No, we didn’t go to Maui at Christmastime, but one of the fishes I saw was named the Christmas Wrasse. That got me thinking about how children love Christmas with all its treats and presents and surprises, and how swimming in the ocean in that warm climate and discovering new wonders every moment made me feel like a child.
Lots of people who are old or achy like to swim because there is no pressure of gravity on the joints, and we can get some exercise without much pain. It seems the salty ocean is even more buoyant; several times I tried hard to dive underwater to get closer to the fish, but I could not. And this water was blissfully mild in temperature…I thought I could swim forever, it was so friendly.
We didn’t take pictures of the fish, but I was able to find some photos online and am posting the ones that most resemble the particular fish as they were when we met them. I personally saw at least 16 different species on our four expeditions, of which I think my favorite to look at was the Ornate Butterflyfish (photo at top). Three times we rented snorkel equipment, and the last time we just used swim masks.
How free and happy I was, exploring a whole new natural environment. This was nothing like my usual gym pool where I doggedly plow up and back, up and back, watching the clock. It felt like a dream, maybe I was a fish myself, gliding almost effortlessly through the liquid world, gazing down into underwater pools and coral gardens. Sea urchins made splashes of black, blue, and hot pink behind the fish. But no, I wasn’t a fish, because there was the rough sound of my breath going in and out of the snorkel tube. At least the fish didn’t seem to be bothered.
It’s a mark of how special the snorkeling experience was generally that I can even remember the less pleasant parts without sadness. Like our visit to Honolua Bay, which on a good day is reported to have the best snorkeling — but it was not a good day. In this photo you can probably see that the water was brown under the surface, but we didn’t want to see that. So on we went!
The wind was blowing too hard, the water was cloudy, and a lot of gunk in the form of wood chips, twigs and other dirty organic material floated on the surface above the fish hangouts, getting into my hair and under my swimsuit. It was my birthday, so I didn’t feel guilty about asking that we cut that excursion short. Besides, we had already taken up a lot of time picking our way along the rugged shore, looking for a safe place to enter into the bay without getting sloshed against big rocks. Mr. Glad was pretty content to swim back to land, because he had seen a trumpet fish.
Our best fish-viewing experiences happened a few days earlier at spots along the South Shore, like the little cove in the picture above.
On our first outing, my first snorkeling ever, we lost track of time at Ulua Beach as we swam marveling back and forth. We managed to stay close together and point, waving our arms at one another when we saw a new fish for the first time — still, when we went back to the condo and looked at pictures we learned that each of us had seen at least one type of fish that the other hadn’t seen.
Several times I found myself in a predicament of tall coral and had to pay more attention to my paddling in order to get out of there without damaging me or the coral. Twice it seemed we were headed back to shore to rest, without discussing it…and then we changed direction and went away from the beach again and back to the coral beds. We didn’t really want to leave yet, I guess.
On one of these sojourns closer to shore I found myself next to a shimmery school of small silver fish that were swimming pretty close to the surface, a thousand of them at least, and I swam toward them, reaching out my hands hoping to touch one. They were like an underwater version of starlings, swiftly breaking into legions, swirling into new groupings and always away so that I could never get into their ranks, but I spent quite a while trying, and they didn’t seem to make much effort to get out of range.
They were some kind of scad, probably Big-eye Scad, and definitely the most fun to swim with. We were like distant cousins getting acquainted on Christmas Day, in a game of water-tag, playing chase for the pure joy of it.
(I’m taking a break from the computer for a few days, so it might be a week before I get the next Maui Diary episode published.)