Oahu Vacation Wrap-Up

We’re home. Our tans are fading, our wounds are healing, the sand is almost out of our shoes. The current feelings seem to be mixed: some of us are glad to be home and back in our own beds; whereas, I’m already looking forward to the next trip. I could have used another week.

Man-O-War SignWe spent our last days mostly snorkeling. On one of the last days, we figured out the tide situation in the beach behind our house and realized we had an amazing snorkeling location a few steps from our backdoor. We also spent a day at Hanauma Bay State Park. This beautiful beach is well-maintained and requires a small entrance fee. It’s very popular and thus somewhat crowded, but they do control the number of people allowed on the beach at any given time. The wind and surf was strong the day we went and we didn’t end up seeing a lot under the water (the reef areas were a bit too crowded for me).

My nephew was swimming near me when he announced that a Portuguese man o’ war was near him. I told him to try to get away from it, but as the words were coming out of my mouth he shouted, “It stung me!” I urged him to head towards shore and I followed. He swam extremely fast. He reached the beach and the lifeguards there had already figured out what was going on. They met him with a spray bottle of vinegar. They sprayed it on his hand where he had been stung and cracked a few jokes with him to keep his spirits up. The wound began to really sting and swell up. They told him there really wasn’t much that could be done, he just had to wait it out.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay

Portuguese man o' war

Portuguese man o’ war

The next day, we were snorkeling at our beach. These man o’ wars were ubiquitous on the beach, apparently an unusual outbreak owing to strong trade winds. My nephew took a stick and drew big circles around them in the sand, pointing them out to anyone unaware. Still, he would not be deterred. We swam and played on bodyboards. Then he felt something bump him. “I think I got stung again!”, he shouted. He got out of the water and I noticed what had hit him. It was a beautiful white jellyfish, the top of it about the size of a quarter with thin ghost-like tendrils drifting behind it a couple of inches. He waited around to see if this would start stinging like the man o’ war. A decent-sized welt appeared, but he didn’t seem to be bothered too much by pain this time around. He was the only one that managed to be stung, and he got stung twice by two different species of animals. The seas might be out to get him.

man o' war stingI was seriously regretting not having a waterproof camera. In the Hanauma Bay gift store, my wife found a contraption that allowed me to use my phone underwater. It’s basically a plastic case that’s clear where the camera lens is and half-inflated with air to ensure it floats. The plastic allows the touchscreen to be used even while underwater.

Back at our beach, I was able to use it properly and captured some decent video clips of the world below the sea’s surface. The photos aren’t that great, but the sun was setting and it was getting dark quickly. I wished I had had it earlier in our trip, especially when I was swimming with the turtles.

I apologize for the crappy photos below (cellphone in a bag, what do you expect?), but hopefully you get an idea of the wonders I found below.

Underwater photo of reef fish.

Underwater photo of reef fish.
The video turned out a little better:

We had a fantastic time on our vacation. It was relaxing and exciting all at once. There were some things that I had hoped to see but we ran out of time: Pearl Harbor, Diamond Head, Waimea Canyon, etc. I’m already looking forward to planning the next trip.

Snorkeling

Oahu's North Shore at Laie

I can’t believe I’ve never been snorkeling before now. Well, I guess it’s sort of understandable considering I spend most of my time in Alaska. But seriously, the snorkeling I’ve done over the past few days has changed my life and I nearly regret not experiencing this sooner.

I’ve floated above countless species of angelfish, rainbow-colored wrasse, and various tangs. I’ve swam beside trumpetfish, puffers, and butterfly fish. I’ve even been up close and personal with Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (pronounced: who-moo-who-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-pooah-ah).

But by far, the most remarkable experience has been within the presence of the green sea turtles. Referring to what these amazing animals do underwater as swimming feels like an understatement. They fly, soar, and glide through the ocean. Their motions defy effort, as they slip through the sea. They slowly flap their flippers, propelling themselves through the undercurrents. They appear to defy gravity, friction, or any sense of resistance. It’s almost as if they travel through an unseen dimension and we’re only perceiving their supernatural reflection.

I swam nearby, giving space to the creatures. I watched, and they watched me. They were fearless; I felt like they knew how I felt about them. One swam to the surface next to me. I lifted my head out of the water just in time to see one of these amazing animals break the surface just mere inches away from me, pulling in a breath of fresh, salty air, before returning to the cosmos beneath the ocean’s glistening surface.

I don’t yet have a camera capable of surviving these underwater encounters, so unfortunately I can’t share these wonders with you as well as I’d like. I’ll be better prepared for my next trip.

But for me I’ll have these images in my mind for the rest of my life, as the magnificent world under the sea fills my dreams and memories.

Sea Turtle graffiti