Early 2012 when my class went to Big Isle for a field project, Nancy organized a night manta ray snorkeling group and asked me to join. I reluctantly said no, opting to spend that weekend with Col. It didn’t take long for them to report back on the trip with raving reviews, and Col said he’d take me to a better swim with the mantas than any of the commercial tours. That took 3 years to happen. And my first and only manta that night was a baby chilling right by the pier; we saw it before even setting foot on the outrigger canoe, and long before I tried to shoo away the disappointment that the crew only provided a wetsuit top instead of a full suit, took the deepest breath and dropped off into the cold water. Col and I were the first to wimp out after barely 10 minutes hanging onto the surfboard-as-floater looking down at plankton and blue needle fish, blaming our intolerance on our upbringing in the tropics.

But the ocean was still kind. As we sat shivering in our towels back in the canoe, thoroughly disappointed at the lack of warmth, manta rays, and hot chocolate that the crew had promised but then forgot to bring, we got unexpected guests. The best kind 🙂 Dolphins! My first time seeing them in real life actually. A playful pod of 7 bottlenose that didn’t seem to get tired of circling us. For a moment I was tempted to go back down in the water and swim with them, ’cause they came so close, within 10 feet of the canoe, but staying dry won out. I was happy enough to just sit and watch them going round and around. Such elegance when they glide in the water, and such delight when they jump one after another (it’s so hard to imagine that they’re capable of some horrific acts). I would like to think that it was just as exciting and entertaining for them to check us out as it was for us to watch them. Later as we headed back to shore, the captain woman in an attempt to steer away from the failure of the night decided to chase the dolphins to give us a few more show minutes. I was abhorred at such harassment and any of my positive feeling for her promptly dissolved away. But I didn’t say a thing.

Cold water in Hawai’i also brings another much loved group of immigrants: the humpback. Both dolphins and whales are considered manifestations of Kanaloa – god of the ocean, one of the four major gods in Hawaiian religion. I’d only heard their strangely soothing singing and seen their bumps far out in the water, usually a mom and her calf playing. Luck was on my side again during this trip. We went to pebble beach at the same time that a whale was patrolling along the coast. We saw her pump up a fountain as we drove down, and on the beach, while we were busy eating opi’hi freshly picked off the rocks, she came and flipped her tail up 100 feet at most from where we were standing. I was in awe.

Unrelated photos of beaches and sunsets:

picking opihi, pebble beach, Big Island, Hawaii

pebble beach, Big Island, Hawaii

sunset, Keauhou, Big Island, Hawaii


sunset, Mauna Loa, Big Island, Hawaii