Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hawai'i Day 4... Two Steps and Manta Ray Dive

Today dawned clear and cool. I took my coffee to the lanai and got a view of the top of the volcano. The locals say that this is due to Hurricane Felicia clearing out the vog. I'll take it as long as the wedding is safe! There has been much discussion of moving the wedding... scheduled for tomorrow, when the hurricane is supposed to come... But this could not be done and it looks like the hurricane will go north of us and cause no or very little trouble.

Today we go to snorkel at a place called Two Steps. I'm not sure why... there is talk of the two steps on the ledge to enter the water off of the lava bank, and there is talk of two steps out in the water. I don't know which it is. Anyway... we all unloaded our gear on this spot and dubbed it the McRock. We had McNamaras, McBrides and McMurreys in our group. We set out our towels and stuff and got into snorkel gear.

Here we are getting ready to get into the water. The swells were washing up and sucking back making timing critical. I got in and went piddling around on my own. I went back to see where Mother was and she was back on the rocks. She said she had a panic attack when the swells got her. So I went off by myself while she joined Mark and Nate.

The visibility was great out from the steps. The best snorkeling we've found is always free. I went along the bank headed towards where Mother and Mark were. There were patches of that strange murky kind of water that tells me there are fresh water springs mixing with the salt water. They were very cold patches. There were bunches of little yellow fishes. They were creamy looking and were all grazing on the rocks and the bottom.

I saw a little tiny orange fish with white stripes like Nemo. I only saw this one and I've never seen any like him in all the snorkel trips I've taken. He was so cute! I have FOUND NEMO!
Here is another fish I've never seen before. He had a long trailing tail. He was very shy and I can't believe I got a shot this good because I had to chase these guys.

Here is another shy little thing. I almost missed him hiding in the coral. He popped his head out and just stared at me.

This one looks like some kind of puffer but I'm not sure if it is. He was beefy looking.

Snorkeling here is like being in an aquarium... only bigger!

This fish looks like something out of an aquarium.
The fish are great but I'm always excited to see the turtles! I guess we are always told how rare they are and so it feels like an honor to see one up close and personal. This one was just hanging out looking at me. I found out later that we're not supposed to get within 10 (or is it 20) feet of them. It would have been difficult to stay that far from them here as there were many of them hanging around everywhere.

I got cold snorkeling and got out to sun myself on a rock. It's one of my favorite things to do. Here in Hawaii with the black lava to lay out on, it doesn't take long to thaw. I also got to catch up on my journaling. (Thanks Charlie for the photo)

Part of the group, the older crowd, were just about done with snorkeling at that point. I was getting hungry and we decided to leave the younger bunch to snorkel some more while we went to a place up the road to eat. The food was great, the view awesome...

the flora was beautiful and lush...

the fauna even better!

We had these little geckos crawling around on the railing right behind our heads. There were pots of jelly left out for them and Annette sprinkled out some sugar for them to eat. They loved it!
(thanks Anna for the photo)

We finished our lunch and went back to our hotels for some down time. We had a late night planned. It was the Manta Ray dive/snorkel trip! We all met up at Jack's Dive Locker to pay, then caravaned to the marina where we boarded a big catamaran with a top deck that was made just for me.

I parked myself on top which was accessed by a very steep ladder that was difficult to negotiate. Nate loved it and kept going up and down. Mark joined me prior to our departure from the slip and here he is with his little "mini-me" watching the preparations for getting under way. We had an orientation that was quite entertaining.

I felt at home on the boat and in the marina setting. As we prepared to leave there were other boats coming into the marina. I love a parade!

We went out through the marina entrance and set off. The view of the coastline was fabulous!

The wind in my face really did wonders blowing away all of the stuff than needed to be away. It was exhillerating!

I took this short video so that you could get a feel for it. Sorry about the wind noise!

I was joined by the family for a while. The boat bounded along over the swells until we got to our first stop.

I watched from above in my safe haven as all of the divers prepared to get into the water. Here are Charlie and Annette, Laura's parents.

Next come her sister, Anna and her husband, Danny. They're the cutest couple!

Finally it was time for us to get ready. We had an orientation first The place we were snorkeling first was above a cave just off the shoreline. Nobody took a pic of me in my dive suit. Probably a good thing since I was much thinner the last time I wore it and I could hardly breathe in it!

Of course us snorkelers didn't get to go into the cave, but it was fun swimming around playing in the bubbles. OK, so I'm easily entertained. I think that diver you can see down in the bottom of this picture is Laura. We stayed at this place for about an hour. It was neat. there were bubbles coming up from the bottom like champagne from the bottom of a glass. They were coming out of holes in the cave from the diver's expelled air.

The snorkelers did get one treat that the divers missed. We got to see this Spotted Eagle Ray. Sorry the video is so jumpy, I was swimming like crazy to keep up with him.

We left that spot and continued on to where we would see the mantas. The crew put down big lights underwater to attract plankton, which would attract the mantas. They come to swoop the plankton up. There were 4 or 5 boats in all waiting for sundown. That was an event in its self. It was another beauty!

After darkness fell, the divers entered the water and stationed themselves at the bottom. Then we got in. Our group had a noodle ring to hold onto to keep us together in the crowded water. Everyone, divers and snorkelers had hand held lights to shine into the water to attract the plankton. It was fun jostling around in the water trying to see the big mantas. They came! The pictures aren't so great. This first one is mine...

and the others are from my brother who was at the bottom. The mantas swooped in between the divers and the snorkelers. It was fabulous! There were 6 in all ranging in size from 6 ft to 12 ft wingspans.

The whole scene was like something out of a sci-fi movie. It was really an awsome experience. I thought I would be creeped out by being in the water at night, but it wasn't scarey at all. Even Nathan got in and saw it all. It was one of the highlights of the trip. Thanks to Annette and Charlie again for their wonderful planning!

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