Sunday, April 7, 2013

Lava Hike Success

April Fools Day, I can't think of a better day to attempt a hike to the lava flows.

The plan is to hike through the National Park during the day then back at night.  I had to see the glowing red flows at night.  This plan was carefully calculated based on the first attempt chronicled back on December 6th.

The trip starts off with a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Kailua to the parking lot at the end of the road in Volcanoes National Park.  We've been told the hike is 4 to 5 hours one way.  The sun will set around 6:30 p.m., so if I get there at about 2:00 I will be in good shape.  It's 11:00 a.m., better get going.

I stopped off at the ranger station to get an update on conditions.  The ranger is very clear.  It's not worth the hike.  You probably will not see anything.  The lava flow has gone underground to the ocean.  When it gets to the ocean you can't see anything because of the cliffs and straight coastal edge.  Nothing to see here, move along people.  He's probably right, a foolish venture, but isn't that what this day is all about?
Volcano warning sign (c) 2013
One of the warning signs.

I get to the parking lot around 2:30 p.m., wolf down a turkey sandwich, load up the backpack with ten bottles of water, snacks, cameras, phone, and off I go.  Now my confidence is waning a little.  Is this really worth it?  A short hike to the end of the paved road, yet for some strange reason my feet are already hurting.  Do I commit?  I'm running a little late.  What story could I concoct for bailing this time?

Old lava flow
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii 2013
It's strange to see the old lava flows completely covering the road in places.  I'm a half mile from the car and at beacon zero, the last time I will see any kind of level surface.  I meet a small group of people coming back from the flow.  "Is it worth it?"  They all agree that it is.  The woman in the group describes the look, "What seems like an innocuous small silvery ooze or bulge, then it would break and the red lava would appear. You can tell where the fresh lava flow is by how silvery it is."  The guy chimed in, "...and hot, it's really hot!"

Beacon 4 to help find the way on the path to the lava flow. (c) 2013
Beacon 4
Onward to beacon 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and now 7.  Spaced about a half-a-mile apart, these small markers keep you from drifting too far off course.  It's 5:40 p.m., and I guess I'm about halfway.  There are no markers pass this point, and I have another 3.5 miles to go.  My targeted path is now just a puff of white smoke in the distance.
Volcanoes National Park (c) 2013
Looking back.
The sun is setting.  I take an often needed break, and sit on the rough lava.
Volcanoes National Park (c) 2013
Interesting lava formations along the way.
Looking around, I see a little steam vent a few yards away.  I realize I'm in the middle of hundreds of little steam vents.  There's even a vent right between my legs.  This can't be good.

Sitting on wispy steam vents.

The sun gone, and the moon has not risen.  I turn on one of my flashlights, and head for the orange glow on the coast.  My flashlight lets me see little more than the space in front of my feet.  Over the next ridge and voila, across the inlet is a mass of steam glowing.  Every once in awhile the steam would clear, and I could see the lava flowing down into the ocean.  "Wow, this is amazing.  I've got to get a closer look."  I cut back inland and move around a large mound and then back to the cliff's edge.  I move as close as I dare.  The massive rolls of steam are rising up just in front of me.  I carefully find a ledge I can sit on, not too close, not exactly sure where the land ends.
Video of amazing steam and lava.

I can hear the hiss of the steam, the crackle of the lava cooling in the water, and the waves hitting the beach then pulling molten rocks out into the water.  I see the bright orange glow of the lava flow, an occasional splatter of flying lava bits, massive amounts of steam bellowing up against the cliff then blowing out to sea.  I watch this surreal event for about an hour and a half.  It's 9:00 p.m. and time to head back.  I wish I had arrived in daylight.  I would like to look around more, but at night it's just a little too difficult.

