I expected to see natural wonders when we went to Kaua'i. Natural wonders, in fact, are everywhere if you choose to look closely enough, and there's no real need to go to the middle of the Pacific to find them. Nick, for instance, recently found the most adorable salamander in our yard, and George and I have seen coyotes out our front window. Deer wander freely here, as does a giant snapping turtle. Cranes visit our pond. The neighborhood has played host to a black bear and an escaped rodeo bull.
While we live in suburban Ohio, Kaua'i, an island paradise, offers a somewhat different take on natural wonders. For one thing, it has the Pacific Ocean, which is noticeably absent in Ohio.
So my feeling was that something as big and naturally wonderful as the Pacific Ocean couldn't possibly disappoint. In one very small way, it did.
I expected to see dolphins in the waters off Kaua'i, partly because the Blue Dolphin cruise we took guarantees dolphins. But the dolphins had other plans that Monday morning.
Which reminds me of a funny story. Years ago, mom and I went to the Mystic Seaport aquarium and saw a beluga whale show. The whales responded to touch commands...the trainers would touch their heads in particular ways, and the whales would do tricks. The ledge the trainers stood on gave the whales a place to hide their heads when they didn't want to perform. Mom and I missed the show because the whales were, ahem, noncompliant. Our respect of their right to figuratively flip off their oppressors outweighed our disappointment.
So while I was disappointed not to see dolphins in Kaua'i, I understood.
Swim free, dolphins. Swim free.
I did not expect to see endangered monk seals on Kaua'i, mainly because they are seriously, deeply, frighteningly endangered. Only about 1,100 survive, and their numbers are decreasing. Yet we saw two of them on the beach at our resort.
George snapped this thoughful fella.
I snapped this lovely lady.
I also snapped the informational sign posted about her. If you can't read the side note, it says that she gave birth to a pup on April 23, which was already weaned. K13 definitely needed her rest!
The Kaua'i Monk Seal Watch program does an excellent job of protecting resting seals and educating the public about them. It's much harder to ignore the warning signs and to be disrespectful of the seals' privacy when the seals have individual stories posted on the barricades. The more people know about them, individually and collectively, the easier it is to accept that they have a right to the beaches and waters of Hawaii, too.
Of course, a man was recently convicted for harassing a seal on Rabbit Island, which is a wildlife sanctuary.
We also expected to see sea turtles, although we thought our encounter with them would look more like this:
George even snapped this picture of me floating above the turtle. Don't I look like I want to give it a hug? Not really, because touching them is wrong and I knew it. What the picture can't show is my yelling into the snorkel: "That's a sea turtle!!! I'm two feet away from a SEA TURTLE!!!!"
These pictures were taken as we snorkeled at 'Anini Beach. The water was roughly six feet deep, so just barely over my head as I stood on the tips of my flippers trying desperately to clear my foggy mask to see the sea turtle better.
What amazed me the most was how the turtles completely disregarded us. They could not have cared less that we were so close. They just went about their business of being sea turtles, doh-dee-doh, grazing on bottom plants, surfacing for air, diving again. The smaller of the two turtles kept angling toward me as I scrambled gracelessly to get out of its way and not touch it. My frantic flailing two feet away would have sent fish darting for cover in the coral. A shark might have thought, "Oh, lunch!"
The turtle, however, seemed tolerant and pitying of my poor water skills as it effortlessly navigated the current. Its benign tolerance was the greatest gift I carried away from Kaua'i.
Fish are rather wonderful (not to mention occasionally tasty), and George was able to snap many pictures of them with his little Pentax. These are assorted pictures from 'Anini, our Blue Dolphin cruise, and Lydgate Beach.
|This skinny fish makes the other fish feel fat.|
|He's sort of prehistoric looking, isn't he? Or is it a she?|
|Lydgate Beach wasn't quite as clear as the open reef we snorkeled |
on the cruise or 'Anini bay.
|This fish was my favorite...the yellow-masked|
plaid bluefin. I brought it home with me.
|The scorpionfish at 'Anini...don't mess with this fish!|
|I think this is a Hawaiian Spotted Toby.|
|A sea cucumber|
|Pretty lavender coral|
|Moorish Idols...showing off|
Is that enough? Do you want more fish pictures? 'Cause I have plenty. Really? You've seen enough? Oh good. I'm getting tired.
My point is, the wonders of nature under the sea and resting on the beaches of Kaua'i are worth the long flight to the middle of the Pacific, whether you get to see whales and dolphins or not. When you go to nature, you never know what you'll get. Sometimes nature shows up, and sometimes, it has business elsewhere.
If you embrace what does show up (figuratively speaking, of course) and feel gratitude for God's amazing, wonder-filled world and your tiny place in it, an island paradise will deliver the experience of a lifetime.