Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dirty Snorkeling

November is sort of an in-between month for we Pacific Northwest outdoorspeople with the cold rains and diminished daylight make hiking mostly unpleasant and cross-country skiing impossible. But this November, we had the opportunity to spend a week on Kauai, and while we did hike there, most of the hiking is...well...sucky. I hope that word doesn't offend anyone. Compared to what we really thought of most of the hikes we did there, it's a very mild descriptor. There was one hike that was the exception, and once winter really gets here and we're all in need of warmer images, I'll share that one here. But today, let's do a little dirty snorkeling, what say?

Can you tell from this picture that I'd never snorkeled before? This was at a protected lagoon area near where we stayed, and we went here just so I could get the hang of it. I eventually did, but not before getting tipped over a lot. It gave me the giggles.

Eventually I managed to get turned over the right way, and we were ready!

Our first real snorkeling adventure was at Tunnels Beach on the north shore. This is where Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton, lost her arm to a tiger shark. We didn't see any sharks. Or Bethany. Or her arm. But look at what we did see!

A monk seal! These are protected, and this one, like subsequent ones we saw, had orange cones set up around it to keep pesky gawkers at bay. Look at that face, would ya? That adorable face made it really, really hard to obey those cones. We didn't see any while snorkeling, which is probably a good thing because they're big and would've scared me silly given that I have a fear of the underwater to begin with. Also, tiger sharks prey on monk seals, and I'd rather not be close to one in the water lest I be confused for a shark meal.

The Humuhumunukunukuapua’a is the Hawaii state fish and the name means “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.” That is info I looked up on the interwebs. I had no idea what this fish was when we saw it. Left to me, I would've called it, "HeyWowLookAtThatReallyCoolFish!"

A Saddle Wrasse, I believe.

Unicorn Fish!

I think this is a parrot fish. Whatever it was astoundingly bright.

I liked snorkeling way more than I thought I would, and I didn't want to get out of the water. But it doesn't take long before even the temperate waters of Hawaii zap the warmth from your body, and you have to get out to take the chill off.

Our second search for the fishies was at 'Anini Beach, also on the north shore. We arrived early in the morning, and as you can see, we had this stretch of beach to ourselves.

The sun wasn't quite over the tree line yet, and it was a little dark and chilly still.

The coral at this spot is very shallow, sometimes only inches below you, and you have to be very careful not to hit it. Just float and observe, float and observe. There were plenty of fish here, but not too many that we hadn't seen. At one point, though, The Big Guy waved me over to see something.

At first, I thought it was one of these, a white spotted toby (puffer fish.) But it was one of these


My heart starts racing again just looking at that picture. Did I mention already that I have a fear of the underwater world to begin with? Having a snorkel tube in your mouth does not interfere with screaming, by the way.

Our last snorkeling outing came at the end of one of those miserable hikes I mentioned. This is the view of Ke'e Beach from the hiking trail 1/2 mile up the hillside. Once it came back into view, we couldn't wait to get off the trail and into the water. You can see the reef edge, and this was by far the best snorkel we had. We didn't take the camera in because we just wanted to float and relax at this point. This beach isn't that big, but it is popular, and it was amazing that as soon as you put your face in the water, you see fishes everywhere all around the people. You're not supposed to feed them here, but it was obvious that people had been by the way the fishes would swim right up to us. We saw so many kinds of fish in this small area. You could look up a chart of Hawaiian reef fish, and that's pretty much what we saw, minus the scary, toothy eels.

Despite the sunshine, it wasn't as warm as it looks, and it was already late afternoon, so we only had about an hour here. One of the most beautiful hours I'm likely to spend in my life. After the day we had leading up to this, it was a gift beyond compare.