I attempt to retrace my path.  The footing becomes a little different, like walking on charcoal, the ground seems firm but gives about an inch with a crunch on every step.  This is new.  A few yards more and I can feel wafts of steam.  That is not new.  A couple of yards more and I feel an intense heatwave, like walking up to a massive campfire, but there isn't anything glowing, or red, or orange.  The ground looks a little different, more silvery than black.  It dawns on me what the woman told me at the beginning of the hike, "Fresh lava is silvery."  Well, it's silvery all around me.  All I can think is, "This is a little disconcerting."  I hear that refrain in my head over and over.

I try to determine where the heat is originating and head away from it.  At one point, I am straddling a crack, and I looked straight down into it.  It is glowing red.  "Disconcerting indeed."  My first thought when snorkeling with dangerous animals is get the camera and take a picture, yet this situation calls for nothing but an exit, stage left.

I cleared the area.  With only the barely-discernible shoreline and my faithful Orion to guide me, I headed in the darkness towards the unseen beacons and the path back home.  Up a black lava stack and down, repeatedly, I carefully move through valleys and crags.  My legs are getting tired, and my biggest concern is tripping and falling on the sharp glass-like lava.  Every step is calculated.  I wonder when I'll be able to see a beacon.  A little further, still no sign of beacon 7.  I know my path is not straight, probably zigzagging all over the place, but generally the right direction.  Still no beacon in sight.  Getting more fatigued, I think, "When I get to beacon 7, I'll only be half way.  Disconcerting."  Between weary steps, I think, "Someone has either removed the beacons or they are not flashing.  A true conspiracy against me is at foot.  Why would someone remove the beacons?  I will definitely leave a complaint letter with the park rangers!"  "I know this is crazy, but I haven't seen a beacon which can be visible at over a mile away, if I'm at the right angle and height."  I come around a bend, and I see something white up ahead.  I go off my intended course a little to check it out.  "Ah ha!  I was right.  There is a conspiracy against me.  A big pile of beacons and warning signs."

Beacons Volcanoes National Park (c) 2013
I trudge on, and on, and on.  "Oh, look, that could be a beacon up ahead.  Those little crooks missed one.  Or am I a little crazy, and I'm just now getting to beacon 7."  I get close enough to see the number,  "number 4.  Whew, I'm almost back."  I can see the string of beacons heading back to civilization   I look behind me and can see the string of beacons heading out to the lava flow.  "How did I miss them?"  Well, it was a good conspiracy while it lasted.  Marker 3.  Marker 2.  "Yea, one more marker."  Marker 1.  "I made it.  No, marker 1 isn't the first marker.  How could I forget Marker zero.  I've miscounted how many water bottles, and how many markers I had left, and it is still another mile to the car."

I get back to the car at 5:00 a.m. April 2, exhausted, wishing I'd started earlier, and taken a snack that wasn't sweet, more water, and our best camera.  It was a difficult fourteen-and-a-half-hour hike.  Just a short three-and-a-half-hour drive to my bed.  I now check this off my bucket list, and move along.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Tang at Two Step, Big Island, Hawaii by Engela Edwards 2013
Tang at Two Step, Big Island, Hawaii
It is always exciting looking for the rare or large fish.  The thrill of crossing paths with a shark, swimming in tandem with a dolphin, or a close up of a hungry eel.  During these searches we pass over schools of yellow tangs, black triggers, raccoon butterflies and more, occasionally stopping to admire their beauty.

These schools are just as exciting and if there were fewer occurrences, they would be bigger headlines.  But the schools are common.  Just venture out a little and you will see them.  Sometimes they are feeding on the corals and algae below or just drifting out in the open, watching us watching them.

Gliding through the water as a submariner.

Thanks to Jeffrey Glenn Tveraas for the use of his music off the Lake Effect disc.  Perhaps you can catch him playing in and around Austin or visit The Austin Connection where he hosts pod casts from Cheshire Moon Studios in Austin, Texas.

photo by Engela Edwards: A jewel box of fish and Bill at Two Step, Big Island, Hawaii 2013
A jewel box of fish and Bill at Two Step, Big Island, Hawaii 2013

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shark Tale

We have seen her before.  Visiting her cave is now part of the ritual.  Swim to the left over the first big canyon, through octopus flats and back into shark shallows.  Today, she was there sticking her tail out further than the last time we were together.  We snorkeled above her fighting the currents, trying to stay still for the epic camera shots.  The waves did not comply with the request.  Probably some sort of a Union thing.

