Another big adventure day! I woke up a little too early, and when I looked out our big window onto the ocean around 6, was greatly surprised to see a bunch of lights that I could spot even without glasses. A huge cruise ship was sitting in the Kona bay; apparently, they come through every Wednesday with almost 2,500 guests who get spilled out onto the shore for the day–a bit like in Key West, where we spent a couple of days 4 years ago, and where the same thing happens daily. We had booked a snorkeling trip on a MUCH smaller vessel for this morning, so we got on the road early and drove to the nearby dock at Keauhou Bay (about 20 minutes from here) and joined 12 other passengers, a tour guide/lifeguard and a captain (who was operating the boat, a sort of motorized rubber boat (with 300 horsepower engines on the back, as Mark noticed). It was complete blast. We sat on the rubber tubing facing in and holding on, 7 on each side, and at 40 mph, it was pretty much a carnival ride except with scenery and on water. We had very calm water and gorgeous sunshine as we zipped south on the coast with a couple of stops for caves and lava tubes in the cliff side. There was quite a bit of “vog” (volcano steam smog) over the land, and since we had seen yesterday where that came from (namely from Kilauea), even that was very cool to see, although it’s not good air to breathe!). After about an hour, we stopped right outside a historical park, where the snorkeling is especially good, and got to spend about 45 minutes snorkeling. It was unbelievable. I didn’t “really” snorkel, that is, I didn’t get my snorkel under water, but that was mostly because I was too buoyant–only the very skinny young people were able to push into the water! Otherwise, we just floated and stared in awe at the coral reef and the fishes and sea urchins all over. Bright yellow tang and black durgeon trigger fish, very cool stripey butterfly fish and parrotfish and the whole tropical nine yards (yes, we cheated and looked them up later, which is why I know that we also saw needlefish and a spotted box fish). It was truly like swimming inside “Finding Nemo” although there are no clown fish here.
After 45 minutes, we all climbed back on board (it wasn’t exactly cold water, but I was glad to warm up for a little bit), and fed us some snacks and Hawaiian juice pops. Then we made our way along the coast to Kealakekua Bay, where Captain Cook landed on his stops in Hawai’i, and where he also got himself killed by the Hawaiians on his last stop. I hadn’t known that about Captain Cook and will have to look up the details at some point. That’s where, unbelievably, the snorkeling was even better (it was also rather crowded with snorkelers from many boats like ours). Not only did the fish come in bigger schools but we had the reef within feet of us, but a few feet off was a dramatic drop off into blue nothingness. Very impressive. We spent another 45 minutes or so snorkeling in this area, and then, before we took off, we had the good luck of being able to see several pods of spinner dolphins right in that same bay. Some even jumped out of the water–it was incredible. On the trip back, we stopped a few more times along the rocky, cliffs coast line for caves, arches, and lava tubes, including a spot where people were jumping of the cliffs into the water. It was really an incredible expedition, and the photos do not do it justice.
We drove home around 12:30, and I fixed us a lovely lunch of salad and grilled ham and cheese at the condo while Mark presorted the many many photos he took. We took a little nap and then, around 4 pm, took off for our walk to Kona’s downtown. We stopped at the little market that is part farmer’s market, part tourist claptrap (just what you would imagine: things made out of shells, earrings with motifs like turtles and dolphins, colorful batiks and ukuleles). We bought a papaya, some apple bananas, and some local honey for Mark’s tea and my vinaigrette, and also saw some beautiful little geckos in the produce. We were also hugely surprised because an old church that we had seen only two days earlier suddenly looked like a huge red-and-white Christmas present–it’s being tented and treated for termites, and we had never seen a church encased like this! We then strolled down to the Kona Canoe Club restaurant, where we could have our unsensational burger and pulled pork sandwich with a great view of the harbor. And since it looked like a promising night for a sunset (our first one not obscured by clouds or mountainsides), we sat on the seawall with an ice cream cone after dinner) and watched the sun sink into the ocean with the pier on one side and the giant cruise ship, refilled with its passengers and ready to move on, on the other side. A great end to a great day! We walked home in the dusk, and spent the rest of the evening sorting photos, doing laundry, and winding down for the day.