Friday, September 06, 2013

Honolua Bay Snorkeling

If you think all we did was snorkel while we were on Maui...well, you'd be close to right, but not completely.  I do have an obsession with all things ocean-y and now that Ryan is old enough to be my water buddy, I was determined to take full advantage of the situation.  After all, I figure I only have another year or two before he hits the "I'm embarrassed to be seen in public with my mother" phase.

Last time I went to Maui in 1999, I had the most amazing experience at Honolua Bay.  It was way off the beaten track, hard to find and many of the locals we spoke to had kind of warned us off it.  I don't know why at the time that ignited my desire to go there anyway (stubborn?  who, me?), but it did and I have never seen such an unbelievable abundance of marine creatures and such stunning water clarity.  Unfortunately, camera technology back then did not allow for affordable underwater options like it does now so I only have my own memories of that dive and no photos.

Now armed with the underwater camera I rented ($55 for the whole week from Boss Frog's in the Lahaina Cannery Mall if you're thinking of doing the same thing and TOTALLY worth every penny), I was determined to go back.  Got the same semi-negative reaction from everyone we asked about poor visibility and rocky, difficult water entry.

I went anyway.  Again, I'm not stubborn AT ALL.

Here's a view of the bay from the lookout up above.  A few hundred yards past this point on Highway 30, there are now a couple of turnouts where you can park.  In 1999, no turnouts - you just parked on the side of the road and hoped no one would hit your car or rob it.

From the turnouts, there are now a couple of trails through what looks like jungle to get to the bay.


About halfway down the trail, we ran across this amazing tree.


Now with small child added for size reference.


The rare ubiquitous Honolua Bay chicken.  It's so're on a jungle pathway and you expect to hear exotic bird calls and all you hear is roosters crowing and there are all these chickens walking around free.  Some of them were very unusual looking, too.  This was the only one who stood still long enough to pose for me.


Probably because she had these cute little fluffy babies with her.  Soooo CUTE!  I can't stand it!

However, the water was calling us so it was time to head on down to the bay.

Unfortunately, this time everything the locals had always warned about was true.  15 years has led to a lot of environmental impact in this area.  So much silt and mud choking the bottom close to shore really reduced the visibility and a lot of the coral had died off.  The concrete boat dock that used to be there making water entry easier has mostly been worn away by wind and wave.  I did still manage to get a few decent pictures like this urchin, although you can tell the water clarity is nowhere near as good as it was at Black Rock.

In this photo of a Christmas Wrasse (background) and Bluespined Unicornfish (foreground), you can really see the mud/silt deposit on the rocks.

This Brown Surgeonfish is taking advantage of the algae growing in the mud to grab a quick snack.

This Moorish Idol is doing the same.  This would have been an amazing shot if the water had been clearer.

Finally, as I moved out into deeper water in the bay, the clarity got a little better.  There were lots of these Orangbanded Surgeonfish roaming around, but it was quite a trick to get a side view so he could show off his orange and blue racing stripe!

The further out we went, the more fish there were, too.

Here's a closeup of one of the fish from the school above.  This is a Whitesaddle Goatfish.

I was happy to see that not only did the visibility improve in deeper water, but that the coral was not completely gone.

That explains why there was a nice variety of Butterflyfish in this location - they like to nibble on the coral.  This is an Ornate Butterflyfish.

This is a pair of Raccoon Butterflyfish - see the "mask" over their eyes?

Although it looks very similar to the Ornate, this is a Redfin Butterflyfish.

I took a picture of one of these at Black Rock, but the colors didn't show nearly as well.  This is a Saddle Wrasse - named for the orange "saddle" just above his pectoral fins.

I wish I could have gotten a photo of this guy from the side - amazing stripes!  This is a Sailfin Tang.

This is a gorgeous fish and there were large schools of them everywhere.  Bright yellow with electric blue and turquoise stripes, this fish is called a Bluestripe Snapper.

Sadly, our journey ended at that point.  Ryan's snorkel developed a leak and my mom (who doesn't swim) had been patiently waiting on shore for us for an hour so we decided it was time to call it quits and head somewhere for lunch.  I was bummed because some of the snorkelers who were farther out were reporting squid sightings and I would have loved to see that.

Honolua Bay has now been declared a marine preserve and I hope that some of the poor conditions I saw there will begin to reverse themselves with it being more protected.  I hope to return some day and spend more time in the deeper sections looking for squid and other creatures!

Stay tuned to see what we ran into when we attended a traditional Hawaiian luau!


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