I've swam with some pretty odd creatures in my life. Me and my friend Dennis used to swim in the leech-infested swamp waters in the cow pasture behind his house when we were kids. There's always the trademark old, hairy, pot-bellied man in a Speedo hanging around every body of water on Planet Earth. We've all swam with that guy. I'm pretty confident God will not allow them near the public pool in Heaven. Speaking of public pools, we've all waited impatiently in the long line behind the high diving board, yelling at the scrawny kid at the top with the ginormous orange floaties on his arms who won't jump. Okay, I was that scrawny kid with the ginormous orange floaties on his arms, and it's terrifying up there! But in all my swimming adventures I have never swam with anything as memorable as the honu in the South Pacific Ocean.
To be in Hawaii is surreal in itself. The surroundings are absolutely stunning with its lime green covered volcanic mountains, towering palm trees swaying back-and-forth in the ocean breeze, and colorful array of tropical flowers. Hawaii's happy citizens give meaning to the Aloha State sharing friendly smiles and waving hang loose signs with their hands. Hanauma Bay, on the island of Oahu, takes the experience to a whole new level. That's where I swam with the turtles.
Me and my friend Steve, who is an experienced snorkeler, entered the state park. Guides led us into a small theater where we joined other visitors for some important instructions before entering the water. Lively ukulele tunes filled the room as the video started. The short presentation offered safety tips and encouraged us to be mindful of the marine life, including a warning not to step on the coral reef. I think a sea urchin actually winked at us at that point in the film. Minutes later the back doors opened and we all headed for the bay.
We walked down the descending path into the circular cove of the popular beach. The walkway overlooked the transparent waters of the breathtaking bay, gleaming with more shades of blue and green than colors in a 120-count mega box of Crayola Crayons. White-capped waves rolled towards the shore blending sea green, turquoise, aqua, indigo, midnight blue, and teal. I couldn't wait to get my toes in the hot, white sand and then dive into that mesmerizing water. I felt like a kid again, just without the orange floaties.
Steve gave me a few pointers as we adjusted our masks and slipped on our flippers. We waddled into the warm water and dove in. It was obvious I was a rookie snorkeler from the moment I entered the water. I kicked my feet and stroked my arms spastically trying to keep up with Steve. That's when I could even see him. My mask kept fogging up like a bathroom mirror during a hot shower, and I kept thinking about how many people had their mouths on the snorkel I rented as it shifted around in my mouth. Steve told me it was like I was making out with a hundred people which is totally disgusting!
Then I saw Steve in the distance trying to get my attention. Once I reached him he told me there was a sea turtle down below. My masked fogged up again and I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. This is the chance of a lifetime. I can't miss seeing this turtle, but I'm looking everywhere and can't spot him as Steve is tugging on my arm and pointing. I surfaced one more time to clear my mask and then descended again. Steve is still there waiting and pointing. Finally, after several attempts, I turned in the right direction and there it was. A honu was gracefully swimming less than three feet in front of my face. I was swimming with the flippin' sea turtles. How rad is that?!
Green Sea Turtles weren't the only thing in the tranquil waters. We followed Triggerfish, Butterflyfish, Tang, and Surgeonfish, all with their vibrant fluorescent colors and bright distinctive lines, gleaming in the sunlight beneath the surface. It was like I was swimming in the cool tropical fish tank in the waiting room of the dentist office. Then the first charley horse sent shockwaves through my left calf muscle. Wowouch! My body was tired from all the spastic kicking, stroking and wrestling with the waves to keep from stepping on the coral reef. My mask fogged up again and I even left with a few bumps, bruises, and scrapes as souvenirs.