Category Archives: Activities

Pluchea carolinensis

Pluchea carolinensis is also known as sourbush and cure-for-all. This latter name probably comes from its medicinal use in its native range, which is the tropical Americas. It’s a member of the aster family – Asteraceae.

The plant was first reported in Hawaii in 1931 and on the Big Island in 1933. It’s believed to be an accidental introduction, possibly associated with shipping to Hawaii and within the islands. The onset of World War II prompted the plant’s spread through the Pacific, probably in military shipments.

On the Big Island it’s most often seen in drier coastal areas, but it can tolerate a variety of climates and conditions. These photos were taken on the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Hawaiian silverside shoals

I’ve posted photos of shoals of little fish before, making the assumption that these were juveniles of some fish species or other. However, this year the local snorkeling spot has been thick with these fish. It’s not been unusual for me to get in the water and find myself surrounded by a swirling ball of fish. It can actually be quite disorienting.

Because of this bumper crop, it occurred to me that I really should try to identify these fish. I think the answer is that they’re Hawaiian silversides, an endemic species. The problem is that there are a couple of other possible species, the goldspot sardine and the Hawaiian anchovy. Short of catching a few and examining them in the light of day, it’s hard to tell them apart.

Regardless of species, it’s been fun interacting with the shoals. Swim toward them and the shoal will part, then recombine behind. Point a camera in their direction and they jet off in another direction. It’s best just to float in the water, with the camera pointed in the right general direction. Then they’ll get quite close and I’ll snap a photo or two hoping something will turn out.

In the top photo, a shoal surges by in front of me. Below, the silvery stripe along their bodies can be seen.

Kayak fisherman

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Color Harmonies.’ See more responses here.

I like the colors in this photo of a kayak fisherman, with his red hat and yellow kayak. He has a fairly typical setup, with two or three rods attached in one way or another. He’ll have some bait in the kayak and probably a few beverages and snacks.

I was surprised to see him passing so close, but figured that he’d seen me and was being careful. In the end, I was glad I stopped to take this photo because just after I started swimming again, a large lure and hook passed in front of me on his unseen trailing line. Had I not stopped I’d probably have been hooked, reeled in, gutted, and barbecued. Not a bad way to go, really, I guess.

Better Days: Eel on the hook

I hope this photo doesn’t ruin anyone’s breakfast, but I run it for a couple of reasons. First, a lot of people fish around the island and most of them don’t like eels. Snag an eel on your line and there’s not much to be done. The eel will wrap itself in knots and the only way to be rid of it is to cut the line. The person fishing could try removing the hook and releasing the eel, but even if they were so inclined, the feeling is, ‘why release an eel so that it can tie itself in knots next time you throw a line in?’

And that brings us to the other reason for running the photo, and which also explains another reason no one wants to remove that hook. Look at those teeth! Rows of them, front and back, side to side. Reach for that hook and chances are you’re going to get bitten. This is also why it’s not a good idea to mess with anything in the water. Even little fish that look harmless can have a powerful bite, or sharp spines, or some other nasty surprise.

Sulphur Banks Trail

One of the trails I took on my last visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was the Sulphur Banks Trail, otherwise known as Ha’akulamanu Trail. It’s not far from the visitor center and so is usually popular with visitors because it’s an easy walk, about 1.2 miles roundtrip, and pretty level the whole way. But with few visitors around currently, I had the trail to myself.

This trail is one of several areas in the park where signs of volcanic heat can be seen even when there’s not an active eruption. Steam swirls upwards. The smell of rotten eggs indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide in the air, one of the volcanic gases leaking from the ground along with sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide.

The yellow tint of the ground is due to the sulphurous gases and close examination reveals the sulphur crystals that have been deposited there. The crystals photo was taken at one of the displays along the trail. It wouldn’t be wise to thrust one’s camera too close to one of the active vents, such as those in the bottom photo.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Posted in response to this week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme of ‘Close Examination.’ See more responses here.

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay beach

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Beautiful Beaches.’ See more offerings here.

ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay, at Waikoloa Resort, is often referred to as A Bay for reasons that aren’t hard to figure out. In normal times this is a very popular spot. The beach is a long curve of pale sand with palms at either end. It’s popular with sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelers. There’s also a restaurant and bar at one end of the beach, facilities nearby, and shops not far away. And Ocean Sports operates various cruises out of the bay on a catamaran or glass-bottomed boat.

There’s a hike I like to do, which goes south from A Bay, and on previous visits I’ve skirted the crowds which are usually found there. However, these are not normal times. On my last visit I headed north. There was one person in the water, two on the beach. The ocean lapped gently against the shore. An offshore breeze rustled the palm fronds. Usually when I hike places like this, I’m an aberration with shoes and a fanny pack, marching through swathes of bikinis and board shorts and roasting flesh. On this occasion, I was an aberration just by being there.

More spinner dolphin photos

Three spinner dolphins catch the light as they cruise through the water.
A trio of spinner dolphins diving past me.

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about swimming with dolphins. Within a few months of moving to the Big Island I got to swim with dolphins. A large pod moved into the bay near where I was living and stayed for several hours. Swimming with them was great, but at that time, I didn’t have an underwater camera.

Since then, I’ve mostly seen dolphins from the shore, or just zipping by far enough away that I get a glimpse, but not much more. Several times dolphins have been around just before I get in the water, or just after I got out, or they’ve hung around in the bay on a day I didn’t swim at all.

Last week, several dolphins showed up just after I’d got out, but since they seemed like they might hang around, I got back in and swam out. By the time I got to the place they’d been, I saw them heading south. Four days ago, a small group of dolphins swam by, not far from where I was, without stopping. I got one not-very-good photo.

Three days ago, my wife and I were just preparing to get in when she saw dolphins. They were heading south, but not at speed. Then they seemed to pause. A couple twirled out of the water – spinner dolphins. Perhaps they were going to hang around. We got in the water and headed out.

From the water, it’s harder to spot dolphins unless they’re jumping. When I stopped to look, I couldn’t find them again. When I did, they appeared to be receding. I swam some more, looked up again, and saw dorsal fins. They were heading our way. I ducked my head underwater and got my camera ready. Moments later a group of 10 or more spinners emerged from the hazy water, got rapidly larger, and then passed by on either side of me. They kept going deeper into the bay and I turned to follow. I heard my wife shout and turned in time to see another group go by.

There’s no point chasing dolphins, and it’s not something anyone should do anyway. I’m not a fan of ‘swim with the dolphins’ tours, where they chase them and then dump a bunch of people into the water to get up close and personal. But when they hang around an area, I hang around too in the hope that they’ll come over to check me out. These dolphins did. The next few minutes were a whirlwind of dolphins passing, circling, diving, and occasionally jumping. In close proximity, their size and power was clear, as well as their intelligence and curiosity.

But then, as quickly as they’d arrived, they headed out to sea. The whole encounter was probably no more than 10 minutes, but it’s one I won’t forget, and when I got home I was thrilled that I’d captured several good images.

A spinner dolphin and snorkeler. There were four dolphins making circles around my wife for a short while.
A small group of spinner dolphins swims over sand and coral.