By Peter Korn on Jul 04, 2007
For the first time in far too long, I took a vacation. My wife and I went to Hawaii. We went diving in Kona with Dive Tek Adventures, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay on Oahu, and we explored the results of Pele's wrath in Puna on the Big island. Here is a brief travelogue, with lots of photos!
We dove with Dive Tek for two days. They were incredibly accommodating, moving their normal 7:30am departure time to to 9am so that we could drive in from Naalehu without having to get up at 0-dark-30 in the morning. They also got us special steel tanks - 116cuft for my wife, and 92cuft for me (as opposed to the normal sized aluminum-80s). This meant our typical dive lasted over an hour (being in 78-82 degree F water, with 3mm full wetsuits helped too).
On our first day of diving with Dive Tek we went to "Hoovers", a site named John P. Hoover, author Hawaii's Sea Creatures and Hawaii's Fishes and a number of other great books. Our dive started with a Eagle Ray encounter, followed by a pair of dolphin sightings. We saw an incredible school of fish. We saw them coming, we saw them up close, and then we saw them swiming away. This was followed by a large cornet fish. In addition to the fish, there was a lot of neat stuff on the sea floor. A careful scan turned up this sea star. While we didn't see any nudibranchs on this dive, we came across the most amazing egg rose of a Spanish dancer. If you look closely you can see the individual eggs. Also among the rocks were eels. We saw both a white mouth eel (here is another photo, up close), and a moray eel. And while we didn't see any whales, we did see what one had left behind...
On our second day with Dive Tek, we started our day with a dive in Octopus Garden Cove. At about 80' depth, you see off in the blue a garden of eels, waving in the water. If you are still and wait long enough lying on the bottom, the closer ones will start to come out of their holes. Just incredible! On this dive we saw a bunch of Crown of thorns starfish. They would grasp a rock like some giant, spiked hand. In fact, their thorns/spikes are quite long and pointy! I love this fish photo, with our dive guide Jeanine in the background. Jeanine warned us that some of the sea slugs would spew a sticky mucus if disturbed. Unlike the previous day, on this dive we saw some amazing nudibranchs, including this divided flatworm. In this cool series of pictures we see another nudibranch that is rapidly heading down a rock. He was reaching toward this pencil urchin. Also hiding in crevices in the rocks was this moray eel. As I got close, the eel backed away from me. One of the other folks diving with us shined his HID light on this frogfish - an amazing end to a fabulous dive!
On our final dive with Dive Tek, we went to a spot called High Rock (which is an underwater pinnacle just 40' below the surface). There isn't a lot of soft corals in Hawaii, but I came across this neat white soft coral at the start of the dive. Soon after, this Butterfly fish appeared. One great thing about diving with Jeanie, she would point out neat stuff to us throughout the dive. Moray eels are common in Hawaii, and High Top was no exception. I had trouble with the flash on my camera (the external Sea and Sea YS-90DX that I use with my Canon PowerShot S50 in it's WP-DC300 underwater housing decided it didn't want to turn on). But I managed to use the built-in flash on the camera, through the housing, to get some light on the eel. Unfortunately the built-in flash isn't adjustable, so the lighting wasn't even. That same uneven lighting effect can be seen here, lighting the rocks that this soft coral was growing from (it is truly amazing just how much red is present, but not visible underwater without a bright light). On this dive my wife found a nudibranch, and you can tell that the rock it is traveling on is quite red (assuming you have a flash...). This dive also ended on a high point, as another diver called us over to see an octopus hiding in the rocks. And with that, we made our way to the stairs that Dive Tek kindly put out for us.
I also took a bunch of photos during our day of snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. Being nor more than 10' under water, there was plenty of sunlight penetrating the water. Unlike diving, however, as a snorkeler, I was much less a natural part of the environment, and fish would commonly swim away from me when I dove down to take their picture. Sometimes I would get lucky from a distance. And then there was this fellow who got all curious about me. He kept close to me, and hung around me for much of my snorkeling trip. In the middle-outer bay, I came across a cleaning station (the small blue & white fish is cleaning the others, who are all hanging out waiting their turn). I mentioned that a lot of light penetrates at this shallow depth, as is evident from the colors on this fine fish. As I started heading back in to the beach, I saw another colorful guy, but he was bashful and didn't want his picture taken. He was briefly joined by his smaller, colorful friend. But it was getting late, and so we headed in hoping to make it to Legend Seafood for Dim Sum. Unfortunately, the fabulous fish had been too tempting, and we missed our lunch...
Of course, there is more to see in Hawaii than what is under water. While we didn't get to see flowing lava on this trip, we did spend time in Puna on the Big Island, where there is a lot of amazing "new land" to check out. Here in this forest of trees and other things we came upon a lava tree. During a lava flow some time back, the lava surrounded a still-standing tree, which then died from within, leaving a hollow lava tree shell. Elsewhere in Puna, we could see coconut impressions left in the cooling lava. We went to Kalapana where a lava flow in 1990 wiped out the town and the beach. While only 17 years old, this new land is already sprouting life. Walking through the black moonscape of the lava field, we would frequently come upon ferns growing in the cracks of the brittle, glass-like lava. As we approached the Ocean's edge, we saw a field of newly planted coconut trees in the distance, behind a small thicket of ficus. Incredibly, in this thicket of ficus we found a gecko and a salamander (the green gecko is barely visible, hiding along the horizontal branch toward the left side of the photo).
Our trip to Hawaii was amazing, if too short. I hope we manage to return soon...