Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

I have finally received my developed underwater pictures so I can now continue on with Day Three of the Hawaii trip!

putting on the gear

I had read about Hanauma Bay and there were TONS of travel sites that offered tours and packages, but as I read the fine print I realized we'd still have to pay for the entrance fee to the bay on top of all the fee's for the tour. Apparently there are 300 public parking spaces that usually go pretty fast so most people opt for the tours. We decided to take our chances and head over to the bay early on our own.


Hanauma Bay was once a volcano, long dormant the crater caved on the ocean side letting in the sea water and created a protected reef.  There are more than 450 species of fish along with octopus, crabs, eels and honu, also know as sea turtles. We arrived at 7:15 am, low tide, and after watching the mandatory video for how to treat the reef (ti's now a Nature Preserve and a Marine Life Conservation District and they take the preservation of the reef very seriously, it's even closed every Tuesday so it's not over used) we sought out shade on the sand and prepared our snorkel gear.

I had never snorkeled before so the first time we went out I was sans camera. I just wanted to get the feel of it. We wandered out into the shallow water and put our faces down and I instantly felt as though I'd just swam into a large fish tank. There were fish EVERYWHERE!! It was amazing.

bokeh swimming

I did not have my Nikon with me for the trip, instead I brought two underwater cameras. I was very nervous about the kind of pictures that the cameras would take, seeing as they were 800 speed I at least knew they were going to be pretty noisy, but I'm pleasantly surprised at the gritty, 1970's feel of them. I love shooting with film, it's the waiting around to develop them that I don't like. I still have 5 rolls of film from my Holga that I haven't taken in yet.

parrot fishy

The second time out I brought my camera and started shooting away. I didn't even look through the viewfinder, I would just chase around a fish with my arms stretched towards it hoping that I actually framed the shot correctly (ah hell, I didn't even care about that. I just wanted to capture some fishys!).

zebra fish

We started snorkeling at low tide, which was around 7:30 am, so the inland portion of the reef was still exposed and there were many times where our belles were dragging along the coral. Passing the break was not an option so we stayed inside the reef and would every once and a while stand up (carefully so as to not actually step on the coral) and look for a turquoise section of water and then crawl over the reef to that area. (The turquoise meant that it was slightly deeper water).

three fishes

The tide started to come in and we were joined by Sherie, Eric, Cirrus and Sherie's friend (who's name I can't recall at the moment). Cirrus is an experienced snorkeler and by this point the tall one and I had it down. We swam around a bit until the tide had risen high enough for us to pass the break and swim out into deeper water.

swimming lucas

school of fishy

Now the fun really started! All the cool fishys were hanging out past the break where the hundreds of flapping feet couldn't touch them. Swimming in the expanse of turquoise water and seeing actual schools of fish has prompted the tall one and I to start researching scuba diving and, as Cirrus was so kind to offer us a place to stay, a trip to the Bahamas next year. We even saw some scuba divers past the break where we were snorkeling. They actually startled me, and at first I didn't know why they would be snorkeling so close to the inside of the reef...but after this set of pictures you'll see why:


deep sea fishy

center fishy

polka fishy

Quick break: this cute little polka dot fishy was my favorite. He was probably about as long as my thumb so I had to get up on him pretty close to get a decent shot...and he was fast! I followed quite a few of them before I was finally able to get a shot. Sooooo cute!

chillin' fishy

single fishy

happy fishy


sea turtle


I felt a tug on my fin and I looked back to see the the tall one emphatically pointing towards the ground, and there we saw our first sea turtle. I can't even begin to explain to you the feeling. You really have to see one for yourself. I would say the water was about 15 to 20 feet deep and the big guy was just swimming along, his cute little flappers gently pushing his large body.

I do a great impression if you're ever interested...

Every once in a while I'd put my head up to find Cirrus, who would see a fish that he liked and just keep following it. The tall one stayed with me and we saw two more sea turtles, one that was halfway under the coral and the last one...sigh. It was so beautiful. There was no coral around, just a long expansion of white sand and blue water, and a majestic sea turtle swimming quietly alone, slowly fading away into the deep ocean.

At this point we had been snorkeling for 6 hours. I was feeling the exhaustion and needed to head in. I felt like the turtles were a good stopping point for me. It couldn't get any better than that. I laid on the beach while the tall one headed back out for one last swim, covering myself from the sun and yet still feeling the heat burning my already scorched skin. As we left the bay, I looked back and took one last picture. This day was one of the best I've ever had in my whole life and I didn't want to forget it.

snorkling reef

Best Monday Ever.

day one
day two
day three
day four
day five

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