When my brother and I turned 13, my dad took each of us on a trip; for me, it was Hawaii. We went over Christmas Break of my 7th grade year and spent just over a week exploring the islands.
The trip started off with us worrying whether or not we would even be able to go as we sat in the airport and watched breaking news of the terrible tsunami that was devastating southeast Asia.
Fortunately, Hawaii was left unscathed and we were off. Our first adventure on the "edge" was in Hanauma Bay on Oahu. We had rented snorkeling gear and wetsuits for the week, and Hanauma Bay was a prime destination.
We simply walked in off the beach and swam to the reef where we were fascinated by the endless schools of colorful tropical fish, especially yellow tangs. There were a lot of yellow tangs. A lot.
We had been swimming around maybe an hour when we saw the pièce de résistance of the coral reef: a sea turtle.
While you aren't technically supposed to approach or follow these endangered animals, of course that is exactly what we did. Staying a respectable distance behind, we followed the turtle as it silently gilded across the reef. We soon lost track of time and distance and, before we knew it, we had swum all the way to the edge of the reef.
Deciding this was probably far enough, we turned around to swim back where we encountered one small problem; the current was pushing us back out to sea.
Fortunately, this was the ocean, so there was an endless supply of waves to push us back in. And so we began the process of swimming against the current, and only holding our own, while waiting for the next wave to give us a boost back towards the shore.
After a while of this we finally made it back to the reef (where we unfortunately suffered a few small scrapes from being pushed across the coral. All in all, Hanauama Bay was awesome, and I couldn't wait for another chance to snorkel.
Towards the end of the week, we were on the Big Island where we decided to snorkel in Kealakekua Bay. The bay is also the spot of the Captain Cook Memorial, the spot where the first English man set foot in Hawaii in 1779 and was subsequently killed. The bay was an excellent spot for his large ocean going ships because it stays deep extremely close to shore.
The memorial is accessible only by water, so we had to rent a kayak. The paddle across the bay was beautiful, and we beached our kayaks by the memorial before donning our masks and flippers and wading out to snorkel.
After snorkeling for awhile (the highlight of which was seeing an eel), we stopped to take a break and eat our lunch. As we were eating we noticed that the weather was beginning to turn so we decided to head back.
As we began paddling the wind started to kick up and soon small swells were breaking across the bow of our tandem kayak. We paddled harder as were we swamped with wave after wave of warm saltwater.
Fortunately, the paddle across the bay is relatively short and we made it just fine. After returning our kayak and walking back to our car I found dried salt on my sunglasses from the evaporated saltwater that had splashed on my face.
Hawaii was one of my favorite place I have visited and I can't wait to go back someday.