Yesterday I went snorkeling for the first time in Hawaii. That is one of the nice things about living here - if you finish your work early and you end up with a day off, you can go snorkeling.
I went with Doug and friends of his that were visiting from California. We went out to Hanauma Bay, a place that is beautiful from above. Once we tried to get in just to visit the beach, but since it is a nature preserve, visitors are required to watch an educational video meant to help protect the reef and fishes. Since we had no snorkeling gear and we thought we would need to watch the video each time, we decided to wait that day and come back later. Turns out that we only need to watch the video once a year, since we are residents of Hawaii. The video is slightly interesting, but is overshadowed by the excitement of the upcoming adventure of seeing the fishes for yourself.
Once I had the gear I needed I went into the water knowing one thing for sure: this was going to be hard. Not the swimming (I was using a life vest - not so much because I can't swim but because it was recommended, so I could float while watching the sea life below) but the face in the water thing. Water freaks me out. Not sure why, but it is a fear big enough that I am perfectly happy not going in the water over my head. I'll go under the water, but only if I know I can stand back up again. Once I got into water deep enough, I had to convince myself to put my face into the water. Then I had to force myself to keep it there. And what happened? I hyperventilated, for what seemed to be a long time. Breathing started to become a little uncomfortable, but I just kept telling myself that I would get over it and start breathing normally. And eventually I did. I was able to take slower, deeper breaths, and I didn't die. And once I got over the breathing thing, I got to see what I came for: fishes.
The colors and the sizes were amazing. Little fish, big fish, rainbow colored fish, long skinny fish.... I wish I had an underwater camera. It was like being in the tanks at the aquarium, instead of just looking in. And the fish don't even care that people are there. They just swim around looking at all the intruders. So long as the movements of humans didn't startle the fish, it was as if they completely ignored all the people swimming around.
After stopping for lunch I had a much better go at the second round. Panic didn't set in nearly as much, and I found breathing to be much easier. I felt better about being in the water and enjoyed more of what I saw. I still had small moments of panic, especially when I got close to the reef. By the end of the day though I was much more comfortable, and now I want to do it again. Though maybe next time I'll wear a shirt. Sunscreen was not enough for as much water play as I had, evidence of that can be seen on my lower back in the form of bright redness.
Next adventure: California.