Sunday, February 15, 2009

Maui Day 4: Spinners, Lanai, a Maui Mugging, and a trip to see FISH!

On the Sea:

Our last full day in Maui and I got up bright and early to go on a snorkeling/dolphin experience out at Lanai Island. M wasn't feeling well and elected to just rest and I, despite still feeling the Kahana Cough, elected to go ahead. It, the Kahana Cough seems to have evolved into a chest cold for which I have a little boy on the plane out here to thank. They sure love Keiki out here but, you know, sometimes all those lovable children need to be taught to cover their mouths when they cough. In any event I felt well enough and excited enough to be going back out onto the water especially since I would be using an "optical mask"—I could see without my glasses. 

This time I got there early enough to check, sit and have a coffee (even better than the one I had yesterday as it was made with "care"), and to see the local artists set up their Sunday market under the Banyan Tree. As I walked through a couple of the artists were killing some sort of lizard or snake (I remember reading something about the necessity of this given invasive species but it was not a pleasant sight). Then, back to the sea wall to await the boat. 

Soon enough the boat turned up and it was time to board. There were 20 of us on a boat meant to hold over 100. One less and the trip would have been cancelled. Loading went fast and off we went. 

We had barely cleared the harbor when the excitement began. Whales were all around us and close too, under the boat and we 
had to stop for them (by law). 

This fellow spent a good 15 minutes or so investigating us with pass after pass under the boat. Surfacing, blowing, flipping over, showing us his fluke. 

It took us a while to get back underway . . . 

As you can see, Kaanpali is still close on the horizon as this one leaves us in its wake. 


We finally made it to Lanai and learned a few interesting things too:
  • This is where Dole Pineapples used to come from and they were shipped over to the cannery in Lahaina
  • In the 1800's a cowboy raised the height and water retention of the island by planting pine trees
  • Islands sink under their own weight
  • There is such a thing as a sideways blow hole

We were heading towards Manele Harbor on Lanai for our first snorkeling excursion but found ourselves delayed yet again, this time by a large pod of Spinner Dolphins. About the size of an adult human they look so very small and delicate in the water. They cruised the boat and we followed them for a while, watching them leap, splash, and , yes, spin. They were hard to photograph and this was the very best shot I got. 

And then it was time for snorkeling.

Boy was that water chilly. Not Puget Sound or Lake Washington cold but chillier than one would expect from the tropics (OK, it is February). Sea conditions were a bit choppy as I stepped backwards off the swim step and plunged down into the water. Good thing I had a wet suit top on. 

It has been a while since I've swum with fins and it took some getting used to along with cramping feet and calf muscles but once I got that all worked out everything was hunky and dory. The first thing I saw was a medium sized Sea Turtle moving around. I let it be as we have been warned to leave them as much room as we could. Tried an experimental dive too and found that my lungs did not have enough air to clear the snorkel when I surfaced (thanks Kahana Cough!). Lots of fish to see, you know the drill. I did shadow a Puffer Fish, the first one I have ever seen in the wild and not stuffed or on someone's sushi plate. Pretty neat, so I hovered over it for a while until it decided it did not like to be watched and hid in a hole. 

We had about an hour in Manele Harbor and I was out for about 45 minutes when I started feeling a bit queasy. Could have been the chop, could have been the optical mask I was using which, though it allowed me to see fairly clearly, was obviously not the right prescription for me. Same thing happened during the second snorkel session and I cut things short. 

Pretty neat to see and hear all the fish eating and making noise. 

The Captain decided that it was too choppy to remain out at Lanai so we headed back to Maui towards Mala Wharf just to the north of Lahaina. Hurricane Inki put paid to a significant portion of the wharf and what remains has become an artificial reef. But I get ahead of myself. First we had to get there. 

Remember the Mother, Baby, and Escort trio from the other day? They mugged us. Not a quick "give us all your money" either or a "drive by", this was a lingering investigation that went on for about 20 minutes or so. The three were under the boat, beside the boat, and around the boat. They investigated the propellors and rudders, they blew right next to us, they waved their flukes and blew bubbles at us. The mother (I think) even looked at us. This was, without a doubt, one of the most amazing things I have ever seen and I was simply wishing that M had been along to see it all. She wasn't, so I did the next best thing. I took some video . . . 

From Whales

Eventually the trio took off at the approach of two other whales who buzzed under the boat and kept on going. You know you are seeing something special when the entire crew of the boat stop working and actually try to take pictures as well. What few Keiki there were screamed with glee and the adults, well, we were just amazed as we clicked the shutters. The captain explained that we had been through a "Maui Mugging" and off we went. 

Could the day get any better?

Yes. We finally got to Mala Wharf and I jumped into the water to begin my exploration and immediately ran into three Sea Turtles moving slowly around. I also discovered that, like bird watching, you should just sit still and watch for movement and all kinds of things will pop out. Different fish, a Trumpet Fish hung out about a foot below me for a time and there all kinds of Sea Urchins and interesting corals to look at. Three divers went by as well and I tracked them on the surface, noticing what their guide was pointing at. I was a little disappointed that we didn't see any Black Tipped Reef Sharks. THAT would have been something to see as well. 

Then I started getting nauseous again and decided to call it a day after 5 slow passes over the reef. 

Getting back into shore was happily interrupted by this fellow who breeched about 200 yards from the boat and then took a look at us. (You can see the white water from the breech to the left.)

Needless to say we pulled in a bit late with lots of happy memories and some spectacular pictures. 

Back to the condo where I showed M some of the videos and then we went out to the Maui Ocean Center (yep we paid the fee so that M could actually see more than what I was able to). There was a young wahine keiki who was so excited that she kept running around yell to any adult "FISH!!" Pretty funny. Any adult would do and she wrapped herself around my legs a few times before we moved on. Made me feel quite wonderful to see someone experiencing all of this with such excitement and wonder. Sort of like me during the earlier part of the day. The ocean center is quite nice taking you, as so many of these places do, from the surface down through the mid-ocean and then the deep ocean. There is a huge tank through which a tunnel runs and you can see the many sharks and rays in their collection. We even got caught in a "bubble net" and were congratulated on being eaten by a Humpback Whale. First mugged, now eaten. Yay!


We stopped for dinner on the way back to the condo, Penne Pasta, the creation of Mark Ellman, one of the local celebrity chefs (maybe). A little on the bland and uninspired side if you ask me but still carbs were much needed, the portions were ample, and the price was right. The other Ellman restaurant that we ate at, Mala Ocean Tavern, was excellent (and we paid for that too) and deserving of your custom should you find yourself in the neighborhood. Just make sure to make reservations if you want a table as it seems quite popular with the sort of people who are not used to waiting. 

Sunset at the North end of Kaanapali Beach, the small space that hasn't been sucked into the resort universe and where beach picnics, surf fishing, and canoe launching still occur. 

Tomorrow we leave for home. M said in the car that "Seattle will be a real let-down after this." She is right. It is hard to leave sunny and 80-degree weather for temperatures in the 40's, even if it has been sunny. I expect that getting off the plane will be a shock as will all the exams that are coming in on Monday night and running in the cold and mud. 

Now, I just hope that United gets our upgrades right!

Me ke aloha pumehana! Mahalo for reading!

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