Thursday, August 25, 2016

Travel Journal: Sleeping on the Beach and Swimming with Spinner Dolphin

5:30AM. I woke up on a blow-up mattress on a strip of sand between the ocean and a fish pond. The thick white branches of a fallen tree were our only bit of privacy. I sat up causing the air in the mattress to shift and my friend pulled the sheet over his head.  With the sun still behind Hualalai, I looked around in awe of the pale morning light on the water.

There is nothing like falling asleep to the sound of real ocean waves but waking up to them is just as nice. The honu would agree! By nightfall, dozens of them dotted the shore. Only the silhouette of their enormous fins, beaks, and protruding eyes are visible in the moonlight but by morning you can catch them cruising back into the surf, butt ups to chomp some algae off the rocks.

We packed up and left our seemingly secret spot and headed into town. There we took a kayak and some snorkel gear out onto the bay. This part of the ocean is heavily trafficked with fishing boats, tourist submarines, catamarans, jetskis, kayakers, and chartered snorkel tours. Which happens to be ideal for attracting attention-loving spinner dolphins.

The bay was a deep cerulean blue on this morning. With the sun still low in the sky, it was hard to see anything below the surface; I couldn’t even locate the reef. At this point, I doubted I would get in… bodies of water that I can’t see through have been a huge fear of mine for my whole life.

But then I saw the fins pierce the surface just a couple dozen yards away. There were already many snorkelers in the water, so I hopped overboard not wanting to miss my chance.

A boat captain told me to swim past the starboard side of his vessel, which separated me from the other people in the water. I wasn’t sure why he gave me this direction but then I looked underneath me and saw about 25 spinner dolphins in the deep. Following the pod, a group of three large dolphins passed below me. The middle one suddenly broke from the group and shot straight up into the air and did at least three full twists - not more than 10 feet from my face!

I almost cried. It was too perfect! All in all there were about 45 dolphins, mamas and babies too. Underwater they just glide, slow and steady, but every once in awhile they surface with a spin or a flip.

It’s one thing to see it from land but when you’re in the water, spitting in your goggles and coughing salt water through your snorkel, it makes you appreciate the magnificent of these sea creatures and how well suited they are for their environment. Fortunately they seem to like sharing their home with us visitors and showing off too!

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