Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hawaii Day 3-- Canoe/Hike/Snorkel

Our third day in Hawaii was a lot fun-- but the most expensive of all. We talked to the concierge and arranged a canoe trip for the day. That night we booked a whale watching dinner cruise. The total bill for the 2 of us was nearly 500 bucks! It was worth it, though, especially since the snorkeling and whale-watching in Utah really stinks.

About nine o'clock we drove across the island again, over to the east side. There we met with our kayaking guides. After packing up our lunch and gear, we went over to Kaupo Beach. Just off the beach, there is a small islet called Manana Island. It is unique in its formation and history for lots of stuff, notably, having a small volcano caldera mostly visible, being an ex-rabbit island, and serving as the only breeding ground for wedge-tailed shearwater birds. The plan was to canoe the 2+ miles over to the island, do a little exploring and hiking, and then canoe back for a little snorkeling.

We started with a canoeing lesson. Natalie really liked this because of the rules involved. First, the largest (fattest) person should sit in the back. Second, the person in the front does all the leading. Basically, whatever she did with her oar, I was supposed to do. In addition, she got to call steering commands: "Two on the right," to turn left, "Back Paddle," to slow or conduct a tight turn, etc. I got to sit in the back and take commands.

Working together, though, it was amazing how quickly we covered the distance to the island. It was a little frightening, as the water was about 20 feet deep, and the canoe was fairly unstable (not a wooden or metal dinghy that you take out on a lake, but a piece of plastic about 4 inches deep). We made the trip to the island pretty safely, but landing the canoe was another matter. As nearly as I can tell, the proper landing technique is to jump out and try not to tip the canoe or drown. It seems easy enough, but becomes quite difficult in the choppy water. It was bad at Manana because of the way the island sits at an angle to a second, rockier island. Anyway, we survived, and we didn't even lose our lunches (or other gear).

The island was very impressive. The shearwater birds were nesting everywhere. This is a sanctuary, so you can't bother them, but they are so near that you had to be careful not to step on them. They nest in little holes in the ground under nearly every bush or overhang that you pass. The island is mostly volcanic rock, which made hiking around it difficult, particularly in bare feet (which I tried, only to break off a toe nail) and not much easier in flip-flops. To make matters worse, we skirted the island on jagged rocks climbing and dashing over the rills while waves pounded around us, threatening to smash us against the cliffs. It was pretty amazing.

On the far side of the island, sits the caldera of the volcano. It has mostly collapsed, leaving a one-quarter shaped cone, with a jut of rock which used to be the other side of the caldera on the opposite side. This makes a "V" of ocean that comes into the base of the caldera which is very deep called the Queen's Bathtub. It is the perfect place for cliff-jumping. The jump was around 30 feet, and the water at the bottom is calm due to the V. It does occasionally swell and rise as a big wave comes in, but this made it more like a roller coaster than a CIA interrogation. I really like cliff-jumping and took full advantage, but even more fun to me is watching people who are too frightened to cliff jump crouch querulously on the edge and try to talk themselves into taking the plunge.

After hiking back to the beach for lunch, we canoed back across to Oahu. This trip was eventful because we saw what looked like a paper bag floating in the water. Soon we realized it was a sea turtle. As our canoe approached within about 10 feet of him, he rolled over on his back and raised a flipper, which looked exactly like he was waving hello (though more probably he was "giving us the flipper.")

When we got back to Kaupo Beach, we had about an hour to snorkel. The snorkeling at this beach isn't great, in fact, it isn't even good, but we did see a few tangs and other brightly colored fish. The water was calm and shallow, but a little cloudy and our pictures with the underwater camera didn't turn out too well. To us, though, who'd never snorkeled before, this was the highlight of the trip so far. Though Natalie has told me she's not a good swimmer many times, she was very brave and swam out quite far with me. I realized later, when she smashed her knee into a rock multiple times that what she meant was that, though she could swim, she's pretty clumsy in the water! That coral is not only delicate, but sharp!

Randy on the beach waiting for his kayaking lesson.  Can you see the island we are heading to right behind him?
Randy with his paddle.  He was a great partner.

The shearwater birds in their nest.

Randy and Natalie on the hike over to the caldera.

Randy jumping into the Queen's Bathtub.

He survived!

Our sea turtle sighting.  That is his head poking out of the water.
I didn't get a picture of him flippering us off!

Randy heading out to snorkel.

One of our underwater pictures of the yellow Tang fish.

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