I had every intention of posting this a week after I posted Not fishing in Hawaii, Part I, but then this happened and the train of daily life was derailed. The train still doesn’t feel like it’s fully back on the tracks, but life goes on, one day at a time. And the editors at National Geographic—the ones looking for underwater photos of sea turtles—aren’t going to find me if I wallow in self pity and never post these photos, so…
While we were on Maui I had hoped to see a honu (green sea turtle). In a quest to fulfill that wish we rented snorkeling gear one day and ventured a half mile up Ka’anapali beach to Black Rock, a popular snorkeling spot for people staying at the nearby hotels and condos that line the beach. Black Rock is a large crag of volcanic rock that extends outward into the ocean, forming an enticing environment for small reef fish, and I’d heard, the occasional sea turtle. It should be noted that early in our vacation we thought it was cool to “shaka” (throw down the ‘hang loose’ sign). We would learn later that it was a total haole thing to do. Especially with both hands.
As we geared up and swam along Black Rock, the first thing I noticed was how crowded the water was with others doing exactly what we were doing. It was a bit like playing bumper cars with our flippers, and when you added to that the wave action and fairly shallow water, the visibility was not awe-inspiring. Still, I was in Hawaii, snorkeling amongst a myriad species of fish I’d never seen before. Pretty cool. And then I saw my first turtle and my breathing grew more rapid. The gentle creature swam below me toward the deeper water, affording me a quick view but no photo opportunity. But hey—I had seen a turtle, mission complete! I made my way back to the beach to tell the waiting Mrs. UA of my snorkeling prowess. As I neared shore I saw a group of people crowded together in knee deep water, clearly focused on something of great interest. Upon closer inspection, that something turned out to be another turtle, cruising the shallows for what reason I don’t know.
If this particular honu was looking for human companionship it found some, although everyone honored the law and did not touch the turtle. In Hawaii seat turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and Hawaii state law. I’m not sure the actual terms of the law, but I’d heard that touching or harassing a sea turtle would come with a hefty penalty if caught (as high as $25,000). Vacationing in Hawaii is expensive enough without the additional fine for touching a turtle so I made sure that I didn’t brush up against the beast.
While the turtle sighting at Black Rock was cool, it would pale by comparison to what we would see a few days later. On our last full day on Maui we booked a group trip on one of the many catamarans that are moored off Ka’anapali Beach. Our token Cruise Director, Julie McCoy (not her real name) signed us up for a trip on the Queen’s Treasure, a beautiful 65′ vessel that would take us a few miles south for a snorkeling adventure at Olowalu Reef. The boat picked us up at 9 AM on the beach outside of The Whaler—very convenient. They served us some fruit and pastries en route to our destination. It was a beautiful morning for a cruise.
I’ll skip the details and get right to the meat of this post: awesome snorkeling. After the captain and crew secured the anchor line at Olowalu Reef, we geared up and hit the water. We could not have had a more perfect day for our chosen activity. No wind meant a glassy smooth surface to the ocean’s watery canopy, making visibility exceptional. We were told that a ways from our mooring spot was a “cleaning station” for turtles so we may see some. A cleaning station refers to a spot where the turtles congregate to have their shells cleaned by the thousands of reef fish. Over time the turtles’ shells accumulate a considerable layer of algae growth which apparently creates drag in the water and slows them down. In order to streamline themselves, they enter coral reef areas and let the fish do their bidding. We certainly hoped to see a turtle, but until then we were mesmerized by the plethora of coral munching reef fish.
After 15 minutes of exploring the reef and observing countless different fish species, my snorkeling buddy (Schpanky) and I got into turtles. I’ll just let the following images tell the story that words cannot adequately describe. First up is a quick video that shows a freeloading turtle drifting lazily as reef fish janitors do their thing. We should all have such a good life where personal attendants abound.
OK, while Nat Geo may not come knocking on my door, I was real pleased with the quality of these photos taken with my Nikon AW1. No filters were applied; Photoshop was only used to add the watermark. It’s a sweet little camera—I hope to get some good underwater trout footage this summer.
After the snorkeling excursion ended we once again boarded the Queen’s Treasure and headed back toward Ka’anapali Beach. Along the way we saw some humpback whales, which was also pretty cool. But I’ll wait to post about that until next week. After all, I need filler material—it’s hard to come up with any fishing related content this time of year, when I haven’t been fishing.