Reef shark tail at Two Step

 The cave at shark shallows.

How big is she?  How close can we get to her without upsetting her?  I would love for her to come out slowly and face the camera.  Just not in some sort of raging, flesh eating, bone crushing imitation of Jaws.  She never came out so we (you) are stuck with pictures and video of her tail.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dive Skin to Protect Your Skin and the Reef

Don't let a sunburn cause you to lose a day of your vacation.
Don't let being cold drive you out of the ocean.

Before we arrived in Hawaii, I purchased a new dive skin, which is the Lycra equivalent of a wetsuit.  Skins are thinner, cooler, easier to get into, have more stretch, and more comfortable than wetsuits.  A dive skin is a one-piece bodysuit made of very stretchy Lycra material.

I hate to sunburn. The day I saw an ad for reef-safe sunscreen, I thought, "Oh no! Is the sunscreen I rely upon bad for the reef I love?" I started doing research. The safest sunscreen for humans and for the reef is clothing.  So now I wear a dive skin while snorkeling and avoid the chemical sunscreen. The dive skin has paid for itself many times over in what I've saved on sunscreen.  After snorkeling for two months in Hawaii with this dive skin and no sunburn, I ordered three more in different sizes.  I bought one each for my aunt, son, and daughter-in-love to use when they visited.  So now I have four skins in four sizes.

The wrists of my dive skin are too tight for me.  It is easier to get into this suit than out of it. I can do it by myself, but it is difficult, so my husband usually helps me take off the suit by pulling one shoulder of the suit past my elbow.  I think if the dive skin had a longer zipper, then it would be easier.

The dive skin has elastic thumb loops on the sleeves and straps that go under your feet, so that one can easily put a wetsuit over it.

The water is warm in Hawaii and most people swim without a skin.  Still there are places where underground fresh water streams or springs enter the ocean where it is surprisingly chilly.  This dive skin helps me swim as long as I want without getting cold.  Occasionally I wear a Thermoprene 3mm dive vest with a front zipper, but my dive skin and vest are enough most of the time.  

We are currently on the on the Big Island of Hawaii, and occasionally we're getting into and out of the ocean over scratchy sharp lava. This suit has definitely saved me some scratches climbing out of the water when the waves have pushed me unexpectedly onto the lava, and the suit still looks new.

There have been locations where I've noticed tiny larval jellyfish, but I haven't been bothered by them which might be attributed to the dive skin.

Do I look strange wearing a skin in Hawaii when there are a lot of bikinis around?  Well, my dance tights and swim shirt were peacock blue and red and my fins were yellow when I was in Cayman, so I looked like a parrot fish.  I didn't mind, because it let me stay in the water longer.  I questioned the intelligence of looking like a large parrot fish the day I discovered that sharks really enjoy eating parrot fish.  My black dive skin looks more like the wetsuits the divers around me are wearing, so actually I stand out less than before.  Now I look more like a seal or a penguin, which sharks also find tasty. 

Fit:  I've noticed that some people on the beach are wearing their swim shirt sized like they would wear a T-shirt, but that is wrong.  To keep one warm and to make swimming easier the shirt needs to lie close to the skin.  It should be comfortable yet fit snugly enough to act like an extra skin.  It keeps you warmer, because your body heats the thin layer of water next to your skin.  A loose shirt or shorts still provides sun protection but allows that warm water layer to escape; it causes drag when swimming, and is more likely to get snagged on something.  Make sure what you're wearing fits snugly.

Color:  I've heard that white offers the most sun protection, because white reflects the light rather than absorbing it.  I wear a basic black suit with color accents.  It looks more unisex in case I want to let someone borrow it.  There are some wonderfully colored and patterned suits created for women but they are more expensive.  If you're worried about being mistaken for a seal or a parrot fish, then the color that would make the most sense would be light gray on the front and medium gray on the back the way a dolphin is colored, but I've never found those.  If you're worried about getting lost or making it easier for your snorkel partner to find you if you get separated, neon yellow is the easiest color to see when you're in the water.

