Friday, September 10, 2010

My Big Island trip: Hanaunau

After our adventures of the previous night, the Housemate and I were ready to sleep in on Sunday morning. But we didn't want to sleep in too late, since we were leaving the Big Island that night. Time for one more snorkel trip. Turns out we saved the best for last.

Before going snorkeling, the Housemate and I visited Pu'uhonua o Hanaunau National Historical Park, mainly because we pulled into the wrong parking lot and they'd taken our $5 before we realized we'd wanted the next lot for the snorkeling place (but didn't feel too bad because that lot was already full). Pu'uhonua o Hanaunau is a sacred site of the ancient Hawaiians--a sanctuary of sorts. Ancient Hawaiian society had many taboos, such as eating a forbidden food or wearing red or yellow feathers if not royalty, and the penalty for breaking them was death. That may sound harsh for such crimes, but the ancient Hawaiians were what we would consider very superstitious, and they believed that breaking the taboos would bring disaster unless the violator was immediately put to death. If the violator managed to make it to a sanctuary like Pu'uhonua o Hanaunau before being killed, however, he or she would essentially be cleansed of his or her offense and thus forgiven.

The park is small, with a self-guided tour through Hanaunau including traditional structures, a rock apparently used for a traditional game, the royal fish ponds, etc. Hanaunau was a place for the ancient Hawaiian royalty. This harbor was used only by royalty.

These days, though, it seems to be used mainly by sea turtles.

We were there around 1pm, and the sun was very bright and the day very hot. If it had been later in the afternoon we might have walked around a little longer, but as it was we decided we needed to get in the water, so we headed over to the popular snorkeling area just next to the park.

Immediately after getting in, we were already seeing beautiful fish. Of the three snorkel places we went to on the Big Island, it was the only one that had as high a concentration of fish as Hanauma Bay. And it had a LOT of live coral.

A cool coral formation I saw:

Not long after we got in, I saw something I'd never seen before while snorkeling: a moray eel. This was a whitemouth moray eel, to be precise. The Housemate snapped this award-winning shot (we both decided it was the best shot of the trip):

We harassed this guy for a while, trying to get some more shots, some video, waiting for it to come out of its little hole again, when another thing that I'd definitely never seen snorkeling before swam by: a spotted eagle ray. The Housemate got these photos of it:

Not all that spotted, really.

(Meanwhile, I was getting it on video. We followed it for a while, then I ended up lending my camera to the Housemate to take video, since he's better at diving and getting steady shots underwater. Check back next week when I post the snorkeling video. Eagle rays are really amazing to watch--they're so graceful, just flying through the water.)

Later, we saw another moray eel--this one with a crab it had just caught in its mouth. Other fish were gathering around, hoping to get a piece of it. I snapped this (slightly blurry) photo of it just before it found a little nook to hide in while it ate its meal. It all happened very quickly.

I got some nice video of the eel after it finished its meal and started swimming around again, which I'll post, as I've said, next week. Here are some other photos the Housemate and I snapped:

Raccoon butterflyfish

Yellow trumpetfish (photo taken by the Housemate)


Coral arch

A yellow tang at the edge of a reef

Between the eels and the ray, this was definitely the most exciting snorkel outing I've ever had (well, maybe the humuhumunukunukuapua'a attack...). I would definitely go back there on another trip, though I'd like to go a little earlier in the morning so I could see Pu'uhonua o Hanaunau National Historical Park a bit more.

That evening we drove up to the Kona airport to go back home to Honolulu. The sunset was beautiful. Snapped from the car:

As with any vacation, I was sad that it was over and that I had to go back to school/work the next day. But we packed so much into our four days there, filled them with so many great memories, we couldn't complain. And I can't wait to go back.


Sadako said...

Amazing pictures! Looks so beautiful there. Especially the wildlife.

Sebastian said...

Wow, the top side of that eel is beautiful! Is it actually that colour/pattern, or is that a reflection from the water's surface?

Eleni said...

Hi Sadako! Thanks! It really is beautiful there. My pictures just don't do it justice.

Seb - The eel or the ray? In either case, it is the actual pattern and not a reflection. For a spotted eagle ray, it's not very spotty (doing a Google image search gives lots of nicely spotted examples), but it still looks really cool.

Amy said...

I am scared of swimming in the ocean, but that doesn't stop me from admiring other's photos. And these are gorgeous.

Eleni said...


What makes you scared? Is it the vastness? The waves and currents? The (tiny) possibility of sharks? I love swimming in the ocean since I float so well!

Amy said...

All of those things combined, plus all the other creatures in there. :)

Eleni said...

There are some things in the ocean that I'm afraid of (large sharks, anything seriously poisonous). But you can definitely find places without dangerous animals. And Hanauma Bay, for example, is enclosed by a reef and protected from waves and currents, and you can see a lot in shallow water there (shallow enough to stand up). If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, I'll take you snorkeling there :)