I'm not a water sports person. Taking swimming lessons as a child, the deep end of the pool terrified me. Being in a lake where I couldn't touch bottom was to be avoided at all costs. The one and only time I tried water skiing was a bust (had to leave my glasses on the boat, and couldn't see a thing). I've never had the urge to surf or scuba dive (nope!) So I wasn't super thrilled about adding a snorkeling excursion on our Hawaiian trip.
But....Hawaii is known for its fabulous coral reefs full of colorful fish. How could I visit and not at least try it?
|Heading out to our first site|
Eventually, the fear of missing out won over my fear of bobbing in deep ocean waters, and in a moment of weakness I ended up booking a half day snorkeling excursion.
|"Place of Refuge" - our first snorkeling site|
As mentioned in the previous day's post, neither my hubby nor I had ever done any snorkeling and were kind of nervous about our upcoming trip. So hubby bought a cheap Walmart setup and we practiced in the calm waters of our hotel's lagoon. Turned out to be a great idea - this really boosted my confidence.
|Our group disperses into the bay|
Early Mother's Day morning, hubby and I drove south to Keauhou Bay to meet up with our guide company. After checking in and signing our release forms, one of the employees fitted me with a snorkel mask that was a close match to my eyeglass prescription. I had no idea such gear existed! Figuring I'd have to shuck the glasses, I was totally thrilled to now be able to see underwater.
|Bright yellow fishies!|
Then a dozen of us loaded up on a large inflatable raft and met our captain Kendra and first mate (a young man whose name I can't remember). Motoring out to our first spot, Kendra struck up a conversation with me. She was friendly and funny - helped ease my worried mind, which was at that moment starting to have second thoughts about this whole swimming in the ocean thing.
After a short bumpy ride, we arrived at Honaunau Bay, also known as "Place of Refuge." Most everyone in our group had prior snorkeling experience, and after a few brief instructions from Kendra, donned masks and fins and jumped right in. I, however, lingered in the boat. The water looked deep.... Could I really do this?
|Heading towards our next destination|
Kendra, being bubbly and upbeat, offered encouragement. Emboldened, I perched myself on the boat's edge and slid into the water.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the ocean floor. It was covered with interesting shaped rocks. A school of colorful fish drifted by. Fascinated, I swam after them.
|A secret black sand beach|
I'd brought along my GoPro camera. It had logged lots of skiing hours, but this was the first time I'd used it underwater. I became so caught up trying to capture the underwater scenery and aquatic life, my fear of swimming in deep water vanished. I actually began to enjoy myself.
|Ready to go again|
Our captain allotted 45 minutes at Honaunau Bay, and boy did it pass quickly. Before I knew it, our group was being called back to the boat. Time to head to the tour's second location!
|A sea turtle!|
Captain Kendra took a long ride way out in the ocean. We bumped around for what seemed like ages. But finally, she headed towards the shoreline. Our next destination was a remote, inaccessible black sand beach. The tour didn't allow as much time in this location, and we were given the choice to either explore the beach, or go snorkeling. Surprise - I chose snorkeling!
Fear forgotten, I eagerly plunged into the ocean, following my hubby. Paddling around the bay, at first all I saw were submerged rocks and a few bland fish. But then someone spotted a sea turtle.
|Captain Cook Monument|
I swam right over, GoPro in hand! Although we had to stay at least 10 feet away, I was able to get fairly close to a large green turtle floating along the bottom. What an amazing creature to watch! I switched on my camera and proceeded to record. I became so concentrated on capturing the turtle below me, I almost missed another one swimming right by. Luckily I looked up at the right time and was able to get both turtles on film. I've attached the video for all to watch.
|Lots of cool fish here|
Climbing back onto our raft, everyone who'd chosen snorkeling was super stoked about the turtle sightings. Definitely a highlight of the trip! I chattered excitedly with another woman as our boat headed down the coastline, bound for the final snorkel site.
|See the blue and gray fish?|
Our last location was Kealakekua Bay, an extremely popular snorkeling site that also is known as the place where Captain Cook died at the hands of the Hawaiians. A white obelisk at one end of the bay marked the spot he was thought to have fallen.
|The coral reefs were teeming with life|
A dozen kayaks were already bobbing in the bay, along with another nearby snorkel boat. Kendra gave us strict instructions not to go on land - we were expected to stay in the water. She also mentioned this bay was her favorite place for snorkeling.
|Another reef close-up|
Jumping in, right away I understood why. The amount and variety of colorful fish here was astounding! And the coral reefs below the sea were so interesting. My camera became very busy trying to capture it all.
About the time I located the highest concentration of fish, my camera flashed a message that my memory card was full. Nooooo!
Oh well......I already had some great footage. And I was totally jazzed about the sea turtles I'd captured at the last location. Besides, it was time to swim back to the boat and have lunch.
|Sea arch (with fisherman on top)|
Lunch was included in the tour, and we all munched on deli sandwiches and chips while Kendra told us the story of Captain Cook's death. (Read about it in this Wikipedia article)
|Spouting sea cave|
On our way back, Kendra passed by several sea arches and caves. She positioned the boat as close as possible to give us a good look inside. One of the caves actually shot water in the air from the incoming waves (see video below).
What an amazing tour! I couldn't believe how much I'd enjoyed snorkeling. It was fascinating to watch the colorful fish flit above the sea floor and observe the sea turtles. As our boat pulled into the dock, I knew I wanted to do this again.
|A tired but happy bunch|
But hubby and I couldn't tarry - we needed to be back at our hotel by early evening, as we'd also made reservations for our resort's luau.
|Ready for our first luau|
After cleaning up, I discovered despite two applications of sunscreen, I'd managed to burn my shoulders and the backs of my upper legs. Luckily I'd thought to bring some aloe gel, which was liberally applied to all areas of red skin. Hopefully it would get me through tonight's luau.
|Lots of guests|
My hubby and I really debated on whether to attend a luau while visiting Hawaii. The one our hotel hosted was expensive, and we weren't sure it would be worth the cost. But never having witnessed such a special event, we finally decided we had to go at least once.
Our resort had a large stage and seating area just for the luau. Three times a week the place put on a huge buffet, complete with Kalua pork, and then entertained guests with song and dance. Every participant received a lovely flower lei, and all the tropical drinks you could handle. Hubby and I went straight for the mai tais!
|Bringing in the pig|
Kalua pork is the signature Hawaiian dish served at all luaus. Keeping with traditions, the hotel roasted a pig all day in an underground pit. Right before dinner, with great ceremony, the pig was pulled from it's pit and paraded around the tables.
After stuffing ourselves with delicious food from a huge buffet, hubby and I loosened our pant buttons and sat back to enjoy the evening's entertainment. A series of dancers took the stage, sometimes all women, others all men, and once and awhile both groups shared the spotlight. The hula ladies were amazing to watch.
|Photo with a hunky Hawaiian guy|
But the highlight of the night were the fire dancers. Two men came out with flaming torches and proceeded to twirl them overhead and between their legs. One guy even placed a lit torch in his mouth - multiple times! Although I had my camera, poor light, and an abundance of people in the way kept me from trying to get any images. This time, I decided to relax and just watch the show.
After the entertainment was over, several of the performers stuck around and willingly posed for photos. While I was in the restroom, hubby talked at length with one friendly young man and learned a bit about how the fire dancers perform.
|And a gorgeous Hawaiian dancer|
It had been a day full of new experiences. Not only was I glad to have experienced a real Hawaiian luau, I also was proud of myself for finally trying snorkeling.
But with only two days left on the island, we had more sightseeing to do. Tune in to my next post and see where hubby and I go next!