Care:  Rinse your dive skin in fresh water after wearing (or when you get back to where you are staying) and hang it out of the sun to dry.  Periodically wash it and again and hang it out of the sun to dry.  Occasionally I've forgotten and left mine in the back of the van.  It is unpleasant putting on a cold damp suit and one risks mildew.  You have to rinse the salt water out as it is corrosive to the zipper and you'll end up with a dive skin you can't zip.

Depending on the color, the sizes range for extra small to triple "x," and because of the stretch they can be worm by men or woman.

Cost:  On Amazon they are anywhere from $33 and up.   

Alternatives to a dive skin for snorkeling:

  1. I used to wear thick-Lycra dance leggings and a long-sleeved swim shirt. They were definitely easier to get into and out of, but occasionally when I snorkeled, the shirt would ride up and I'd get a strange burn across my back, so I prefer the one-piece dive skin.  Other benefits of a full skin over my swim shirt is that I can unzip its front zipper if I get too warm, and its collar covers more of the back of the neck, so my neck doesn't get burned while I snorkel.   Major benefit of the two piece leggings and swim shirt over the one piece dive skin is it is much easier to go to the restroom.
  2. Sunscreen is not a good alternative for you or the reef.  The first time I snorkeled years ago, I slathered on the sunscreen, reapplied often, but still burned the back side of my upper thighs making it extremely painful to sit down.  I could not go back to the beach the next day because of the burn, so we went for a drive instead.  Both were painful mistake.  
  3. One day I realized I'd left my dive skin at the house where I'd hung it to dry.  I had a long-sleeved swim shirt and a pair of Bermuda shorts in the van.  They kept me from burning.  A pair of Lycra bike shorts would have been a better choice because they would have been much easier to swim in and would have been warmer.  You may already own a Lycra swim shirt and bike shorts, exercise leggings, or dance wear; or you may have more use for them afterwards.  They are available almost everywhere.  Just take extra care to make sure you aren't accidentally exposing your back.
  4. Rash guard and shorts.  There are some wonderful rash guards in wonderful patterns and colors as they were originally created for surfers.  You may have better luck getting kids into these as they look cool.  It easier if you have to take them to the restroom.  They do seem to be more expensive.  And the shirts can also ride up and expose the back to the sun.
  5. A wetsuit (full or shorty) will also keep the sun off and protect against nicks and tiny jellyfish.  It is warmer and increases your buoyancy.  But it cost more, takes more effort and time to put on and take off.  I started wearing one starting in February.  A shorty wetsuit is easier to get into and out of than a full wetsuit.  I'd recommend a shorty or at least a wetsuit vest for children, because most have very little body fat and chill easily, so they could use the extra warmth and buoyancy that wetsuits offer. Most children and many adults don't have the patience to put on a full wetsuit, so use dive skins avoid that. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Don't Pet the Sea Life: It might follow you home or worse.

When snorkeling, I try to follow the rule "touch nothing."  It simplifies my life, because I don't have to remember which things are dangerous and which are not.  I can simply enjoy myself, and the sea life appreciates it, too.


OK, I admit I break my own rules, but I knew this was a harmless cowry (also spelled cowrie);
and after taking its picture, it went back to the tidal pool where I found it.

Bill doesn't always follow the do-not-touch rule.  Most notably was the time we were walking on the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.  Bill handed a large shell to his young son to hold up to his ear and listen to the sea.  Only after Eric handed the shell to me and I tried to listen, did we discover it had a large hermit crab residing inside.  I envisioned my son wearing living hermit-crab earrings.  Bill laughed at his mistake, and it cost him.  We took two crabs home in a plastic box with moist towels, and I bought a large saltwater aquarium and all the expensive supplies that entails.  The crabs were fun and educational.  We purchased a collection of larger shells, so that they would have a "house" to move into as they grew and molted.  We kept the hermit crabs for two years and then made a 400-mile trip back to the coast to return them to the ocean.  The aquarium tank later went on to house an iguana, then baby chicks.  I'm sure Bill wishes he'd never picked up that crab!    

