Category Archives: Activities

Eye to eye with a curious manta ray

A coastal manta ray approaches
A manta ray approaches.
Close up of a coastal manta ray approaching
A close up view.
A coastal manta ray showing spots and gill slits
The spots on the underside are unique to each manta ray. This shot also gives a good view of the gill slits and cephalic flaps.

Yesterday, my wife and I went snorkeling at our usual spot. The visibility was pretty good so, on our way back, we decided to cross the bay and see how it was on the other side. The visibility got worse, not awful, but with more particles in the water.

Suddenly, I saw something large off to my left. I pointed to it and turned to my wife to see her pointing in the same direction. We’d seen this coastal manta ray at the same time. The ray was crossing in front of us and I snapped a couple of photos knowing they wouldn’t be good, but to at least have a record of the encounter.

A coastal manta ray close up
A close up of the manta ray’s head.
A coastal manta ray turning
The manta ray makes a turn.

The ray looked set to disappear into the murk, but then it turned and came back towards us. It passed in front of us again, turned again. Back and forth the ray went. On different occasions, it went by so close in front of each of us that we could have reached out and touched it. It was clearly as curious about us as we were entranced by it. Finally, it made one last pass and seemed to wave at us as it receded into the distance.

A snorkeler comes face to face with a coastal manta ray
Mutual curiosity as manta ray meets snorkeler.
A coastal manta ray approaches
The water was quite murky, so more distant photos show suspended particles.
A coastal manta ray diving down
The manta makes a dive and turn.

This was a smaller ray with maybe a 6- to 8-foot wing span and most of this time it was swimming near the surface, so we got great views of it. Manta rays are plankton feeders and have no poisonous spines so they’re amongst the least dangerous creatures in the ocean. I hadn’t seen one since last August so this made the occasion even more special for me.

After it left, we headed back in. It would have been hard to top that encounter.

A coastal manta ray waves farewell
Finally, the manta waves goodbye as it heads out into deeper waters.

On the water

Water lilies at Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden in Hawaii
A sailboat off the coast of Hawaii
Two outrigger canoes off the coast of Hawaii
A surfer in Hawaii

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Water.’ See more responses here.

First up is a patch of water lilies on Lily Lake at Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Gardens, which reopened at the beginning of April after being closed all year. My wife and I visited last Friday and it was great to be back. As usual, I took a bunch of photos most of which still need processing.

Second is a sailboat running before the wind on the blue Pacific.

Below that is a pair of canoeists paddling along the island’s northern coast. Yesterday, I saw several vehicles going by with canoes, probably headed for Keokea Park, where they can put in safely, possibly for a race. One of the vehicles pulled in to the likely landing spot, where surf was crashing over the parking lot. The driver didn’t look too enthusiastic. I don’t know whether the race took place or not.

Fourth is that quintessential Hawaiian pastime – surfing. Watch out for those rocks!

Finally, a pair of northern pintails coast on a pool of water at Upolu. These used to be seen in large numbers in Hawaii, but not so much these days.

A pair of male northern pintails in Hawaii

A bright I’iwi

An I'iwi in a forest off Saddle Road, Hawaii
An I'iwi calls in a forest off Saddle Road, Hawaii

On my last hike on the Pu’u O’o Trail, off Saddle Road, I soon ran into a man and his son staring at a tree a short distance away. The man explained that they’d seen an i’iwi, a native Hawaiian honeycreeper, fly into the tree and were hoping to see it again. I waited with them for a while, but saw nothing and decided to move on.

A little later I ran into two men coming out of a kipuka, a cluster of old vegetation that has been bypassed by lava flows. One of them, looking pretty pleased, held out his camera and said they’d just seen an i’iwi and he’d got some good photos. He mentioned the spot where they’d seen the bird, so I headed into the trees to have a look. Nothing. It was beginning to look like it was going to be one of those days where everyone else has a wonderful experience except me!

But not long after, I saw a flash of red and then this bird settled on a branch and began to add its song to the loud chorus of bird songs in the kipuka. One thing about i’iwis is that if they’re around, they’re easy to see, their bright red plumage standing out against the green background.

After the bird flew off, I carried on with my hike. When I returned half an hour later, the bird song in the kipukas had diminished considerably and I didn’t see or hear anymore i’iwis.

Posted in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ See more responses here.

Bright fishes

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Something Fishy.’ See more responses here.

This seemed like a good opportunity to post a gallery of some of the fish I see when I snorkel around here. Most are brightly colored or have distinctive markings.

Also posted in response to Becky’s April Squares challenge theme of ‘Bright.’ See more responses here.

Another swim with dolphins

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

On Saturday, my wife and I got going early and went snorkeling. There was some swell rolling in and the visibility wasn’t great, but that had been the case the day before and we’d been pleasantly surprised to find that it was much clearer farther out. So we swam out, angling to the north.

Suddenly, I saw something coming past me from the other direction. I pointed to it and turned to my wife, only to see her doing the same thing. It quickly became clear that these were spinner dolphins, about 15 or so we thought. A couple of them seemed interested in checking us out, but quickly the pod continued heading south.

It’s fairly common for dolphins to swim past the bay we were in, probably heading to the place they’re going to rest during the day. But after this pod passed, they stayed underwater for a while. Before they disappeared, their direction was somewhat into the bay, and I was curious where they’d resurface.

We swam back the way we’d come, popping up frequently to see if we could spot them. Sure enough, after a few minutes, we not only saw fins in the bay, but that they were coming our way. I got my camera ready and out of the hazy water the dolphins emerged. There were a lot more than we first thought. They swept beneath us and around us, hanging out for a short while, before taking off to the northwest. We watched them go, thrilled to have had this encounter.

A little later, as I was heading back into the bay, I looked up to see another snorkeler followed by a cluster of fins. The dolphins hadn’t gone away! They’d doubled back again. I swam slowly in their general direction. There was no point rushing. If the dolphins came my way, fine. If not, I was never going to be able to catch up with them even if I wanted to.

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

Sure enough, the dolphins came rocketing by, and for the next 10 or 15 minutes they zipped around the bay. I mostly stayed in the center of the bay, not trying to chase, and there was no need to. I’d watch a group whizzing by, see them recede, then turn around and spot another group coming my way. They were very active, twisting around each other as they swam, soaring up and down. When I’d see them heading for the surface, I popped up, hoping to get a photo of one spinning up into the air, but I didn’t see any doing that on this occasion.

After a while, the dolphins moved away from where I was and I decided to head in. My wife and I thought there must have been at least 30 dolphins in the bay, perhaps more. When I looked at my photos, I saw that in one of them (the bottom photo), I could identify at least 40 dolphins, and I knew I hadn’t taken a photo of all of them. Probably there were 50 or 60, though I joked that after a few years of recalling this encounter the pod would likely be well into the hundreds!

One thing I can say with some certainty, is that swimming with dolphins never gets old for anyone. It’s always a thrill to spend a little time with these wonderful creatures in their natural environment.

Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii

Surfboards

Fins on a surfboard
A surfboard ready for the water

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Spring Green.’ See more responses here.

I’m not exactly sure what qualifies as spring green. I found a variety of values online, none of which matched anything in my archives. I went out and took photos, thinking I’d found a match. No dice.

In the end, I noticed these surfboard fins while walking at Kohanaiki Park and thought they made a cheerful scene, in the ballpark of the color I was looking for. Just beyond them was a surfboard under a tree that more or less matched the fins. And while there’s no spring green in the bottom photo, I thought it proper to show surfboards in action. These are only little waves, but there were plenty of surfers waiting to catch a ride.

Surfing in Hawaii