Rise and Fall at Kealakekua Bay


I’m afraid of water. There, I said it.

Maybe I’d better clarify. I love to drink a cool glass of water, and I enjoy the fish tank at the dentist’s office. I can always appreciate a good rain. So when I say I’m afraid of water, it is more a fear of drowning because I’m a poor swimmer.

And yet somehow, I found myself riding a giant boat to Kealakekua Bay for some snorkeling.

After lounging on a variety of beaches and eating too much good food, we decided it was time for a change of scenery. My extended family and I had come to the Big Island of Hawaii for a summer getaway, and since most of us had never been to the island before, we soaked up my father-in-law’s recommendations for fun like we soaked up the sun. Among his suggestions were the idea that we take the snorkeling tour down to Kealakekua Bay. That sounded nice enough, but it sounded even better when he offered to pay for all of us. (Thanks Jeff and Joyce!)

The next day, the entire family hopped aboard a two-story boat to float down to Kealakekua Bay. As happens with so many excursions and tours in these islands, much of the experience is simply getting to your destination with a glass full of POG juice (pineapple, orange, guava) and too much good food at your disposal. Not only were we well-stocked with snacks, but the weather was slightly breezy and cool. The landscape that unfolded before us with each southerly mile along the coast grew more and more epic. We were traveling in style, and yet my stomach was beginning to churn with anxiety over the moment when I’d slip on my fins and snorkel and jump into the deep.

I tried to keep my nerves at bay while trying to keep my three kids from running off the deck of the boat before snorkel time. Thankfully, helpful grandparents and too much good food kept them stationary. At times. They’re anxiousness was a breed apart from mine.

The engine of our boat went silent after about 45 minutes of bouncing on top of the Pacific waves, and we drifted into Kealakekua Bay next to a few other snorkel boats. As I looked around, I was grateful to see that there wasn’t a resort or beach in sight. This meant that we’d get to visit some waters that were that much more pristine and unspoiled than those closer to cities. In fact, the only man-made edifice I could spot was the diminutive Captain James Cook monument at the north end of the bay.

As I looked closer still at the land around me, I marveled at just how lush and steep the hills had become. So much of my brief experience of Hawaii was the barren and blackened fields of volcanic rock that flowed from quieted volcanoes to the seashore so many years before. This seashore showed me a peaceful and more beautiful side of the island, almost as if offering me a foretaste of the underwater world I’d dive into within a few minutes’ time. Somehow, that view above the waves replaced my anxiety with excitement to see the living world beneath the waves.

I left my tripod at home that day, along with the wide-angle lens I use for landscape photography. That didn’t stop me from trying capture a few images of the landscape around Kealakekua Bay. I wanted to remember that sense of peace and awe I felt before leaving the safety of our boat to face the waters I feared. *Click*

With that, it was time to jump in …

P.S. In case you’re wondering, I survived my snorkeling expedition. And then I got back to eating more of too much good food.

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What are some of your most memorable moments underwater? Tell us in the comments below…