To the Sea!

Trip Start Aug 02, 2008
Trip End Aug 17, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Today we went to the sea--twice!

In the morning, we took a tour on the Atlantis submarine and in the evening, we went on a sunset tour.  That's the short version.

It's tempting to leave it as the short version because, as Marv says, I'm at risk of writing about the vacation more than having it.  On the other hand, I'm still waking up at 5:30 am ...

The Atlantis X, the sub we went on, is one of several submarines that the Atlantis Submarine company offers tours on around the world.  In fact, I went on another one in St. Thomas last December during the Wisdom Course Year End Cruise.  But having seen one coral reef doesn't mean I've seen them all.  Besides, 2008 has been declared the "International Year of the Reef" so this was a great time to go learn how humans can take "innovative measures to build artificial reefs" which provide "more undersea 'homes for fish' and contribute to the growth of marine life" (from the Atlantis Dive Log).  The submarines are powered by batteries, according to the Dive Log, and therefore don't release pollutants into the water.  Still, I wonder how the passage of a huge vessel through the reef might otherwise affect the sea life, especially when the pilots are still learning (a two-year program, apparently), but Atlantis does work closely with the State of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii to explore, research, educate and preserve.  Thus the transport we took out to the sub was called the Malama Kai, Hawaiian for Respect the Sea.

I'd like to report that we saw sharks or something big and exciting like that, but we didn't.  We did see two moray eels hiding out in the hollow broken mast of a sailboat that sank just below the depth at which coral grows.  The eels had taken ownership the hollow mast as though it were some sort of coral tunnel, their more usual haunt.  What's more amazing was the number of fish that have made the sunken ship their permanent home.  Any large vessel that gets permanently lodged on the ocean bottom will provide new homes, which led the Altantis people along with the U of Hawaii to create artificial "reefs" from metal debris off the coast of Waikiki.  But such "reefs" have to be well secured, either by accident or intention, or the strong ocean currents around Hawaii will drag them away.

Marv says there was a real sense of wonder going down into the (preternatural) blue of the depths (we went down below 100 feet, which makes us part of the less than 0.1% of the world's population that has been that deep).  We loved seeing all the blue, yellow, black and white fish and wondered what colours they really are, since the deep water filters out many wavelengths.  Red disappears almost immediately, making red clothing look purple at best and making faces look ghastly (see the photos of my hand to give you an idea).  The tour guide told us that certain finger-like coral that looked purplish grey was really bright scarlet and the coral that looked like "lumps of mashed potatoes" were really lime green.  Wow!  But it was fun to see the "strange, weird fishes" says Marv.  I was amazed to see how vast the coral colonies are, given how long it takes these tiny creatures called corals to build the reefs they live in--centuries and centuries (even millennia).  And it's sobering to think how much coral has died around the world, as a result of human activity in only a few decades.  Perhaps that explains the research around "artificial reefs", but I can't imagine the reef being vibrant without coral somewhere in the picture.

After we surfaced and docked, we went for lunch then shopping.  I found the prices reasonable after Greece.  Apparently tourism is down this year in Hawaii, as a result of the rise in airplane fuel and the financial disaster in the US.  I saw one real estate firm boldly advertising that it had "100s of foreclosures" to offer, as though that were a good thing.  Because of all this, I felt a little less guilty knowing I was contributing to the local economy.

We went back to our condo for a few hours and then returned to the city pier for the evening cruise.  I put on the Hawaiian floral dress and sandals I had purchased earlier.  We were joined by only 17 other people for this sunset dinner cruise.  I hope this was a slow night for them, because it was a huge boat, with a stated maximum capacity of 104.  Maybe they get more people during the day, when they do glass-bottomed boat tours.  We also got to look through the glass bottom, especially when the boat got to its southern-most destination and paused for around half an hour.  The view through the glass is illuminated at night by huge lights under the hull.  The bright light attracts millions of swarming plankton that, in turn, attract groups of manta rays.  In theory, anyway: the mantas weren't cooperating last night.  Several other small boats were anchored nearby to let scuba divers and snorklers look at the sea life and manta rays, too. (Since I didn't get a photo of one, here's a link to see what a manta ray looks like:  All the boats turn on bright lights and the tourists at the nearby hotel come to the shore to watch.  But even without mantas, the view was mesmerizing, because the lights allowed us to see the gyrating plankton and the many fish of all sizes that prowl the lava boulders below the surface of the sea.

We weren't too upset by not seeing mantas because we're signed up to go manta ray snorkling during the TYS course sometime in the next few days.  Also, just before we boarded the cruise boat, we saw a sea turtle at the public beach in Kailua-Kona.  The sandy beach is bounded by lava stone walls and at the bottom of the wall on the sea-sise are some medium-sized lava boulders that have sprouted green moss and algae.  This young turtle(according to a knowledgable local) was feasting on the greens as the waves wafted him back and forth.  He was very laid back about this, and the presence of viewing humans bothered him not in the least.  (I couldn't help thinking about the turtles in Finding Nemo.)  It's a good thing the turtles are protected here and signs are posted everywhere warning us not to touch or disturb them.

The rest of the cruise was a feast for the senses, as Marv put it.  We had a sunset and a moon and lights on the water and getting to watch the fishes.  We had nice vegetarian meals and live music by a versatile local musician and a maitai (Mici) and a lava flow (Marv).  The sunset started vividly and ended shrouded in mystery and clouds but lasted long enough for a couple of nice photos.  Being on the moon-dappled ocean, far from shore, bathed in balmy warmth and soft breezes was a tropical delight, even if dancing on a rolling surface is a bit of a challenge.  We had to engage in a kind of pole-dance (dancing in the ordinary way but holding on to a ship part for balance), and this had nothing to do with the maitai, honest.  What more could we want...except maybe pupus (Hawaiian for "hors d'oerves" or mezedes or forshpeis).

Mahalo (thank you) for reading this far! 
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karenmw on

I've always loved glass-bottomed boats, but I've never been on a submarine.

As a nature-lover, Mici, you must be ecstatic seeing so many different, weird species. I see it has become a personal fashion rule to have a flower behind your ear that matches your outfit.

I love the sea shots but maybe my favourite picture is the banyan tree. That is one honkin' big tree. If you didn't know better, you'd think it got that big by grabbing and enveloping in its multifarious trunks people who sit too near...

Have more fun,

Lise Raev on

Oh, manta ray snorkling would be amazing! I'd love to go scuba diving in the Caribbean, too. I've been hoping to be able to check out some of the scuba diving Bonaire is known for when I go; I'm not certified yet, though, so I don't know if I will.

khernau on

That looks like an awesome vacation! My husband and I plan to go on a trip this summer. We both want to go somewhere that has scuba diving bonaire. I hear it's great!

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