There is a bay outside the tourist trap of Honolulu on Hawaii’s Oahu Island where royalty once played and relaxed.
No, I’m not talking about Will and Kate.
The World Heritage listed Hanauma Bay used to be ‘the playhouse’ of the Polynesian King King Kamehameha. It was a place where he entertained guests and organised sponsored sports. These days, the Bay is used for a much more modest but still important purpose – to showcase the coral reef in the bay and its sealife inhabitants. Hanauma Bay is located along the south-east of Oahu Island and is accessible by car or tour bus. The Bay is hugely popular with Japanese tourists as well as locals and is patrolled. The Bay is popular for sunbathing, body surfing and snorkelling.
Hanauma Bay – coming up for breath after a long snorkel.
Threadfin Butterflyfish also known as kikākapu in Hawaiian.
We chased a school of Orangebound Surgeonfish (na`ena`e in Hawaiian). It is very hard to snorkel near a school of fish without also scaring other sea life away.
The Bay is visited by 3000 visitors per day, roughly 1 million people per year, and these large visitor numbers continue to create conservation problems for the Bay. These problems are compounded by the disregard of some people for the local whales and seals, which you can also view in the non-summer months.
We took a tour bus with the HOP tour company, who drove us to the Bay and provided us with included snorkelling gear for only US$25 per person. When we arrived, we were greeted with a video on the history of the Bay and conservation tips and things to look out for whilst diving. Entering the Bay is very different to Australian beaches. Besides the coral reef, the seabed is very rocky and makes you feel like it would have been hard to land if you were a Polynesian settler finding the beach for the very first time. When entering the water, it is best to put your flippers on once inside the water as the seabed is also very shallow.
When you push out into deeper water to look at the coral, it is not a “Little Mermaid” experience. You can immediately see different fish unique to Hawaii – Orangespine Unicornfish and Convict Tang. You also need to be very careful to not cut yourself on the coral as it is very sharp. During your snorkelling experience, you can go quite far from the shore but there can be strong currents. We went out as far as the life buoy barrier would allow but could not go any further as there was a rip further out from the shore. We felt like we had entered another world, a natural wonder free of the rules and regulations and concerns of human beings. I would recommend it for anyone who likes nature and sea life.
Snorkelling through Hanauma Bay lets you play like a Polynesian King, so make Kamehameha proud and visit.