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Thoughts on ordinary and not so ordinary adventures in the life of one Mom

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Go Fish

        The first week we were here, Steve bought a game for all of us to play on the occasions when we didn't have something exciting planned and we were cooped up in the small apartment.   It's called Go Fish! Hawaii.  Yes, it's just Go Fish, a game you can play with any deck of cards, but each card has a lovely drawing of a Hawaiian fish along with its Hawaiian name and a description.  Very educational ;)  and it has been worth the hefty price of $8 for the deck.  We play often because it is (mostly) fun to play games with your kids and this game has the right balance of luck, strategy and memory we look for when playing with an almost 6 year old.  What's most enjoyable, though, are the fish names, themselves.   The joy in our voices is apparent as we ask, "Nicki, do you have any Humuhumunukunukuapuaa?" or  "Alex, give me all of your Lauwiliwilinukunukuoioi."  These fish names are so fun to say, once you get the hang of it.  Nicki started off just holding up her card, not wanting to attempt the reading, but now she joins the rest of us in our all-out pronunciation of these funny fish names. 

        The fish pictured on the cards need to be seen though, in their natural habitat.  I am surprised it took us so long to finally get out in the water to snorkel.  It did take a while to make sure we had all of our equipment.  Aside from Alex (who needed to practice in our pool at home), we all bought snorkel gear here in Hawaii.  Once we had the masks, snorkels and fins, I went on a quest for "floaty things" like the banana yellow float belts Steve and I rented along with our snorkel gear the last time we were in Hawaii.   While we are all strong swimmers, I felt it best that we have flotation devices for our snorkeling adventure.  For me, at least, it makes the experience more enjoyable.  I don't really worry about tiredly stepping on fragile coral , or even worse, sea urchins.  I effortlessly float above it all, saving my energy for propelling myself forward to chase the cool species that swim by.   We settled on life jacket-like apparatus for Alex and Nicki, which warned "not to be used as a life saving device".  Ok, if someone is in trouble in the water, I promise not to use this to save their lives.  My search for float belts for the rest of us brought me back to Snorkel Bob's.   Turns out, Snorkel Bob will sell you one for $45 but, otherwise, they are nowhere to be found.  Being the consummate bargain shopper, I called all over town; surf shops, big box stores, sporting goods, even ABC.  I went online (of course I found exactly what I wanted here - but I didn't want to wait around to receive them) and asked around.  I just couldn't believe that these floaty things were not sold side by side with snorkel gear.  I was starting to think that I was a total wimp to for not wanting to tread water for an hour to watch fish do their thing.

        I hit the jackpot, though, when I found aqua aerobics equipment at Sports Authority.  They have a "Aqua Fitness Jog Belt"  that is designed to fit around your waste and keep you vertical as you jog or  pump iron under water.   At $25 a pop, it was the best bargain I could find.  We practiced snorkeling in the apartment pool, with and without the floaty things.  I was so glad I had my float belt.  It gave me the security to actually feel comfortable with my face under water, a fear I have never quite overcome since childhood.  Plus, since we were going with our kids, who are notorious for hanging onto you in the water, every bit of added buoyancy helps.

        I have snorkeled at three spots in Oahu so far.  Nicki and Alex and I went to the famous

Hanauma Bay a couple of weeks ago.  It is a volcanic crater that filled up with water as the sea level rose on the southeast side of the island.  It's a short drive from Honolulu, once you manage to find the on ramp to H1 going East.  It was beautiful and a great first stop for snorkeling.  It is a protected (and popular) area, so they make you watch a movie about the area and how to preserve it.  Throngs of people get there early to snorkel, with good reason.  It has loads of fish with close shore reefs and a nice beach that makes for easy entry.  The water is usually calm, but it was more choppy than I expected.   And it's got a big parking lot, although it always fills up by 11am.  We got there at 7:30am and it already felt crowded to me, but anything worth doing near Honolulu is like that.  We saw plenty of Pakuikui, Lauipala and Kikakapu at Hamauna Bay.

Pakuikui (Achilles Tang)

        This week, we all went up to the north shore to snorkel.  It was important for us to get up there before the "winter".  From abut October to February, the north shore waves swell and I've heard that some "summer snorkeling spots"  become too dangerous to even stick your toe in.  The north shore of Oahu is famous for its surfing and especially the Banzai Pipeline, where expert surfers risk their lives to ride the over 12'waves.  We headed to Shark's Cove and it did not disappoint.  It was really like swimming in an aquarium.   There were fish everywhere. There were tons of Humuhumunukunukuapuaa and this was the first time I saw Kihikihi and Puhi.

Humuhumunukunukuapoaa (the state fish of Hawaii)
The only problem was the entry, which was stressful, especially with kids.  We sat in the shallows amid big rocks, waiting to work out our best approach into the deeper water.  As we watched people go in and out, some scraped up; we settled on a best route.   After you navigate the rocks near the shore and reach the deeper part of the cove, it is peaceful and magnificent, like being invited into a friend's home and being completely at ease.  I've felt this way before, the first time I snorkeled 5 years ago.  It's corny, but I felt like I was home.  No, not in Phoenix, but a deeper home, an earlier home.  For someone who is uncomfortable to go under water in her own pool, feeling at home in the ocean is a big deal.  I did not want to get out.  I didn't even want to lift my face out of the water.

Joseph, my snorkeling partner
        After Shark's Cove, we decide to go to Three Tables.  Some people call it Four Tables, but I could only see three.  Anyway, this was a short walk (made longer with 3 kids and 3 shopping bags full of gear) from Shark's Cove and there is a lovely beach with the three tables jutting out of the ocean about 50 yards off the sandy shore.  There is a great reef near the tables and to the east of the beach.   The entry is much easier via the beach, but the fish, although they are everywhere, are less abundant than at Shark's Cove.   This is where I saw awela, which reminds me of Howard Johnson's because of the bright orange and blue.  The kids enjoyed the beach.  Even Joseph liked it.  He says the sand is coarser, so it's less annoying than our usual beach.  Lying on the beach, exhausted from swimming (even with a float belt, it's tiring) as the kids played in the waves and Steve explored the reef some more, was so relaxing.  It was perfect.

Awela (Christmas wrasse)
        Swimming in what seems to be an aquarium is thrilling.  There were so many fish at each spot, that it became hard to distinguish them from one another.  Honestly, if it was one of the fish in our Go Fish! Hawaii game, it was more exciting and memorable, probably because I could actually name it.  Mostly, though, as we swim and watch, I would urge myself to remember the "yellow one with a little bit of black" or the one that "fluttered on the ocean floor" (that turned out to be puhi), or the little "white fish with all the black polka dots" so I could look it up on our laminated reef card later.  We quickly realized that the reef card was inadequate, so later in the week, I bought a whole book about Hawaii's shore fishes.  This fit our purposes much better as we found real pictures of the fish (male and female, juvenile and mature).  As we compared, I found it fascinating that someone snorkeling just a few feet away from you could catch things that you didn't and miss things that you stared at. The sea is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of moods and colors..........but I digress.

         It turns out snorkeling is a lot like playing Go Fish! Hawaii .  It is a blend of luck, strategy and memory.  If you are lucky, the conditions are perfect and you can find a parking spot.  With the right strategy, you can snorkel with the least effort and stress.  As for memory; even if your memory of the specific creatures falters, the memories of the experience will last a lifetime.  We will definitely do this again.  Maybe even today!

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