The typical hermit crabs one finds on the beach are not like the land crabs people purchase as pets.  The aquatic crabs need a saltwater aquarium.  Instead they are hardy saltwater aquarium pet that you can take out of the water and hold.  A few months after we set up our saltwater aquarium, we purchased a damsel fish.  It was quite different from the tropical fish I'd enjoyed in the past, because it spent almost all the time hiding.  I did some reading and found that I should have purchased a captive-bred fish.  I found a place that had farm-raised fish and purchase another damsel fish.  What a difference, this bold fish had always been around people, and it made a much better aquarium guest.  The main reason not to purchase wild-caught saltwater reef fish (about 90% of what is sold) is that the aquarium trade is destroying the reef.  People take the coral that the animals depend upon, and they take the fish that clean the algae from the coral.  To make matters worse, most of these fish die in transit or soon afterwards.

Years later Bill handed me another beautiful shell while we were walking along the beach in Grand Cayman.  Eric was grown, but I still envisioned him as a young boy holding a hermit crab to his ear.  I asked Bill if he'd checked the shell for a crab.  He said, "Yes." Later his hand was stained a bright purple that lasted for days.  Searching on line to get more info on the purple snail dye (plicopurpura patula) lead me on a quest where I read about another snail for the first time:  The lovely yet poisonous cone snail.  Some have enough toxins to easily kill an adult.  Before that, I never would have imagined that picking up an occupied shell could be deadly.  (Check out cone snail on wikipedia).

Yep, best not to touch!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Yesterday I was swimming with about 50 spinner dolphins about (the adults are 150 to 200 pounds each) and I felt nothing but excitement. A few minutes later, I swam over an eight-inch fish sitting in the coral inches from my face that I didn't see until I was right on top of him.  It started me enough that I laughed at myself through my snorkel.  Luckily, there was no one anywhere around to hear me. The fish was very happy to pose for a photo, so it turned out well, no matter how silly I felt for being frightened.

I don't recommend snorkeling alone.  Yes I've done it, is always best to stay with your snorkeling partner for two reasons:

1.  If you get into trouble, you have someone there to help.
2.  If you see something cool, you can share the experience, which makes it better!

It isn't easy to understand what someone is saying when they are speaking with a tube in their mouth.  But we still try.  You would think that I could just lift my head, remove the snorkel, say something and then resume snorkeling, but in that short time, I can lose track of the fish I was trying to point out to Bill, we often use hand signs.

Here are the most frequent that we use.

  • Turtle - we just use the American Sign Language sign for turtle
  • Eel - arm moving like a snake
  • Crown of Thorns Starfish - one hand laying on top of another fingers spread.
  • Cold - wrapped arms across chest and shiver
  • Come here - a hand wave
  • Lots of pointing, accompanied by saying "look" into the snorkel.

And for shark, dolphin, and whale, we get so excited for those we just talk to each other.

Fish in Coral
Waiting for Lunch to Come By

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Whale Watching Boat Tours in Hawaii

We went on a whale-watching boat tour while on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Most things I've read have said that it is whale season in Hawaii from November through March, with some whales coming sooner and some staying later.  We didn't start really seeing them until January, with February being the best month for whale watching so far .

If you're going to be here for a short time, and want to see whales, I'd recommend coming in January and February.  It might be worth your while to go on a whale-watching tour boat, because you're pretty much guaranteed to see whales that way.  If there are more than just two of you, you could for the same money, arrange for a private fishing charter to take you whale watching instead.  You could save money, and have less people standing between you and the whale.

Humpback (c) Engela & Bill Edwards (2013)
Humpback Whale

If you really want to save money or see the whale again, then you can see whales from the shore line.  Even when the whales are close to shore binoculars make the experience better.  Binoculars that you don't have to worry about getting wet or splashed with salt water are the best.  The same goes for your camera.  Still, I think being on a boat gives you a better chance of seeing the whales.

