The Big Island begins

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January 3rd 2022
Published: January 4th 2022
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Thoughts of attending a local church went out the window as the day dawned beautifully sunny. We drove about 45 min south to snorkel at “Two Step,” so named because of the rocky entry. We drove a back windy and narrow way, filled with fascinating housing – some gorgeous, some more like trash dumps, found parking for $5 at an enterprising local’s property, and spent an amazing 2 hours in the water. What a lot of fish varieties! We sat and ate our special Canadian bacon sandwich on the stump of a tree just off the smooth lava shoreline.

On the way home we yelped the top-rated Hawaiian Shave Ice place and shared the “Kona Sunrise,” and found the yellow-billed cardinal. After returning to home base to download the photos and grab a nap, we went birding at a nearby “national historical site.” It had just closed at 4, but the ranger said we could park outside the gates and take the hike to the “fish pond.” We did pick up a good photo of the francolin and the yellow-fronted canary. A very successful day for both fish and birds!

A word about our accommodations, the Red Hibiscus, with hosts Greg & Margie. We have space under their house, which is perched at about 700’ above sea level. Actually there are 2 main roads parallel to the coast – the coastal road, and the belt at 1000’ above. Mostly we drive up the belt road, and then dropping down, with amazing views on each road. The AirBnB is about 20’ wide, to hold a combo living room and dining area (high table for 4), with sofa, rocker, and work space, which is really helpful; a small kitchenette with microwave, toaster oven, full fridge – and they stocked us with English muffins, coffee, butter, guava butter, lots of apple bananas, one papaya, small oranges. A queen bed in bedroom just big enough, and a bathroom. The clothesline is just outside, and the grounds are all lava-covered but filled with fruit trees and flowery bushes. The birdfeed attracts many birds, including 3 turkeys on Monday. It’s about 6-7 degrees cooler up here too, so no a/c – we have the windows open, including the large sliding door, and it’s lovely – reminds me of an English summer.

MONDAY the 3rd

Where shall we snorkel? We drove North to a recommended beach at the Mauna Lani Beach Resort (David also replaced his hat stolen in Cancun) – Makaiwa Beach. We had to hike almost a mile from the public parking lot to the beach as it was on the resort property, but it was a very nice hour+ for me, and almost 2 hours for David – yes, I’m getting chilly here, compared to warm warm Aruba. It started to drizzle too and was not very sunny. Again, that lunch of Canadian bacon on special Hawaiian taro bread (provided by our hosts) sure tasted good.

After a quick stop at Waikoloa Resort where both David (on business) and Anna & Mike (on honeymoon) stayed 20+ years ago, we drove into town to try to replace his lost snorkeling books. This side of the island had been totally dry too. Jack’s did not have his size, but Big Island divers did. We were very near the great Gecko Girlz Hawaiian Shave Ice shack so we split another one! Made it home just for one hour before needing to be off on a once-in-a-lifetime swim-with-the-mantas excursion. Anelakai Adventures. Only 5 of us were in the canoe (only held one more), plus the main man and a young lady – Anelakai! Evidently her dad started the business when she was 5, and named it after her. We realized David didn’t take his Dramamine. Gulp. It only took about 7 minutes to paddle out to the spot offshore where a number of boats of all shapes and sizes had gathered. How did they know the mantas would come? Because they all shone blue light into the water and it attracted the plankton, which is eaten by the mantas – their body weight every three days! We were sitting on seats inside the double outrigger, with the central section being where the dry boxes sat. We were each given floats to wrap around our ankles and wet suit tops, which may have helped keep us warm. When we stopped and the blue lights were turned on, we were invited to slip over the insides of the outriggers into the water, and David and I held on to a bar across the front, and the other 3 lady passengers got the bar in the back. It was very very rough, and quite challenging to take any photos, but we think you will be amazed at the rays, which most did constant somersaults under the boat, opening their HUGE mouths and inhaling the plankton filled water. The ladies at the other end of the boat often screamed – we later heard that it was that the rays were actually brushing against them on their somersaults. We were only in for maybe 30 mins, which was plenty of time in the chilly water. We had as many as 5 visiting at a time, but mostly just once big one doing her acrobatics. A GOOD TIME WAS HAD BY ALL! We returned home to a lovely meal of leftover Thai food. With tired shoulders, we struggle to stay awake!

And a word about the Big Island - yes, it's covered in many places by black lava, sometimes rounded, sometimes rocky. The brushy weeds and bushes still manage to pop through, and the varieties of colors in bougainevillia is amazing.

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