Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Fish Tale

If you hate fish, just look away.  Today's post is not for you.

On Friday, I went on a seven hour snorkeling cruise.  There were two one-hour snorkel stops, and we were supposed to see dolphins along the way.  Apparently our day was quite unusual in terms of weather, so that threw a lot of things off, including dolphin sightings, much to my dismay.

Generally the first stop is Molokini Crater, followed by an area close to the island of Lana'i, which is quite close to Maui.  However, that morning our captain had found out that the weather at Molokini was really bad -- very choppy water with one-foot swells, hardly ideal for snorkeling.  He also heard it was supposed to clear off by early afternoon though, and he told us that the timing of our return might be such that we would have the place to ourselves -- almost unheard of in such a popular snorkel spot.

Before I get started on too many details, I should introduce you to my tour, the crew, and the boat.  I went with the fine folks of Pacific Whale Foundation, a non-profit organization concerned with ocean ecology and the plant and animal life thereof.  They were great folks, and I highly recommend their tour.

This was our boat, the OceanVoyager:

It holds something like 149 people, but we only had 77 or so on my cruise -- very comfortable.

Here are three of our six crew members.

From L-R, they are Gabe, one of the two naturalists (sort of like a marine biologist) on board; Juliana, the first mate; and Jenn, all around helpful and cool chick.  I'm missing Jeremy, the captain; the other naturalist, and the food server / bartender (I don't remember the names of the latter two).

When we got to Lana'i (pronounced Lah-neye'-ee), we pulled up to this rock, just offshore. There was a legend about it -- I believe it's called Sweetheart Rock, and they said it's the most highly photographed rocks around Maui and Lana'i -- but I don't remember the story accurately. Something about a lover throwing himself off the top. It didn't sound healthy. But I got you a picture! And since I'm so diligent, I googled it and found you a link to read about it if you're interested.

In the same general vicinity is the Lana'i Cathedral, which the captain told is is the site of many underwater weddings (the wedding party all has to be dive certified, of course).  He said you could find lots of youtube videos on the place, and it turns out he was right.

However, I believe I promised you fish pictures, so I should get on with that.

During the first snorkel spot, I was getting the hang of my new underwater camera and figuring out how to get the best shots of fish underwater.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the best shots occurred at the second site.

Here's a school of stripey fish with a couple of other fishy friends.  Not a great picture, but a lot of fish in one place.

Gabe gave a great onboard fish tutorial and told us the names of most of the fish that we saw, but with my awesome powers of recollection, I've forgotten almost all of them. I do know that almost all the pictures he showed us were butterfly fish, so when in doubt, that's probably what they are. 

This guy? He's a black and red fish. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

But oh hey, if you look in the upper right hand corner of that picture, that's my favorite fish. Unfortunately, the camera doesn't come close to capturing all the colors of this amazing fish.  I actually hunted Gabe down and asked him what fish it was, and it's called a parrot fish.  I took about two dozen pictures of male parrot fish because they're so beautiful. It turns out they travel in schools with one male and several females, including an alpha female. If the male dies, the alpha female actually changes genders and colors over about a week and becomes the male of the group. Nature is weird, boys and girls.

Here's another picture of the elusive parrot fish.  I followed several of these guys around in the first snorkel site and wasn't thrilled with most of my results, but this will have to do (yes, he really is that brightly colored, and actually there are several other colors not captured here).

This pretty little guy is probably a butterfly fish of some variety.  He was quite striking. I called him the orange and white stripey fish, being the poetic sort that I am.

This big blue fella swam close enough to me that he filled up my entire screen. (We're now into the second site in Molokini Crater.)

This black fish is one that I saw all over both sites.  The fish next to him may be a butterfly fish or may be an angel fish; they look almost identical.

This is a sea urchin and a small fish that was tough to photograph.  I was pleased I got a good shot of him -- he was FAST!

These two beauties may be fish that mate for life.  I followed them for a while, and they were definitely traveling together.  I got several pretty good shots of them, but this was my favorite.

This is another fish that I saw in abundance in both sites. I had a tough time getting a good picture of him.  This is about the best one.  He's black with orange spots on his tail, which I believe makes him a type of triggerfish.