Bill's been on four whale-watching boat tours.  The one he took in Maine is still his favorite, because the whales came alongside the boat.  He did two from California, one only saw a whale twice at a great distance, and one we didn't see whales at all but we were on a inflatable Zodiac boat which was fun, as we easily saw over 1000 dolphins, which was fantastic.

Our favorite viewing of the humpback have been from the shore at Two Step, on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There were days that we could hear them singing while we snorkeled.  We recommend getting far enough from shore that you aren't hearing the surf, and it also helps to be a few feet under the water when you are listening to them.  Bill dove about 5-feet down, and said he could hear them better, but I could hear them while snorkeling at the top of the water.  The snorkelers who stayed close to shore never heard them.

One day the four whales traveled back and forth at the mouth of the bay at sunset.

One day a mom and baby came into the bay and swam really close to the shore and the snorkelers that were in the bay.

People have said that the northwest coast of Hawaii is even better for seeing whales.  Our tour was actually supposed to start further north, but because of high winds and waves, we were taken to the Kona Bay instead.

When we've been on the northwest side of the island, we've been able to pull over at the roadside overlooks and watch whales.  Nice, but not as impressive as being close enough to hear them blow.

In fact when they are close, the sound of their spout will alert you where to look.  

I can't write about whales without mentioning numbers.  At one point it was estimated that there were 1,500,000 humpback whales in the ocean.  When they were declared an endangered species in 1964, it was estimated that only 1000 humpbacks were left in the whole world.  It has taken them almost 49 years for their numbers to grow to around 80,000 individuals.  Around 10,000 of them visit Hawaii every year to give birth where it is warm and breed.  It has been said that one million people visit the islands to see them.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fascinating Octopus in Hawaii: The Movie

It's rare to see an octopus, and it's rare to see the same animal in the same spot day after day, yet we came across this combination.  We shot several videos over a three day period and most of them are of the same octopus, but I also know there were three in the vicinity. 

Sometimes an octopus would seemingly disappear then re-appear in another place.  While trying to figure out if the same octopus was sneaking around me and moving out into the open, a fight broke out.  Well I think it was a fight.  From out of nowhere, another octopus showed up and decided to start the wrestling match.  It was so quick and unexpected that we didn't have the right cameras in the right spot.  Fortunately we were able to capture some of the action.

We also tried putting a camera down on the bottom to see if we could get a better view.  It kind of worked.  It took a lot snorkel dives to get the right shot with the right camera.  It was all fun. 

Luck is the key to finding an octopus.

Many people ask, "How big is the octopus?" That's hard to explain, since we saw it ball up into the size of a softball, flatten out under a rock that was the size of my hand, and expand to over three feet plus the length of the legs.

Click here to see some of our still photos and get a little info on these day octopuses.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Fascinating Octopus in Hawaii

Until recently it was rare for us to see an octopus while snorkeling.  Now we've learned more about how to look for them and have found a place where we see them about 50 percent of the time.

Octopuses (sometimes called octopi) are wonderful mimics and it is that ability that I find most fascinating.  I've seen them take the appearance of their surroundings and even look like other animals.  The beak is the only hard part of an octopus, so that allows him to fit into some pretty small spaces.  We've seen the octopus below (who looked 3 feet across not counting legs) slip into a hole with an opening no bigger than my fist. 

It is exciting to see an octopus cycle through and flash their colors very quickly.  We've seen cuttlefish and squid do this also (but not in Hawaii).  Octopuses also change their texture, and watching them quickly change from a smooth soft skinned animal to one that is rough, bumpy, and spiky is a treat.

I was lucky to see this octopus change from looking like a rock to looking like a fish.  For only a moment did he look like what I thought an octopus would look like.  If you snorkel around looking for the octopus you see in the third photo below, you're more than likely not going to find an octopus. 

