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Submarine Rides

Why get wet when you can see the same--and more--and stay dry?

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For years the 2-passenger deep diving RSL sub was the island's smallest submersible. That distinction now transfers to the Seamobile, essentially a 2-person bubble guided by a scuba diver who sits in an open cockpit directly behind.

Besides being more personalized, the Seamobile offers the chance to drive it yourself.

I motor out to the Seamobile at a place called The Mesa, located off Seven Mile Beach. We drop beside the reef directly below our tender.

My bubble enclosure, fed with oxygen and protected on 2 sides by metal railings, seems to dissolve once we're underwater. In fact when I start to point to a fish my finger smacks into the invisible glass only inches away; I couldn't tell it was that close or that it was even there.

With freedom to look in any direction and almost 360-degree visibility, I can look in any direction, the same as if I were diving.

Out of concern for our air-breathing pilot, we don't go below 70 feet. Still, that's deep enough to see plenty of fish and even a turtle.

When I'm invited to steer, the control turns out to be a video joystick, an easy way to keep the sub moving in a straight line at a steady 2 knots. Two knots don't seem very fast until I watch the terrain pass beneath my feet; it's obviously faster than I can swim.

Yet another submersible option is the Nautilus, a semi-sub in which passengers sit in an underwater gondola; the craft never dives. However, the seating on the Nautilus is more comfortable with restaurant-style tables and chairs.

The Nautilus specializes in touring 2 shallow wrecks, the Cali and the Balboa, and hand-feeding fish at a spot called Cheeseburger Reef.

If I owned the Nautilus, I'd turn it into a floating nightclub so everyone could party as they watch the bioluminescence, a show better than pyro or strobe lights.

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