Last but not least, this frightening fish is often armed with a photographic device and shoots images of other fish.  In other words, it's me.  =)

Normally I proofread all posts pretty extensively, but I'm checking out of my Oahu hotel in 8 minutes, so I reserve the right to edit this post for content or grammar later!

We're off to the airport to return home.  Aloha, y'all!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sunset at 10,000 Feet

On Wednesday, we did the classic Maui tourist thing: we went up to the top of Haleakala. Apparently you really want to go at sunrise, where your view is unimpeded by the other mountain on Maui, but it turns out sunrise is early, which is a problem for me and those I'm hanging out with, so we went at sunset instead.

We'd been warned about the frigid weather at that altitude and time of day, so we all took fleeces, windbreakers, or both.  It didn't get really cold until the sun went down, fortunately, and until then, we had some amazing views.

It's not often you find yourself above the clouds.  I think this is what most people think heaven looks like.  I find it hard to disagree.

I almost liked it better when a wispy cloud drifted in front of the sun.  Kind of a surreal look. [Incidentally, all these photos are straight out of the camera; I'll tell you if I mess with a pic before I post it.]

These views were really a bonus; we hadn't expected to see this sort of light magic going on in the clouds (although all of us were snapping photos like mad).

We had hoped to see down inside the crater on top of the mountain, but it was full of clouds too. Still pretty, but not ideal.

And this is a picture of the trail that my hubby went back and hiked today while I went on a snorkeling cruise.  He gets seasick; I don't hike 10 miles at altitude.  I guess we each have our own forms of sanity, no?

Closer to sunset, we got some pictures with actual color in the sky.

And this next one includes the Haleakala observatory.

And last but not least, I'll leave you with one my hubby took of the moon rising.  It's tiny, but you can see the sliver of the moon in the top of this photo.

And with that, I bid you good night.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Road to Hana

Yes, everyone's favorite part of Maui, the road to Hana. I don't know how people did this back in the days of film cameras: we took over 500 pictures on Tuesday when we drove it. Pretty expensive in terms of film!

I'll spare you most of the craziness and show you the "good stuff," but suffice it to say that if you ever get the chance to drive along this road, you should take it. We didn't even get to finish it because we took so many little side trips. The scenery is amazing. There are many waterfalls, some of which you can see from the road, but many of which you must hike to.

We got much of our information from a book which we found invaluable. There are a couple of things I'd add, but I'll tell you that in this post.

Our first stop is a glorified highway turnout; there was a small parking lot in the Hookipu Park. It's not far down the road. The photo is unretouched in terms of the color of the water, but there is a polarized filter on our camera, which cheats the colors a little. It's fairly true to life, though.

There were some surfers here learning to surf -- the breakers are small and gentle, and they broke for what seemed like a half mile.

The first waterfall we saw was Lower Puohokamoa Falls, or, as we affectionately referred to it, Lower Wannahockaloogie Falls (since the Hawaiian name is so difficult to read).  First the picture, then the advice.

This was the one place we found the guidebook less than completely forthcoming (or maybe it was just outdated).  This waterfall was on private land -- we ended up following some folks through a fence and down a "well-worn path" (quoted from the book) to see it.  In retrospect, we definitely should not have strayed onto private property.  I do wish we'd been warned, though.

Incidentally, there is no sense of scale in the photo above.  This may have been the longest fall we saw all day -- it's 200 feet.  It's just impossible to get that from the photo.

Between the Kaumahina State wayside and the Keanea Peninsula, we stopped at a turnout and took this photo. You can see the road cut into the side of the hill.

We then drove to the Keanea Peninsula, had some of the fantastic banana bread there (sold warm, just like your mama would), and shared our table with this cute little guy.

Then we trundled down to the end of the peninsula, where I took this pic of my honey with the waves crashing behind him.  I'm kind of fond of him, y'know.

This staircase, completely surrounded by dead branches, was at the Wailua State Wayside.  At the top was an overlook where you could see the town of Wailua -- very pretty.

One of the two coolest waterfalls we saw was called the Three Bears Falls, and it's easy to see why in the picture.

