Monday, June 25, 2012

Hunama Bay

Looking up at the steep edges of the island surrounding the bay I sighed in contentment. This was my fortress. My safe place. Nevermind the other 50 or so people on the beach. I grabbed my snorkel and goggles and headed towards the waves. I didn't really love my flippers- I preferred to swim barefoot, but I knew that without them the coral could cut my feet. Still, I left them by the towel this time. The morning sun combined with the scent of sunscreen and the gentle pounding of the waves was a melody I knew well.*
The water was cool and clear and I dug my toes in the sand to hide them from the hungry and curious fish swarming my legs. These gentle giants (they were about a foot in length) were the first to greet me. I searched the bay looking for the least populated spot. I began wading and shivered as the cool water closed over my shoulders. Dunking myself, I then fixed my goggles and snorkel and began my exploration. Fish of different colors and sizes, crabs, urchins...these were my treasures- this was my idea of a perfect day. I listened to the scraping of a parrot fish's beak against the coral as it searched for food- it's body bigger than mine. I startled myself when I rounded a wall of coral and came nose-to-nose with a bright yellow trumpet fish. He was about 5 feet long and he waited for me to move away before making a dash for another hiding spot from all the tourists. I followed schools of tangs and watched the sand gobys build their little homes on the bottom of the sea. I swam under coral arches and looked for seashells, often diving deeper to see what I could see. I hummed in my mind as I explored- never lonely. Occasionally I would have to surface and see if I was too far out- I didn't want to get too close to the walls of the bay because the tide and current made it dangerous. I also, while I didn't mind being alone, didn't want to be too far out- I had a healthy respectful fear of sharks and knew there were white-tips beyond the bay. (Not that they would probably have hurt me, still, I didn't want to find out!)
I did swim to the drop off- if you have ever watched Nemo you should know that drop offs exist and that is were some of the most beautiful corals are! I peered over the edge and could see the sand 40-50 feet below me. The coral was a gorgeous mix of reds, oranges, yellows and purples. I also saw a shark down there lazily swimming along the wall and decided that I'd seen plenty.
Once, while snorkeling with my Dad, we found a sea turtle! We had such fun swimming by her and around her- we didn't dare touch her, that's against the law. Another time, a family came to visit ours while we were living in Hawaii and we took them to our bay- I had to 'baby-sit' the older of the boys (he was about my age). I had moved about 10 feet away and noticed the some of the coral looked different. I sat there lazily floating face down, breathing through my snorkel and studying it when I realized that I could see two eyes...and a fin...and the line of the mouth...and...! It was a poisonous Devilfish. He had picked the perfect spot to catch prey and I was not about to get in his way. I backpaddled so fast until I was far enough away to wheel around and grabbing the arm of the boy, I swam as fast as a cartoon character until we reached the beach. He was a bit confused about this odd behavior until I managed, between gasps, to explain what I'd seen.
I dream about that bay. The many afternoons I spent there. The steep zig-zag road we had to climb up to get to our cars after all day in the sun and water. The beautiful crystal blues of the ocean. The mongoose and birds we'd see. Those were lovely, lazy, beach days. I miss the sea, so much. Especially the beautiful South Pacific.
If you ever visit Oahu, take some time and go snorkel at Hunama- most of the corals are brown because people used to walk on them, but there is still plenty of sea life and the edge of the bay is gorgeous.

*Fun fact: when I was born, on the way home from the hospital, my Dad left my Mom in the car and took me on board his air craft carrier to show me off. :)