My family and I are spending this week on Hawaii’s big island. Every year about this time Yan attends the Omni annual meeting – Omni is a national purchasing and marketing network of independent plumbing wholesalers. For those of you who don’t know, Yan’s family is in the plumbing business. Part of her “job” is to attend the Omni annual meeting each year and I always go along for the swanky resorts, the over-the-top food, and the exotic locales. This year, since it was in Hawaii, we decided to bring the kids and make an extended family vacation out of it.
This is my first trip to the big island and it really is incredible. In fact, I’ve already had one of the best days of my life here. Saturday we chartered a boat. But not just any boat. We chartered a US Navy Special Warfare craft – the same boat used by Navy Seals – from Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures. Their boat is one of only three in the world sold by the navy as military surplus and the only one available for civilian use. Just spending the day on the water aboard that amazing vessel was worth the charter fee alone. But there were so many bonuses packed in I still can’t stop smiling.
Let me backtrack just a bit. We’re staying at the Waikoloa Beach Resort, a property as beautiful as it is immense. It has its own natural lagoon, in part of which they keep dolphins and offer “dolphin encounter” swimming for a price. We knew that was available and had talked with the kids about the possibilities of swimming with dolphins before the trip. Then when we visited the dolphin area on Friday, Cade voiced what it seems we were all thinking. He said, “that’s not very much room for them to swim around in… it seems kind of mean to keep them here.” Indeed, there wasn’t much room for them at all and we decided not to support that endeavor.
Back to Saturday on the boat: we were hoping to spot some whales. We were only out of the marina about 10 minutes when we spotted a pod of dolphins. Our driver turned the boat on a dime (have I mentioned how amazing this boat was?) and put us directly in the dolphins’ path. We quickly donned our snorkel gear and over the side we went. In short order we were surrounded by dolphins. There were hundreds of them, around us and below us. It was a bit surreal and just a bit unnerving. But the bottom line is that it was remarkable. Here we were snorkeling with hundreds of wild dolphins in their natural habitat. Wow.
Once the pod had moved on we scrambled back aboard and resumed our search for whales. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first humpback. Then another, then another. Soon they were almost every direction we looked. We saw dozens of them. Some as close as 50 or 60 feet. Amazing creatures to experience up close. And oh my gosh, they are enormous! Eventually we wound up at Kealakekua Bay marine preserve where we snorkeled on the most amazing reef I’ve ever experienced. Yan dived the Great Barrier Reef in Australia before we met and she said Kealakekua Bay was in the same class. Another wow.
On the way back to the marina we took a side trip into (yes into!) some lava caves, got a taste of just how maneuverable the boat really was (Yan and I were a little worried Cade and Ella would lose their grip and go overboard the g-forces were so strong from the slaloms, 360s, and 40 to 0 stops in the blink of an eye), and paused to drift along in the middle of a school of hammerhead sharks (it was amazing and slightly uncomfortable watching their dorsal fins circle the boat and see their shapes in the water, complete with their distinctive cephalofoil heads, just a few feet away – man those are some big fish!). Wow, wow, and wow!