Tuesday, April 28, 2009

From Hanauma to home

24 hours ago, I was kayaking in shorts and t-shirt off the windward coast of Oahu. I just went out to the grocery store in a down coat. I am also bombarded with news of swine flu and Arlen Specter.

Who wouldn't go back to this if they could? This is world-famous Hanauma Bay on the southeast tip of Oahu, a protected coral reef where the snorkeling is great. It's also very difficult at low tide; I got considerably banged up, which was probably because I took the injunction not to touch the reef extremely seriously and was doing all kinds of gymnastics in one to two feet of water rather than hang onto or stand on the reef and save myself. It's also quite difficult at the left of the bay, the so-called Witches' Brew, where the currents are strong and the shore is jagged rocks. However, if you stick to the clear circle of the inner reef and go in at high tide, you can have an easy snorkel.

I saw two big green sea turtles, or honu, peacefully chomping away surrounded by snorkelers gawking at them. These guys were about two to two and a half feet long. I saw tangs, parrotfish, triggerfish (better known as the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, Hawaii's famous fish), butterflyfish, and one (only one!) Moorish Idol, which looks exactly like an angelfish but isn't really. I even found a quiet spot at high tide where I could hear the fish eating off the reef. It's a "crunch" sound, much like a person stepping on gravel or, say, a handful of cereal.

Hanauma is protected, which means that you pay to get in, have to watch an instructional video, the staff vigilantly keeps the beach clean, etc. (They do not attempt to make you use biodegradable sunscreen, which means I blew a lot of money.) However, I found that unprotected snorkeling in Hawaii is awesome as well; just diving in at Queen's Surf, next to Waikiki, I found schools of tangs the size of dinner plates, immense Moorish Idols, and even saw an eel and a -- I can't remember the name, but they stick up out of the sand pretending to be grass. I guess I really ought to have bought an underwater camera. I wish I had had a chance to snorkel off the leeward side of Oahu, too.

In case you can't tell, I have fallen for snorkeling bigtime. I knew I would. I love to swim more than almost any other sport, and as a child, my mother could park me in front of the fish tank in the supermarket, for god's sake, and find me there whenever she wanted. I'm already dreaming of more snorkeling trips in my future.


Ben said...

Right there with you on snorkeling, which is like scuba diving but without the potential for death if you screw up. Yeah, I tend to over-think things, but still, snorkeling is awesome.

On St. John in the USVI (the one that's mostly national park and truly one of the most beautiful places in the world) there's a bay that has an underwater snorkeling trail, with various signs that lead you around and tell you what fish and other creatures are nearby (and somehow they were!). So I'd say St. John should be one of your trips.

Heidi said...

I read about St John's earlier today! And I am with you on the scuba. I just don't like the idea of being stuck underwater and having to come back up slowly... or die. This was my first time ever snorkeling, but I'm bound and determined to go again.