Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Honey & the Honu

I was sitting on a lava outcropping focusing my camera on a sea bird when O'Ceallaigh said, "Hon, turn around and look behind you."

I turned and looked. There was a lady sitting at the edge of the beach with her feet inches above the water. Her two sons stood beside her. "What?" I said. I quickly scanned the rest of the beach and the nearby inlet. "I don't see anything." I turned back to my camera.

"Hon, look where the kids are pointing."

I looked at the lady again. Her kids were on the other side of her. I couldn't tell if they were pointing or not. I looked down the beach for signs of excitement or gathering crowds. None. "I don't see anything," I repeated and turned back to my camera. The bird, picking snails and teeny crabs from the rocks, had moved on. I folded the tripod.

"Look here, in the channel," O'Ceallaigh sounded a bit more insistent. I stood up, turned around and walked over to him. "Where?" I queried, with just the tiniest hint of impatience in my voice.

O'Ceallaigh pointed, and I saw a rock. The rock moved. I took a step closer. The rock moved again. I fumbled for my camera and tripod.

For the next half hour I sat enthralled, watching Honu graze. I attempted some video, but it was very disappointing. Only the surface of the water is visible.

My next ordeal was trying to get a good shot of the turtle's head. Turtles cannot breathe under water. Every five minutes or so they come up for air. Trouble is, they are up and down faster than my finger can move and my shutter can flash!

I didn't realize I had the above photo (enlarge) until I was home and sorting through/cataloging the over 400 shots I took on Kona. Just once I must have been a little faster with the reflexes then I thought.

The turtle swam up and down the little channel between the lava rocks. It was grazing and pretty much let the gentle waves determine where it was going to eat and which way it was going to face.

The tide was coming in, and along with it, more honu, however the deepening water made them more difficult to watch. We decided to move on in to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and look at the replica of the ancient Hawaiian sacred village which was the home of generations of priests and kings. As we moved through the park we came to a sandy beach.

Approaching the beach, O'Ceallaigh -- who was reading the guide map from the visitor's center -- told me to look for sunning turtles. Once again I told him there was nothing to be seen but rocks.

Then we got a bit closer ...

And closer -- though it is illegal to come within 15 feet of a green sea turtle, so this last bit of close was done with the telephoto lens.

If you'd like to get closer to this fella, click here.


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