Underwater Adventure
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By Craig Kimble

For the past few years my wife Sonja and I have enjoyed cheering on a friend of ours as she participates in Triathlon events. If you have never seen an event like this, I can tell you that it is a very awe-inspiring experience. I tell you this because our friend Shannon qualified for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Sonja and I decided that it would be necessary to show our support by tagging along and scheduled our vacation accordingly.

Vacations, I believe, are a very important part of our modern day lives. My motto is "Work hard, Play hard". Being a Colorado native, I have spent most of my playtime exploring the Rocky Mountains. On occasion I have visited other western states to hunt, fish, or enjoy their natural beauty. But as I enter middle age, I have felt a need to expand my horizons and to see other parts of this wonderful world we live in. A vacation in Hawaii sounds like a good start, and my wife agrees.

I have spent numerous hours over the last few months studying the Big Island of Hawaii. With only ten days to explore the island I would need to pinpoint the things to do and places to see beforehand. Of course one day will be spent watching 1600 super humans, swim, bike and run the Ironman triathlon. The other days will be spent hiking on volcanoes, exploring rain forest and possibly the most exciting of all, discovering the ocean.

My first full day on the Big Island of Hawaii started by scheduling the week's activities and making reservations for future adventures over breakfast. Late morning was spent purchasing food, drink and other necessities. After lunch the real adventures began. About a mile north of our condo is a nice sandy beach called Kahalu'u. I had read that this would be a good place to see the reef fish of Hawaii. After walking out into the ocean up to my waist, for the very first time in my life I might add, I could see schools of brightly colored fish in the clear water. I should also mention that this was the first time in the ocean for my wife. Other people were talking about seeing a sea turtle and other larger fish. One man directed me to a snorkel gear vender that had his van parked at the edge of the beach with all his wares out on display. 6 bucks secured the necessary equipment and 3 minutes the necessary instruction.
Sea Turtle
A wondrous world reveled itself to me at the moment my face mask touched the water. A yellow striped goatfish poked around the rocks below and as I watched a puffer fish swam up and look me right in the eyes. This action I must admit was very intimidating and gave me thought as to just whom the visitor was in this environs. A wave changed my direction and my new friends were gone. The snorkel was strange to use but as I listened to my breathing grow steady it became easier. A few feet in front of me and near the surface a needlefish, light blue and seemingly transparent in the sun, moved by at a steady pace. One of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed began at this very moment, a Green Sea Turtle moved into my view. Its shell nearly 3 feet in diameter It's Eyes probing the depths for food with neck extended and flippers gently guiding it through the water. He or she didn't mind that I was there so I tried to remain as motionless as possible and just watch. I lost track of time but believe that at leased five minutes had passed. This is so cool! A school of Orange-spined Tang passed by below me purple, orange and yellow. Not far away a Trumpet Fish moved by and I continued to swim out above the coral. I then spotted a snowflake moray eel on the rocky bottom and later a Spotted Box Fish. I stopped above a Finger Coral that had lots of fish around it and watched for a short while. Small black fish with a white spot swooped in and out of the ivory fingers.

I never pictured myself swimming in the ocean like this. To be honest, I am a poor swimmer and never had the desire better myself. I attribute this to the fact that the water temperature of Colorado streams and lakes is on the cold side I also had a bad experience as a boy. Never the less the awesome beauty of this watery world forced me to overcome my fear and venture into the depths.

With a little practice I learned how to dive and then clear my breathing tube without choking. This aided me in better viewing coral life up close, but caused my wife great concern, as she knows well my fear of the water. Just this morning we were joking about my swim trunks that I have owned for over a decade and am using for the second time. I'm not sure what came over me this day but I was able to put the fear aside enough to allow me this experience of a lifetime.

Another Sea Turtle, coming from behind, surprised me by passing me only inches away. I could feel it as it surfaced for a moment, breathing, then moving back down to an area where lava and coral meet. I could never see exactly what the turtle was feasting on but enjoyed watching it poke around the crevices. I think the other fish were being opportunistic by feeding on what the turtle stirred up because a group of smaller yellow fish moved about in the general area of the turtle. The water was so clear it's like swimming in an aquarium.
The bay I was swimming in was a popular place because over 100 species of fish could be seen here. I don't know if the fish had learned not to fear people but I am amazed at how close I could get before they darted away. Another resident of the coral, the Sea Urchin, could be seen in holes or cracks. I noted several different kinds, one black one red and one white or bone colored. All were very beautiful in a strange sort of way. I guess I knew from some TV show in the past not to touch them, but looking at them and their beauty I had to restrain myself.

A Red Parrot Fish moved effortlessly around the coral. Its an odd looking fish with a rounded head and a dorsal fin that is as long as its back. The color of the Parrot Fish is what sets it apart in my mind. Red, green and a touch of blue almost glow, like fluorescent paint under ultraviolet light.

Almost as interesting as watching the sea creatures was watching humans interact with them. Like me, some were experiencing this for the first time expressing their awe to friends and family close by. Others like the man in a camouflaged wet suit and a spear gun were at home here and even hunted it as I would hunt an aspen stand at home. Still others used this bay as a playground, enjoying the beach, basking in the sun or frolicking in the shallows.

This adventure came to a close as the sun dipped into the Pacific. How right it is, to have such a beautiful sunset above the ocean that is so beautiful below. I returned the borrowed snorkeling gear to the vender who had packed up his stuff and was standing there with my deposit in his hand wanting to get on his way. As I put my bag into the rental car I was thinking about the days events and that I had nine days left to explore this island. Somehow I must now make more time for snorkeling.