Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Hawaii Diaries -- Day Seven

the whale shark Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 25, 2004 Thanksgiving

Diving! This was an experience that changed my life. I’ve always wanted to get my SCUBA certification, but for some reason I’ve never done it. It’s not something that just jumps out at you, that you need to learn how to do. One of my goals when I moved to LA was to get certified, but it never happened. It requires coming up with several hundred dollars and I never could justify dedicating that money to getting SCUBA certified. Now I wish I had because I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without being a diver. Had I known, I would have scrapped this whole journalism idea and just cut to the chase and become a dive master on Kona in the first place.

After just taking the Discover SCUBA introductory class, which basically means just swimming aorund in the pool with a mask, tank and regulator, I was totally hooked. Besides wanting to move to Kona and become a dive instructor, I wanted to get open water certified as soon as possible. I was already planning how to budget for it.

Ten people went out on the boat with three dive instructors, plus the captain. I thought I would feel apprehensive at first but I just felt eager to get into the water. I had been so comfortable with the gear in the pool and I already knew what it was going to look like underwater and that all helped. When we finally dropped anchor and got in, I was raring to go.

I have to say, it was all I thought it would be and more. We basically just floated around, looked at fish and coral and rocks and hung out. But it is so much cooler to be breathing under the water just like you belong there. When you are snorkeling you don’t feel as much like you are part of things. When you are diving, you feel sort of lost in that new place, it lets you totally forget real life for a little while. Kind of like being a mermaid for a day.

On the second dive, we actually saw a lot more stuff. We saw a dragon moray eel, which is red and spotted and has two “horns” on his head. He stuck his head out of his hole for a long time and let us all get a really good look at him. Then a sea turtle just came swimming on by, calm as could be. We all went crazy looking at him. I don’t know why because I had just seen several of them two days before, but it’s still cool.

The day before I went diving, a whale shark had shown up in Kona, right off of the snorkel beach. The whole diving community was going nuts about that. They had all gotten on their radios and everyone had gone to check it out. The whale shark is 25 to 50 feet long—the ocean’s biggest fish—and is supposedly very gentle. They have about 300 rows (300!!!) of “tiny hooked teeth in both jaws,” according to West Hawaii Today, the local paper, but they aren’t very aggressive. Anyway, the picture up top is from the paper of that guy. I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t get to see him (and he showed back up on Friday) but I’m not sure what I would have done had I been swimming along and then run into a 25 foot fish. As you can see from the picture, people were just snorkeling right up to him and he really didn’t seem to mind. According to the paper, whale sharks are pretty rare around there. They generally like to live in warmer waters a little further south.

The diving community in Kona – like all communities really – is full of gossip. They had all heard about the woman that had to be rescued by our snorkel boat. I think it freaked people out because it happens so rarely, plus events like that are bad for business. Supposedly she was okay, but still in the hospital. The consensus among the dive masters was that maybe something had happened under water, she had freaked out, come up fast and held her breath, causing over lung expansion. Holding your breath when you dive is the worst thing you can do because then your body can’t regulate to the new atmospheric pressure you face as you go up and down in depth.

After all that diving excitement, the day came to an end way too quickly. We went on in and Mom and Dad picked me up at Jack’s, a newly converted diver.

That night, was Thanksgiving and we went to a Luau. It was something I wanted to do because I’d never done it before but I also thought it was going to be a little bit cheesy. It was a little cheesy, but I think I like that because I’ve enjoyed lots of other cheesy events this year – namely lots of things in Branson. There was tons of food – Hawaiian and otherwise – and I didn’t eat so much of it but it was fun to try it and to learn about it. Poi is as disgusting as everyone says it is by the way. In fact, I thought it was more disgusting the more I considered it, even into the next day. The show also was fun – the performers did dances from all over different island cultures. It’s funny because Hawaii associates itself with places such as New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa, but those places are thousands of miles away. California is actually closer and it’s 2,500 miles away. (There were no dances performed from California.) Hawaii really is the most isolated island chain in the world.

That night I was exhausted! It doesn’t seem like you are doing much when you are diving because you are just floating around basically, but it’s sort of like skiing – it really takes it out of you and you don’t notice until you finally settle down for the day.

Anyway, a most excellent day. So sad to be leaving tomorrow!

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