Today, my friends and my 12 year old daughter and I went on the Fair Wind Cruise to snorkel at Kealekekua Bay, about 12 miles south of Kona. I see this cruise go out each day around 9 am with the 100 or so tourists and think, it must be really crowded with all those people on that boat. But you know? Even with the boat being full today, with 100 tourists, it was not that bad. They provided a great continental breakfast with Kona coffee and even served it to us while we were on the top deck enjoying the view of Keauhou Bay and the shoreline. (We had STELLAR weather today!)
We got to Kealekekua Bay and before they let everyone jump in, Captain Kurt Bell gave everyone the low down about staying off the coral, respecting the reef and being a good steward of the area. (I was at the Captain Cook Monument, on the shoreline of Kealakekua Bay, this summer when I hiked in and saw MANY tourists standing on the coral. One of the ocean guides said he routinely heard from the tourists, “Why should I care? I’ll never be here again”. Please..don’t EVER come to Hawaii and act or think like that. Can you imagine if each of the 200+ people that come in there EACH day said that? I shudder. )
I mention Kurt by name, (pictured with my friend) because I had done some web business with him a few years back and never actually had a chance to meet him in person and it was great to introduce myself and see the passion he brings to the well being of the guests on the boat. (if you travel, you know how important this is to your trip) He even let my daughter drive the boat for awhile!
The water was heaven. Not just how clear, clean and blue it was-it was alive with fish today. I saw amazing schools of butterfly fish and opelo hovering right underneath the boat during the entire time we were there- I swam through them repeatedly. There was a “tang fiesta” going on in two feet of water which was fun to explore near the shore, and I saw a four foot Moray eel slithering about until he nestled into a coral head about 15 feet below me. My friend swam with a sea turtle, while I was exploring the rock face of the cliff that hangs above the bay.
We all got back on the boat, had a yummy lunch of BBQed hamburgers and sodas and sat in the sun. Then, the “cruise ship” aspect of the Fair Wind went into effect. We all slid down the slides, which stopped a good six feet above the water and we jumped from the second story diving platform into the ocean. The kids had a blast and my friend and I really enjoyed the thrill, too.
My favorite? The “view boxes”. (You need to ask for these as there are only a few) I hopped on an inner tube with my hat and sunglasses, laid on the tube and placed the floating “view box” in front of me, which let me see what I was swimming over quite easily so I could stay warm and keep my head out of the water. This was an awesome amenity and was great to have due to the fact it IS January and the water temps are a bit chilly for local folk like me!
Everyone was called back on board and we headed out of the bay. We heard that a whale shark had been spotted about a mile outside the bay. You could feel the excitement among the crew as the Captain raced to where a group of boats and snorkelers were circled around something in the water. When we all saw the tail and dorsal fin of the whale shark, everyone rushed to the front of the boat. Three or four crew members jumped in and swam like Olympians over to the shark, which was about 35 feet long.
(Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and are VERY docile and eat plankton. I have NEVER seen one in person, so this was an amazing opportunity, even though the guests were not able to get in with the shark.)
The shark ended up going UNDER one of the tour boats, and then looped towards us. You can’t see too much in the photos, but the dark shape is the shark with the snorkelers around it and you can see the disturbance in the water. The crew got into the ocean with their video camera to film the shark and showed it to all of us from the screens on the boat. I have always wanted to swim with a whale shark and almost kick myself for not “falling into the water”, but I hope to come across one of these gentle giants again.
We really had a great day! Our friends visiting from the mainland this week, said it was one of the best things they have done in Hawaii. Cost for a Fair Wind cruise is about $130 for adults and $75 for kids. If you go, tell Kurt I sent you! And get one of the mai tai’s on the way back to the harbor and get your picture taken on the front bow!