We spent the second half of our trip in Kona, the sunnier side of the big island. Our first stop on the Kona side was at Snorkel Bob's, to pick up equipment for the rest of our stay. I love Snorkel Bob's—the prices, the convenience, the weird humor, the thoughtful guidance in snorkeling etiquette. Plus, the recommendations for where to snorkel.
Our Kona hotel was a 1-bedroom apartment-like suite in a resort hotel, chosen because of the fitness room and the private kitchen & washer/dryer. Also, it was more-or-less on the beach, as opposed to being a block or two inland (or inside town). There was a golf course in the way, but you could still see the ocean beyond it. What is it with golf courses on the big island? So many hotels are coupled with them. They're like an infestation. :O
The first few days were still kind of rainy, but that didn't spoil anything. Our tendency to go snorkeling at high tide was more of a issue. ;) I've never had any reason to care much about the tides—I grew up in Oregon, where the ocean is so cold and the waves and current are so strong that you never go in above your knees anyway, and you're always looking for beaches that are sandy. For snorkeling, you want reef areas, and that often means beaches where waves will throw you against the reef or the rockier parts of the shore when the tide is coming in. I got quite a few bruises and gashes from our Friday/Saturday snorkeling. :O
Friday night, I went to a luau with our son. He really wanted to try the full luau experience, which we hadn't done during his previous trip to Hawaii. (Mainly, because his sister would have hated all the food, and luau prices are a lot to spend for dinner rolls and fruit punch). HalfshellHusband didn't want to go because he couldn't eat most of the food (his diet has severe sodium restrictions). So, the two of us went to the Voyagers of the Pacific Luau, at the Royal Kona Resort. The band was very good, and the entertainment featured songs and dances from most of the Pacific Island cultures, which was really neat. The highlight was (and is always) the Samoan fire dance. The Boy was duly impressed, and he had a great time and ate allll the food. We even both tried the purple sweet potato, even though neither of us likes sweet potatoes. It wasn't bad!
Our son wanted to go on a snorkeling trip by boat (like we did on the previous trip), but when he and I looked at the various brochures, we decided that a night-time trip to see manta rays would be even better! We had an early dinner, then went off to join the boat. This was a wet-suit excursion, where floating 'lattices' are used that have strong blue lights shining downward every 8 feet or so. The lights attract plankton, which in turn attract the mantas that eat them. You hold onto the handles at the edges of the structure and just float face-mask down and watch and wait. The mantas get very close, looping head over tail beneath you as they eat their way along the illuminated area.
The mantas were beautiful, and the whole experience was really neat up until about 30 minutes of time-in-water. That was when the dreaded progression of horror began: "What's that sensation? It's weird. I don't really recognize it. No, wait—oh god, it's nausea, isn't it? No, I refuse to let that happen, that is unacceptable. Stop it! Oh, maybe it's gone now. Hmm, hmm, hmm. So relaxing. Hmm, hmm—urk, I think I'm feeling it again. No-no-no-no-no! Happy thoughts, happy thoughts, everything is fine..."
That went on for about five minutes before it became clear I had lost the war, and I struck out for the boat. Hit by a surge of it on the ladder while making my way onboard, and forced it back down until I got to the bench near the edge where we'd been sitting on the trip out. And then it was too much. Ugh—right over the side. It broke my 42-year streak of not having thrown up, and I even remembered to take Dramamine beforehand! Nuts. I've struggled with this on past snorkel tours, and it's usally the boat, but I've been hit with it while in the water once before.
Still, I wouldn't trade the experience of having done that trip for anything. No regrets.
We had hoped to drive up Mauna Kea to see the sunset and stars, but that wasn't possible this trip. The access road up the mountain is being blocked by protesters right now, to prevent the planned Thirty-Meter Telescope from being built on the peak. We drove past on the way to Hilo the first day, and wondered why so many people were gathering and camping there by the highway. People were greeting each other as if they were seeing long-lost family at a reunion, and in a way, they were—other members of the larger native family who do not want that large telescope on top of their sacred mountain, and who have come to prevent it.
I wish that location weren't such a problem, because scientifically, it's the ideal choice. But it's the wrong choice for the native people, the last straw in a series of unwanted mechanical desecrations, and it matters to them on a deeply emotional level. To date, no resolution has been reached.
Something else we didn't see? Most of the creatures making the unfamiliar sounds we heard during our trip. Outside the house where we stayed in Puna, there was something that talked nearly 24/7. We could hear it day and night, in all kinds of weather, but we never managed to see it. It might have been a bird or an amphibian, but who knows? And why didn't its throat get tired?
It was definitely not one of the shrieking frogs around the Hilo area, though. ;)
It was a great vacation, and a wonderful opportunity to spend a lot of time with The Boy before he heads back to school again. In three days... :O