hacker emblem
jaegerfesting
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage | Log in

Lana'i

Started: 2018-12-05 19:49:10

Submitted: 2018-12-05 21:54:49

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator goes snorkeling and dolphin-watching in Hawaii

On my second full day in Maui, I had the option of several different group activities to choose from. (I could also have chosen to lounge around the resort all day, but that's not really my style.) I chose the Lanaʻi snorkel and dolphin watch offered by Pacific Whale Ocean Adventures out of Lahaina.

I caught the shuttle bus from my resort hotel at 07:00 and rode to Lahaina, the largest town in West Maui. On the dock I rented a GoPro camera with a waterproof underwater case on a short stick with a lanyard to keep it secure. I figured I'd take the opportunity to take some pictures (and, if I was ambitious, video) while I was under water, since I didn't come to Hawaii to snorkel all that often.

Lahaina Harbor
Lahaina Harbor

We boarded the snorkel boat Ocean Quest, docked in the tightly-packed harbor, and pulled out into the smooth water between the islands. The water in front of West Maui is surrounded by islands on all four sides: Maui to the east, Molokini to the north, under-populated Lanaʻi to the west, and unpopulated Kahoʻolawe to the south. (Lanaʻi was owned by Dole to grow pineapples for most of the twentieth century, and ended up in the hands of Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison. Kahoʻolawe was taken over by the US Navy as target practice and hasn't been adequately remediated. The up-side-down apostrophe in the middle of the names is a short pause in the middle of the word, a common feature in the Hawaiian language.)

West Maui in the morning haze
West Maui in the morning haze

We sailed towards Lanaʻi, eight miles away across the calm water, and watched Maui recede into the background behind us. I got a seat in the open air on the top deck, not far behind the bridge. The crew served a light breakfast, and then I went below for a second plate and coffee. The entire boat was populated by my coworkers, all working on the same project, though I didn't know most of them because they came from the software dev teams in various offices in California. I hung out with the SREs from Seattle and London.

Ocean Quest approaches Lanai
Ocean Quest approaches Lanai

As we approached the island, the crew turned into biologists and told us about the reef life we were about to see under the water, complete with large laminated posters of the various brightly-colored fish. I recognized fish I had seen the day prior and tried to remember fish I might see in the water.

Volcanic cliffs on Lanai Island
Volcanic cliffs on Lanai Island

We reached Lanaʻi and cruised along the coast, giving us a good view of the volcanic cliffs and the scrub land climbing into the interior of the island, as well as the Four Seasons resort hugging the shore. The boat pulled into into Manele Bay and the crew secured the boat and gave us a safety briefing, and appraised us of the various floatation devices they had available. I grabbed a swim belt and jumped on the slide mounted on the side of the boat to drop into the water.

Ocean Quest in Manele Bay
Ocean Quest in Manele Bay

The water was swimming-pool warm; the boat's crew said it was about 80°F. I adjusted my mask and snorkel (the mask had fallen off when I rode the slide) and stuck my head under the water to see the world below.

Coral in Manele Bay
Coral in Manele Bay

Under the water was a totally different world: the coral just beneath the surface of the water was bathed in a soft light, filtered by the water, and the ebb and flow of the water gave a gentle rhythm different from the waves and the world above the water. I saw fish swimming, some singletons and some swimming in large schools, meandering around the reef on their own schedule.

Fish swimming in the reef on Manele Bay
Fish swimming in the reef on Manele Bay

I did not see as many spiky black sea urchins as I saw the day before in Molokini Crater (looking like miniature Shadow ships from Babylon 5), but I did see a bunch of red pencil urchins, looking more like a modernist impression of a sea urchin with its thick spines and sharp angles then a real animal.

