On Tuesday we meet up with Tim from Hawaiian Paddle Sports at DT Fleming Beach, north of Lahaina in Maui. After introductions, Tim instructs us on the basics of outrigger canoeing in Maui – from holding the paddle, to positioning the body to maximize the stroke, to paddling commands in Hawaiian.
Underway, we paddle to Honolua Bay. Tim guides the canoe so we hug the shoreline, protecting us from the wind. As we make our way, Tim discusses the flora and fauna of Maui, pointing out the seaweed that turtles eat that make their fat green as well as indigenous blue coral beneath us.
At Honolua Bay, Elissa notes some odd splashing across the bay, and Tim quickly spies a pod of spinner dolphins. The canoe double times as we dash forward, only to catch the dolphins depart. While it’s disappointing not to be able to swim with the dolphins, if we had arrived a few minutes later we wouldn’t have seen them at all. And even if we were in the water, it’s a strong possibility that we would have missed them. The odd splashing was a free diver trying to descend. When we approach, the free diver remarks at the large number of turtles in the water. Even though he was probably 20 feet away from the pod of dolphins, he had missed them. Most likely they swam behind his back.
After taking a leisurely tour of the bay, Tim anchors the canoe over sand near the northern wall of the bay. Before letting us in the water, Tim reviews key landmarks and discusses marine animal interaction (don’t touch) and their consequences.
Immediately after splashing, we’re greeted with turtles and numerous fish. Elissa and I meander along the reefs edge and after a few minutes we’re joined by Tim. He helpfully points out fish by name, and leads us to a turtle cleaning station.
At the reefs edge, in 60′ of water, I see a dark shadow gliding. I flutter kick in high gear and dive down to see a large manta ray. Fortunately, and remarkably, the manta turns around and heads back towards us. We instantly give chase, diving down to get a better look. At 60′+, he’s outside my freediving range, but within Tim’s reach.
The picture below is me (camera) at 50′, and Tim and the Manta at least 20′ below me.
And as if the manta turning around back towards us wasn’t enough, he turns again and swims to 30′ to the turtle cleaning station. At this point, we have a manta in the shallows with 7 turtles around us.
I freedive like a scuba diver… hmmm….
After a good number of dives, we swim towards the boat and Tim takes a picture of Elissa and I near a turtle sunbathing.
Back on the canoe, Tim takes us out of the bay and we point towards DT Fleming. The wind at our back helps with the paddle back, but good piloting is still required for us to not overshoot our target. Tim is enthusiastic about outrigger canoe and Hawaiian culture, giving us a much appreciated history lesson of the islands as we head back.
Oh, we see more honu (turtles)!