Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Hawaii Part 1: Molokini Island
In April 2007, I went on the most incredible vacation of my life. I went to Hawaii. It certainly made for a spectacular first trip off the continent, and I'm sure I'll remember it for the rest of my life (and not just because of the 800+ photos I took). I'd love to post about the entire trip, transcribing the experience so I'll remember it even more vividly, but the story doesn't seem to present itself linearly.
We woke up early that morning, the sun just barely rising as we did. After a scurry of packing our gear and a short drive, we were at the marina waiting for the tour to depart. I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise overlooking the bobbing boats at their docks. When our boat was ready, all the tourists piled aboard and we were off. I found myself a viewpoint on the front upper deck so I could feel the wind on my face as we approached Molokini Island. The island is actually the crater of a volcano that long ago sunk back into the ocean. Only a crescent is still above the water, forming an embrace around the coral reef contained within. There is only a thin strip of coral that snorkelers can swim over; it is illegal to set foot on the island itself, so tourists have to stay far enough away that a large wave won't send them crashing into the coral.
While I was preparing my gear, a younger boy of about fifteen approached me and asked if I would be his dive partner. I was delighted that instead of being restricted to the expected pace of my parents I would in fact be the slow dive partner. The two of us sped around the reef, diving deep underwater to get close enough to see the creatures in fine detail. We swam through large groups of black fish with yellow fins that were hovering near the surface of the water, darting around the tourists as if curious. On our deeper dives (though I couldn't go much past ten or fifteen feet down, after that my ears ached fiercely) we even passed by a large eel who promptly hid inside a rock. The fish were too varied to count, forming a circus of colors. The lensed goggles that the captain had lent me allowed me to glory in this beautiful display of nature.
Though we were only in the water for an hour or so, it seemed like mere minutes. After our time was up, we joined the crew for a lunch of burgers, hot-dogs and pasta salad. On our way to the next location, our captain was told of a pack of whales by a nearby tourist craft. We rushed to join them, in time to see what the guide described as, "the most incredible display [she] had ever seen." A pod of humpback whales had just begun competing over a female, and we were treated to several tail-splashes by the males. Then, out of the blue (pun intended), one of the males arced out of the water, twisting in midair like a trained dolphin at an aquarium. It was breathtaking. Then the fight began in earnest, with one whale raising its tail out of the water to crash it down on the other over and over. I actually caught this on video, and have watched it many times. Everyone aboard agreed it was the best show of the season.
Our second destination was just off an otherwise unassuming beach. Underneath the water, however, was an entirely different story. The reef was massive, and hugely developed. Corals grew ten feet tall in some places, high-rises for the metropolous of fish living within their protective confines. As my dive partner and I explored this vast landscape, the rest of the tour began to group together in one spot. As I suggested we find the reason for such a gathering, I noticed my dive-partner gesturing excitedly behind me. I turned to find myself three feet from a turtle who's shell was easily larger than my torsoe. My jaw dropped as it glided past me, almost majestic in the ease with which it traveled. It was absolutely breathtaking.
What I've described thus far was about 6 hours out of a fourteen day trip. I can't wait to tell you the rest.