Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii. The ship sits on the sandy bottom of the ocean floor and requires a short, 10-minute boat trip to get there.
The Carthaginian dive in Maui is approximately 100 feet deep. However, dive companies will usually take divers to a second site, a collapsed pier turned artificial reef, that is 40 feet deep, or make the Carthaginian the second or third dive site on your trip. Both locations offer excellent visibility of up to 100 feet or more.
To dive the Carthaginian in Maui, you must be a certified diver. It’s advisable to have an advanced certification. However, if you don’t have one, the tour company may require you to do a checkout dive prior to the trip.
You will also be required to have a minimum number of completed dives or take a refresher dive if it’s been a few years since your last dive. For the exact requirements, be sure to check with the tour company before you book.
In addition, you should be in good physical shape and not have any medical conditions that may affect your safety underwater. To confirm your fitness, dive instructors may require you to complete a medical questionnaire or statement before diving.
Before heading out for the dive, it’s vital to ensure you have all the necessary equipment and gear. To dive the Carthaginian, you will need:
Individual companies may have other gear suggestions and requirements. So, clarify that before you depart from the dock.
There are plenty of places to go scuba diving in Maui and the other Hawaiian Islands. How about doing so sustainably to help preserve the beauty of the island the generations to come?
WildVoice prides itself in delivering stellar customer experience and emphasis on sustainability. Our instructors will ensure that you have an amazing time and follow sustainable practices throughout the entire experience.
Scuba dive in Maui with WildVoice or take part in volunteering opportunities in Maui to clean up Maui beaches, reefs, and forests. Remove debris, plastics, trash, and fishing line to help save sea turtles and other species.