Bill captured this 10-second series of photos of an octopus moving from his stake-out point to hiding under the near by ledge.  Missing is the before photo of the octopus looking like looking like a hump of coral.  He was the same shape, texture, and color of the other humps.

Note: I left the aqua color cast to the photos, because it is closer to what you will see.  The color red doesn't travel more than about 10 feet under water, and this guy is about 20-feet from the surface.

Day Octopus often found in Hawaiian waters. Photos by Bill Edwards (c) 2013
In this first photo he is already starting his move and his color change as Bill approaches him.

2 of 5 Day Octopus often found in Hawaiian waters. Photos by Bill Edwards (c) 2013
The second photo shows more color change and movement.

3 of 5 Day Octopus often found in Hawaiian waters. Photos by Bill Edwards (c) 2013
This third photo is what I think of when when I think of an octopus.
The forth and fifth photos in this series I didn't include, because he's a black blur as he darts across to the rock ledge.
4 of 5 Day Octopus often found in Hawaiian waters. Photos by Bill Edwards (c) 2013
The moment before he's pulled his legs in and becomes part of the shadows under the ledge.
5 of 5 Day Octopus often found in Hawaiian waters. Photos by Bill Edwards (c) 2013
I've lightened the shadows and highlighted the octopus so you can find him under the ledge.
A second later, his legs were pulled in, and he'd perfectly matched the color of the surrounding rocks.

We've made a habit of looking for him when we're in the area.  One day there were three octopus in the area and we saw what looked like a fight (video to come).  I won't tell you where he lives, because he'd be easy prey for spear fisherman who hunt the area. 

Snorkel Tip:  One of the biggest mistakes I see novice snorkelers make, is that they treat snorkeling like going for a jog.  They splash around and swim quickly through the water.  Sea life quickly disappears, and these snorkelers miss all but the most common fish.  Remember it isn't the distance you travel or how fast you get there, so slow down, float, hover and really look around. 

There are also snorkelers who are "experience collectors," checking off each animal they see.  While this can be fun and even a good distraction if you're nervous, I recommend taking some time and following a single fish, or hovering over a single coral head and watching what happens.  If you're lucky enough to find an octopus stay with him for a while, relax, and just watch; maybe he'll put on a show for you. 

So hang out on top of the water, and instead of looking for that classic octopus shape, look for movement and rocks that change color.  Sometimes the only movement you'll see is the movement of the funnel / siphon opening and closing as the octopus expels water from his body after he's extracted the oxygen.  If the octopus is in a hole, you may see movement from his eye or his funnel only.  Don't look for a specific color, because they will most often look like their surroundings.

Fun fact:  Octopuses don't have bones (except for their beak).  Think of them like the muscles in your tongue - very strong, capable of intricate movements, and able to become short and fat or long and thin.  What looks the size of a softball can in a moment be three feet across plus legs, then slip into a hole with an opening the smaller than your fist.

Day Octopus by Bill Edwards
Article by Engela

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hawaiian Jelly, Big Island

An annoying thing about snorkeling is the jellyfish.   Yes, there are jellyfish out there, not everywhere and not all the time.  On the Big Island of Hawaii they are mostly small, almost like a snowflake.  On occasion, we have come across a slightly larger ones.  They just ride the water flow past you.  Every once in awhile you might get a little sting; hardly painful, like a pin pressing against your skin - no puncture, no swelling, just annoying.  If you have a camera and are trying to focus on an epic fish picture, sometimes your automatic focus picks the jelly instead, again, annoying.

Now, we have come across jellyfish in the life threatening way off the coast of Florida, but on the Big Island of Hawaii, so far, nothing but annoyance.

On this particular day, we came across a giant.  Well, a giant in our world.  He was not what he used to be, but still a big guy - bright blue to purple orb, transparent to his core.

Jellyfish at Two Step

Jellyfish at Honaunau, Big Island, Hawaii
It is rare to see a jellyfish of this size on the Big Island when snorkeling.

Honaunau Bay, Two Step, Big Island, Hawaii