Ocean Quest surrounded by snorkelers in Manele Bay
Ocean Quest surrounded by snorkelers in Manele Bay

From time to time I'd stick my head above the water, to catch my bearings and figure out how far I'd swum, and the distances above the water seemed skewed compared to what I perceived below the water. Above the water, with my eyes a few inches above the water, the horizon was a hundred meters away, but that was still further than I could easily see under the water. Swimmers clustered around the snorkel boat, and wandered around the bay, under the watchful eye of the crew-lifeguards who tried to keep us out of the shipping channel and out of the way of the other tour boats that arrived in the bay.

Jaeger snorkels in Manele Bay
Jaeger snorkels in Manele Bay

As I swam around the bay, I tried to dive under the water, but my swim belt provided so much flotation that I couldn't get very far below the surface. After an hour in the water, I returned to the boat to divest my swim belt, then returned to the water to swim without additional floatation. The salt water made me sufficiently buoyant that I didn't feel like I needed any additional floatation. I did a few dives under the water, trying to point myself down into the water and kick with my fins to push me deeper, which worked reasonably well.

Sea turtle swimming in Manele Bay
Sea turtle swimming in Manele Bay

Shortly after leaving the boat the second time I stumbled upon a sea turtle swimming around the bay, being watched by a crowd of swimmers. I followed the turtle as it swam deliberately through the water, coming to the surface for air then diving down to the bottom, swimming between the coral reef to the sand below.

Sea turtle swimming in Manele Bay
Sea turtle swimming in Manele Bay

I ended up next to the rocky shore, above a school of convict tang swimming in the choppy water. I dove to join them, watching them swim around and next to me, before returning to the surface for air.

School of convict tang
School of convict tang

By that point, my time in the water had ended. I returned to the boat, divested my snorkel gear, and grabbed veggie burgers for lunch as the boat turned away from Lanaʻi and headed in search of dolphins. We cruised in the direction of Kahoʻolawe before turning back to Maui, crossing the eight miles of water as Lanaʻi retreated behind us and Maui loomed ahead of us.

Returning to West Maui aboard Ocean Quest
Returning to West Maui aboard Ocean Quest

When we were within striking distance of Maui, we turned north and cruised up the coast of West Maui to the resort-hotels at Kaanapali, including the Sheraton Maui where we were staying. Somewhere off the coast of Kaanapali I saw a floating jet ski dock that looked like it had come straight out of Waterworld.

Resort-hotels at Kaanapali
Resort-hotels at Kaanapali

The crew spotted the spray from a whale's blowhole (exhaling as it surfaced from its dive) and we ran around the deck to catch a glimpse of the whale, cameras at the ready. (I, at least, had a good optical zoom and image stabilization on my DSLR; I can't imagine my compatriots' photos on their phones were all that good.) We saw two humpback whales surface, exhale, show their humped backs, and dive under the surface. It was early to see whales (they don't usually show up until December) but they put on a good show for us.

Humpback whale tail at Kaanapali
Humpback whale tail at Kaanapali

While we were watching the whales, a bottlenose dolphin showed up and decided to race the boat. Where the whales were solemn and majestic, the dolphin was rowdy and mercurial, heading straight for the boat, staying just below the surface (thwarting my attempts at getting a good picture) --

Bottlenose dolphin swimming in the water
Bottlenose dolphin swimming in the water

The dolphin swam directly under the boat, to the amusement of those standing on the deck --

Watching a bottlenose dolphin about to swim under the boat
Watching a bottlenose dolphin about to swim under the boat

And then it was gone, somewhere under the boat, and off to play somewhere else.

With the dolphin sighting, our time on the water was up. The crew took the boat back to Lahaina and we disembarked so they could prepare for another voyage that afternoon. On the dock I handed back the GoPro I'd rented and got the memory card, leaving it up to me to see what, if anything, I'd captured while underwater.

Sun setting over Lanai
Sun setting over Lanai

For more photos from my snorkel trip to Lanaʻi, see Photos on 2018-11-15.

I have vim now... I am the great and powerful Rob: with Vim, there
is nothing I can't accomplish.
- CmdrTaco's journal, 14 October 2002