Aug 082011

To make our snorkel cruise on time, we set our alarms for 5:30am. After packing our gear and towels, inhaling a quick breakfast, and driving rather quickly up the highway, we arrived at the Pacific Whale Foundation store at the Maalaea Harbor Shops. The check-in process was fairly painless, but the dock area is under construction, and there was a lot of congestion getting to the boat. After a fairly smooth ride under overcast skies, we tied up at Molokini just as the sun broke through the clouds. Our 100+ snorkelers may have been the first large boat to arrive at this popular site, but we would not be the last.

Molokini islet is famed for the clarity of its waters, and today was picture perfect. Speaking of pictures, between my bobbing on the surface and the reduced shutter speed when using zoom, many of them were awful. But I did swim away with some nice shots showcasing the diversity of the site. Despite diving down and looking closely at various rocks and corals, I didn’t see any eels here. (That’s disappointing because this was going to be one of the best opportunities.)

After an hour in the fishbowl, we returned to the boat for water and a snack while Captain Doug steered us toward “Turtle Arches,” a marketing name for any of several South Maui reefs with ample populations of green sea turtles. We ended up at the reef off Wailea Point (the South end of Wailea Beach), which unfortunately was somewhat sandy. But we did see turtles, and part of an eel (its mouth was buried in the rock). On the way back to the boat, I saw a guy diving down, grabbing the reef with both hands and sticking his head into a large hole. We were instructed not to touch the coral, so clearly he wasn’t from our boat. I dove down after him to try to see what was going on and a white-tip reef shark appeared briefly before making a U-turn and returning to its hiding spot. I only got the blurriest photo before having to get out of the water.

Back on the boat, we had grilled chicken sandwiches, bean salad, cucumber salad, and beer; there also was a farewell cookie. Pacific Whale Foundation is a not-for-profit conservation organization that conducts research projects on whales and dolphins, and is active on other marine life causes. We got a few presentations over the loudspeakers encouraging us to support and participate in these activities. When we arrived back at the harbor, we browsed the PWF store, and a crafts and farmers’ market in the same complex. Eventually I got e-mail withdrawal and pressed my travel companions to return home.

By the time we arrived at the house, I barely had the energy for a shower and a nap. One foursome went off to see the final Harry Potter movie, and the rest of us relaxed before heading out to a local Indian restaurant that had a good review in the guidebook. Whoops, out of business, and the nearby taqueria did not impress, so we returned to Da Kitchen for teriyaki chicken, chow fun with shreds of beef, and chicken katsu. All good as usual, and more than filling.

Back at the house we tried out some desserts we had picked up: chocolate-dipped macaroons from Mana Foods in Paia were a touch dry and chewy but had a good flavor; a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting from the Maalaea Harbor Shops crafts fair was very red and very, very sweet. I think I’ll stick to the macaroons. Neither went very well with the Pinot Grigio Monica was pouring; I dipped into our stash of “the other white meat” to find a better pairing for the wine.

In the morning, we will snorkel again. And we will eat. In fact, we have reached the point in our trip where we might have too many leftovers. This balance will need to be righted through some creative home cooking.

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