It seems as if it was just yesterday that we were getting ready to leave on our *second* trip to Hawai'i's Big Island, but in fact it has already been almost a month. I tell you, I must have had some extremely good karma coming my way that made 2 (free) trips to Hawai'i in one summer possible. I'm gearing up for the not-so-good karma that must be on it's way. Since we returned, superbuzzy madness began (have you seen that crazy sale?!?), school started up, and the beginning of the rotten karma set in. Well, can't say that I'm surprised!
But, the Big Island is a fantastic place, and I must go back. We've certainly never had such easy and outstanding snorkeling. Since it's been a while since we returned, I won't give the full report like I did last time, but I do want to record some of the highlights - lest I forget them!
We took Brynne to the Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm (just north of Kona - on the way to the airport), and it was incredible. They gave us a 1-hour tour of their facility - from feeding tiny seahorses hatched that very morning, to the mature brood pairs, to tanks displaying each species raised at the farm. Each of us also got to make a "coral reef" with our hands, thereby allowing a little seahorse to hold onto our fingers with its tail. The conservation work they are doing there is incredible, and perhaps they will help save some of these incredibly endangered species from extinction. This is well worth doing!
Probably the most awesome experience we had was our night snorkel with the manta rays. We took a boat with Big Island Divers to a spot where they've been going for some time. We each had flashlights to shine in the water, which then attracted plankton - a manta ray's dinner. We were incredibly lucky to have 13 manta rays with us that night. We stayed in the water for about 45 minutes while these giant creatures (wingspans of about 16 feet!) did giant barrel rolls in the water, inches from us. I could have stayed out there for hours watching this awe-inspiring water ballet.
The house we stayed in was perfectly located on the water at Kealakekua Bay. We couldn't have dreamt up a better location for our interests, and we woke up each morning eager to get our morning snorkel before breakfast. One morning, we decided to kayak out to Captain Cook's monument on the other side of the bay, where the coral was said to be fantastic. On the way out, we ran into a pod of about 20-24 spinner dolphins cavorting in the bay. Not ones to miss an opportunity like this, we took turns snorkeling with the dolphins in the middle of the bay, coming within one foot of them. It was so cool to be in the water with them, occasionally hearing them "talk" to each other, and watching them leap out of the water and performing their characteristic spin. The snorkeling out by the monument was also stellar, with a beautiful reef at just the right depth for snorkeling - not so shallow that the fear of getting sliced by coral sets in, but still close enough for visibility of the smaller critters hiding in and around the reef. The diversity of fish was fantastic! The only downside to snorkeling here is that tour boats loaded with novice snorkelers come to the area daily, dumping dozens of people into the water. We were lucky to have some quiet time toward the beginning, but then the boat came in and the water became far too crowded and chaotic. I recommend going early in the morning to beat the tours. (The snorkeling at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is, in my opinion, a close second to Captain Cook's monument, and the entry is very simple - no kayaking required.)
We also did more volcano hiking, made it down into Waipi'o Valley for some hiking, and took our weak 4WD vehicle on the extremely questionable "road" to the green sand beach (now there's an adventure!). Lots of good family time was had, and I think we've fallen in love with the Big Island. It will be tough to convince ourselves to explore the other islands, for fear they won't live up to what we found there.