Great swaths of naupaka form a buffer zone between Apua Beach and the lava fields that stretch to the base of Mauna Kilauea. At dawn, the sun rises over Hilo to the east, and its penetrating rays are in full force by 6 am. Eels splash and slither frantically over the shallow tide pools to deeper waters as we pass by, and golden plovers perform astonishing aeronautical feats on the warm wind currents that blast their way towards Kona. Morning glory tangles its way across empty patches of sand in a perpetual attempt at entangling the feet of unobservant beach checkers, while beautiful pink flowers pop out of its otherwise homely mass. Near our shack, industrious yellow crazy ants get to work, scouring our campsite for drops of water and food crumbs from the night before. Along the coastline, energetic waves grind at the volcanic rock, slowly forming sea arches, natural monuments constantly weathered by the Pacific Ocean.

Commonly found at Keauhou beach, the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, or Honu, is named after its diet of green seagrass and algae.

Less than four miles down the coast, extensions of volcanic rock protect Keauhou beach, allowing beautiful coral reefs to form close to the shore. After hiking from Apua beach, we arrived at Keauhou and set up a simple camp. Today’s focus was on recreation. High tide wouldn’t be until a little after 2 pm, so we listened to music, read, talked, and slept intermittently. At high tide, we grabbed our snorkel gear, and with gusto, plunged into the rich, alien world of coral reefs. The coral came in all sorts of colors: greens, yellows, purples, blues, reds, and in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Most of them were spherical, creating a Seuss-like setting beneath the rolling waves. Fish of every conceivable color drifted and darted with the currents, seemingly oblivious to our presence. My mind was on fire, overwhelmed by the staggering beauty of this underwater world.

Tiny hermit crabs boast striking blue eyes.

Occasionally I forgot to breathe, forcing me to cough and retch salt water at the surface. It was worth every second. We had uncovered a goldmine right where we worked. Every conceivable hue was represented by the reflective scales of the fish feeding on the coral, and I sliced and cut up my feet and hands in an effort to pursue the most elusive individuals. At first I contented myself with floating at the surface, looking down on the cities and highways that the fish inhabited. Soon though, I started diving down, propelling myself to the bottom of the reef, working muscles that hadn’t been utilized since swim team in middle school. At eye level, I was a massive presence amongst the tiny organisms shooting past my face, between my legs, and occasionally nibbling at my feet. It was pure biological bliss. The only thing that forced me out was the retreating tide and the necessary preparation for more hiking.

Pelagic Frigate Birds are occasionally seen soaring on the warm currents over the sea.

As a species, we have explored only a tiny fraction of our oceans, and personally, I have hardly explored at all. There is a world of astonishing and vibrant complexity beneath the waves. After all, the oceans are where life on Earth originated over 3.5 billion years ago. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I scratched the surface of a deep, endless world of scientific and spiritual discovery. My next post will discuss all the life I have seen on Hawai’i.

Common Mynah Birds are loud and aggressive birds from India found everywhere on the Aina.


Written on July 9th, 2017 , Uncategorized

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  1. Ann Liu commented

    Connor, what an idyllic way to spend your free time! I’m glad to hear that those swim team muscles are still reliable! I’m going to check the map to locate Apua and Keauhou beaches. Is this experience stoking an interest in marine biology? It seems to me that you’re turning into an accomplished naturalist! Keep up the good work!

    July 11, 2017 at 7:56 PM
  2. Dennis commented

    Looking forward to here more about all the life on Hawaii. I’ve heard that Hawksbill Sea Turtles only eat sponges, picking them off in and around coral. Have you managed to see turtles in the water feeding? The snorkeling sounds so good!

    July 12, 2017 at 12:31 AM

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park