Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to do a quick post to say that I still exist. I'm a little sad that I don't tend this blog anymore, or even show up on Twitter much, but I just have too many other things to do these days. I still might do a post sharing my favorite photos from my trip to Indonesia this past autumn. Anyway, cheers to anyone who may still find their way to my blog here. Happy holidays!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

This cactus is a Star Wars alien

I still exist! Yes, I've mostly moved on from this blog, being busy with other things now. But this was just too good not to share with anyone who might still be checking in.

I recently visited Koko Crater Botanical Garden, near the southeast corner of Oahu in one of the driest regions of the island. It's kind of amazing here, where you can go from tropical rainforest to near-desert conditions in just a 20-minute drive or so. I was there with my family, who were all in town for a big family reunion.

We saw some very cool trees--baobabs, sausage trees, something with pods containing red beans, strange fruit trees--and lots of interesting cacti--cacti hanging from a tree, making it look like it was covered with prickly snakes; large, round, fuzzy cacti that almost looked like they'd make a good seat. But when my brothers and I came across this one cactus, we stood there, looking up, until one of us said what the others were all thinking: "It looks like a Star Wars alien."

Here's the cactus:

Wait, what's that in the top left corner?

Oh my god it's a Talz! You know, this guy Muftak, from the cantina:

The fluffy "fur" on the ends of the cactus branches was genuinely soft, but you couldn't stroke too enthusiastically or else you'd find the short spines underneath. Of all the plants we saw in that botanical garden, this was definitely my favorite.

On another note, in a few days I will be leaving for Indonesia! I'll be there for about two weeks. When I get back, I may share some of my favorite photos from the trip. Might be another 8 months before I make a post, but uh, yeah. We'll see.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manta rays and dolphin rescue

OK, this puts my own manta ray video to shame.

This video was taken at what I believe is the same location where I have now twice gone diving at night to see manta rays. It is a famous spot off the Kona coast where several dive companies set up bright lights to attract plankton, which in turn attract manta rays--which themselves attract divers and snorkelers who pay to gain access to the site, of course. This video shows how a nighttime manta ray dive a couple weeks ago turned into a dolphin rescue.

Bottlenose dolphins are intelligent creatures, so I wouldn't be surprised if this dolphin, whose fin and mouth were tangled with fishing line and hook, purposely sought out this large group of humans in the hope that one could help. Once one of the divers started to untangle it (around 3:30), the dolphin certainly looked like it was trying to hold still for him. Federal law technically prohibits "lay people" from touching or getting too close to marine mammals, but in this case I think it was a good call: the dolphin was seemingly asking for help (with a problem caused by humans in the first place), and the divers couldn't exactly explain that it would have to wait for a NOAA-sanctioned diver to arrive. Anyway, I think it's a heartwarming video. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Big Island photos - Summer 2012

Since I finally posted my manta ray video from this past summer, I figured I might as well post a few photos from that Big Island trip.

View from the lanai of the condo we stayed in.
Sea turtle (honu) I saw while scuba diving at Honaunau
Whitemouth moray eel at Honaunau
Action shot of me diving at Honaunau
More turtle stalking, this time while snorkeling at Magic Sands Beach
You can't get away from me that easily, pretty turtle
My favorite shot of the bunch
The Housemate seen through a cloud of zooplankton at our manta ray night dive. Barest glimpse of a manta's gills above and to the left
Manta rays aren't the only creatures that show up to feast on the swarms of zooplankton. Here are some goatfish.
Actually the clearest still photo we took of the manta rays, along with the top of my head. My camera setup was not ideal for moving animals in dark, plankton-filled water, needless to say.
The Housemate took this photo of a banded coral shrimp in a tide pool behind our condo at dusk. Pretty awesome, I think.
We went night snorkeling at Magic Sands Beach and saw this aptly named yellowhead moray eel
We also saw this brown slipper lobster. Look at those reflective eyes!
I need a summer home in Kona. It's so very lovely.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Manta Ray dive video!

A year and a half ago, I wrote a series of posts about my most amazing birthday, which I spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, including one post detailing my night scuba dive with manta rays. My one regret from that birthday was that I didn't have an underwater camera to record the spectacular things I'd seen.

This past summer, I returned with the Housemate to the Big Island and went on the Kona manta ray dive again, though this time we had to pay for the boat charter. It was worth every penny, though, because not only were we granted really nice underwater flashlights (like this one), over 30 manta rays showed up that evening (compared to what I counted as maybe 8 or 9 the previous year). And this time, I had a camera with an underwater housing to record every minute of it.

...Which was kind of the problem. I had so much footage, it was a huge and tortuous project to cut it down to a watchable length. But I've finally done it. Well, it's still a bit over 5 minutes, but you don't have to watch the whole thing to get the idea--how big they are, how graceful, how many there were, and just how close to us they swim (occasionally they'd bump into us). I do recommend checking out 3:01 to see the cloud of zooplankton swarming around us--it's these little guys that the manta rays show up to feast upon. You can hear my squeals as I realize that the rapid pitter-patter sounds I'm hearing is a blizzard of little creatures pinging off my mask (what I'm saying is mermaid for "Oh, whoa! Oh my God! Wow!"). Also, around 4:51 you can get a good view straight into the mouth of one of the manta rays (a large female they call "Lefty").

If you ever find yourself in Kona, I highly recommend this nighttime manta ray dive (though ask around to find out how many mantas have been showing up lately--if the week's been bad, you might not want to risk it, since sometimes none show up and few dive shops will give you a refund). They have snorkelers on the surface, holding onto floatation devices with lights shining down, as well as divers. Seeing the manta rays emerge from the dark and dance in the light is a truly beautiful, awe-inspiring experience.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I know it's been a ridiculously long time since I've done a post, and I'm sorry. I really wanted at the very least to post my manta ray video (from August...yeah) because I'd made such a big deal the previous summer when my camera broke so I couldn't get any pictures of them. I'll try to post that some time over this winter break to tie up that loose end.

I don't know if anyone checks this blog anymore, but in case anyone's still around, I want to wish you all a joyful, peaceful holiday season!

Silent Night
(Life Day, on Ilum)