On Wednesday of last week, the Housemate and I left Honolulu and landed in Kona, on the Big Island, less than an hour later. Inter-island travel is really quite easy. We got a rental car that we drove down to Kailua, where his brother lives with his family. We were welcomed with a delicious but very spicy Indonesian squid dish for dinner (the Housemate's sister-in-law is Indonesian); luckily there were homemade spring rolls as well which were not spicy, to relieve my burning tongue. They have two children, a three-year-old boy who has way too much energy (and perhaps stays up too late) and an eight-month-old girl who is very sweet but is also very shy--for the first day I was there, I couldn't look her in the eye without making her cry. It was rather upsetting: she'd be sitting there, happily playing with her toys, being utterly adorable, I'd look at her and smile and say "Oh, aren't you a cutey!" and then suddenly she'd be in tears. I felt like a mean old witch. But she was doing the same with the Housemate, her own uncle, so I didn't feel so bad, and we were past that stage by Friday. So the kids were cute, and we had lots of good food to eat.
On Thursday morning, the Housemate and I went snorkeling at a nearby beach called Magic Sands. The water was relatively clear, and I saw a number of things I'd never seen snorkeling before, including a fair bit of live coral. I understand that there are some nice spots for live coral on O'ahu (the island I live on), but the two spots that I've snorkeled here (Haleiwa and inner-reef Hanauma) are not among them. So I was impressed by all the live coral I saw at Magic Sands, though it turns out the two Big Island snorkel spots I went to later had much more.
To its credit, Hanauma Bay has a much higher concentration of fish than the reef at Magic Sands Beach, and it is much shallower, at least in the lagoon area on the shore side of the reef. This second point is very significant. See, since most of my snorkeling experience is from Hanauma Bay, I have thus far gotten along perfectly well without free diving. I could see basically everything I wanted to see from the surface. This was not the case on the Big Island; nearly everywhere I snorkeled there, I had to dive if I wanted a good look. It was a crash course in free diving. First I had to get over the fear of water filling my snorkel (yeah, yeah, it's not very hard to clear it), then I had to figure out how to get myself to sink, equalize the pressure in my ears, and then stay down. Those last two I'm still working on. One must be able to equalize one's ears fast when free diving, since time is short. And as far as staying down goes, the problem is I float quite well, especially when I'm holding air in my lungs. I guess it's all about finding a balance between holding more air, so I can stay down longer, and holding less air, so I can stay down (serious free divers will use weights). I like to think that my diving improved over the course of the trip, but you will probably see, as I post photos taken both by me and the Housemate, he's much better at diving, having gained experience while living in Indonesia.
Anyway, excuses aside, I managed to get a few reasonable shots at Magic Sands. But be sure to check for later posts, because each snorkel spot we went to on the Big Island was better than the last.
Here's a shot from the beach. The sand was very fine and soft, but it's called "Magic Sands" because when the surf is high, the sand all disappears, only to return later. The shoreline to either side of the beach was rocky.
The first thing I saw when swimming out was this large school of little shiny fish.
I would find more of these elsewhere on the Big Island, but this was the first time I saw these bright red pencil sea urchins.
I don't know what kind of fish this is, but it was happy just sitting there. You can also see a little of the live coral.
Cute turtle. This shot was taken by the Housemate.
This shot was taken by me just about the same time. See? I was at the surface looking down, while the Housemate got up close on the bottom. Very typical of the trip.
Coming up tomorrow: photos from a cool lava rocky beach. And remember that my first day was the least spectacular, so the best photos are yet to come.
I will note that many of my Big Island underwater photos have been treated with Photoshop CS4's auto-color, auto-tone, or in a few cases a combination of these. Part of me thinks of it as kind of like telling a lie, to tweak the coloring, but really all it's doing is revealing the scene's true colors, free from the green haze. It was kind of amazing seeing how much of a difference it made for some of the photos (and how little difference it made for others). Makes me curious to go back to my older photos and try it out with them.