This falls is visible from the road, but this shot isn't possible without a good zoom lens.  In our case, we hiked down to the falls (detailed instructions in our handy-dandy book, of course). In many cases, we talked to other people who had the same book and were doing the same things, but in this case, we were the only ones near the falls. It was a challenging hike -- or rather, the first step down off the road was a challenge.  Also, there is no parking near this falls, so we parked at the next turnout up the road and walked back (less than a quarter mile, but apparently no one else was willing to do it).  Well worth it to get the close-up view of this beautiful waterfall, in my opinion.

We naturally had to get a shot of me and my sock monster while we were there.  He was our mascot for the trip.  I will likely do a blog post of just the shots with him since it's turned into such a joke now.

I'm not sure if you can see the stains on the bottom of my pants, but I got those climbing down to these falls.  Follow the instructions; we took another way down and that made it more of a challenge than it needed to be.

Next waterfall was at Pua'a Ka'a State Park.  There is a wimpy waterfall that's easy to see when you walk in, and there is (quoting the book again) an "awkward trail" to another falls father in.  I thought that was a curious phrase to use, but there's a darn good reason it's called an "awkward trail."  It's a bit of a challenge, for one, but it's also not every day you get to walk along an aqueduct!  Just don't look down over the side if you have a fear of heights.

And this is your reward for reaching the end of the trail.  I loved this waterfall.

It drops into a large blue pool.  I was so upset that I wasn't wearing a swimsuit at this point -- it looked awfully inviting.

Here's me and my hubby -- and my buddy the sock monster -- down by the waterfall.

No, I'm not sunburned.  I just turn that color after a hike down an awkward trail or two.

By this time, we were pretty exhausted and waterfalled out.  Fortunately, the last one we came to was right on the road.  Or right under it.  But first I'll show you its namesake road (with my buddy the sock monster, natch).

We were punchy enough by this time that the road and waterfall name amused us to no end. Imagine our amusement when we actually saw the waterfall (photographed from above on the bridge, this is Makapipi Falls).

We hadn't had anything to eat all day other than our banana bread snack, so we stopped at the Nahiku Marketplace, where I got an excellent Kalua Pig bowl (pork and rice, to which I added BBQ sauce).

We then put our tired selves back into the car for the drive back, stopping back at our first stop to catch the sunset, which is where I will leave you, dear readers.  I hope you've enjoyed our photo tour down the road to Hana.  Come again!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kayaking and Snorkeling

Since I'm completely exhausted from doing the road to Hana today (pics and post to come, but I can't face wading through the 500+ pics tonight), I'll just let you go through the pics from the snorkeling and kayaking trip we took yesterday.

Yes, I know, I should be a good blog host and just bring you the good ones.  Apparently I'm a very bad bloggy host.  I hope you'll forgive me.

These were taken using our new underwater camera, which has proven to be really wonderful for this trip.

Sorry for the truly lazy post.  I'll try to do better tomorrow when I can hold my eyes open.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wowee -- Maui!

So this is a blog, huh?

How do I do this, again? Let's see if I can remember what all these buttons do.

We're staying with our friends Matt and Becky while we're here. They've rented a house in Maui for two and a half weeks. Her parents are here for a week (leaving Tuesday night), we're here for a week (Saturday through Saturday), and her brother and sister-in-law will be here for a week starting Tuesday. They have graciously allowed us to join them in the house, which has been fantastic thus far.

I could tell you all about my travel woes in getting here, and maybe I will if I need blog fodder later, but I bet you'd rather see pictures... unless you're not here. In which case seeing my pictures of tropical paradise will only make you hate me. I'm willing to take that risk. Here goes.

This first shot is of last night's sunset, with Becky's dad in the foreground.

This is a cool shot of my feet in the Pacific, taken by my hubby, who is far better technically as a photographer than I am. Note the cool effect of the water running around my feet.

This is me with the sock monster that Becky made for me. I've decided that he's my mascot for this trip, so you'll be seeing more of him.

Today someone gave me a gorgeous fresh flower. I made sure I wore it on the appropriate side. If anyone knows what flower this is, please speak up!

We went for a short hike today and saw this amazing blowhole. Becky and her mom provide an excellent reference for size in the background.

I think this is my favorite shot of today -- a dead tree with some beautiful clouds in the background.

We went on a great kayaking trip this morning, but I'll have to do that in a separate post... it's late and I'm really tired. Hope y'all enjoyed this small taste, and I'll post more soon!