We have just recovered gear from our third site (out of four) on Maui, and are falling in love with this island all over again. It is so striking how different each of the Hawaiian Islands is from one another, both above and below water. Our previous stay on Maui was focused in Lahaina, which is one of the main tourist centers. This time we are visiting much more of the island and finding all kinds of fascinating and wonderful things.
Maui doesn’t have free range chickens in the same numbers as Kauai, but there are a few. It boasts many other introduced land critters that run wild including goats and mongoose. We visited the most recent lava flow (~1790) which terminates at La Perouse Bayfor our second dive site, and found a stark, mostly black landscape. However, continue driving down the road and the sides of the large volcano are becoming steeply eroded into dramatic valleys, just like those that we hiked through on Oahu and Kauai.
The highest peak here is Haleakala Crater, which is 10,033 feet at the summit. We spent a pleasant evening at the top, warmly ensconced in many layers of fleece, with a picnic. We watched the sunset over the clouds and stayed around to see the sky change colors from light pink to orange to dramatic red and purple… and finally dark dark blue. The subsequent star show was incredible.
The water is bluer here and the visibility is an improvement over Kauai, although this could be entirely due to the weather. We are finding more coral, and more invertebrates are popping up on our overnight time lapse cameras too. The number of turtles here is very high – we jokingly refer to one bay we visited as “turtle dumptruck bay”. There are so many turtles in such a small location that at times it seems that they had been dumped in the water there!
When we visited most recently the water was rather murky, but we still enjoyed the experience with our friend and UCSD supercomputer guru John Helly.
Each of our dive sites has had its own unique attributes. The first, Kahekili, is a site regularly visited by Scripps graduate students, and some of our friends have long term experiments running there. It was fun to leave our equipment next to theirs for a few days! Last time we visited this site we were shown an unusual individual – a giant frogfish. Extremely hard to make out due to their almost perfect camouflage, the frog eluded us on this visit (although we know he’s there – divers see him year round in the same approximate location).
Our second site was at the end of the lava field, and had black sand with young, healthy looking corals and a huge array of fish. A large number of peacock grouper (‘Roi’ in Hawaiian) were seen, as was a large triton conch. The conch was a good sign – they are usually quickly taken as the shells are worth hundreds in the tourist trade. A large milkfish – about a metre long – came by to inspect our work.
The third site, Maliko bay on the north side, is in one of the only bays sheltered from the ripping trade winds that draw windsurfers and kiters from around the world to the north shore. Maliko bay is a little west of a famous surf location – a reef break known as ‘Jaws‘, which is said to break only when the swell is larger than 5 metres. Luckily for us it has been calm on the north side the last few days! A sign by a boat ramp proudly proclaims that the area is part of the “People’s Reclaimed Republic of Hawaii”, drawing attention to the United State’s overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and the desire of some of the locals to create a new country. We were a little nervous about working here, but everyone we talked to was extremely friendly and curious about what we were doing. They only seemed a little disappointed that we didn’t exit the water with bags full of fish and lobsters to share!
We checked out our fourth site today, a remote southeast location called Nu’u bay. It is a long and somewhat arduous road to get there, but the views and isolation are completely worth it. A narrow band of asphalt winds along the lower reaches of Haleakala, with black cliffs cascading into blue sea on the other side.
Eventually the road turns to patchwork and finally dirt, then we go through a gate (which is never locked), navigate a rocky trail, and walk the rest of the way down to the beach. The water seems extremely clear and the dramatic lava rock formations on shore appear to continue underwater. We are both so excited to get in the water here tomorrow and see what this isolated little bay has inside.
In addition to hosting a sizable group of Hawaiian Nation advocates, there are some notable names that have taken up residence nearby. We hear that Jean-Michel Cousteau comes around periodically to snorkel and check out the reefs. Alice Cooper runs a nightly radio show on one of the local stations and somebody from Fleetwood Mac runs a tavern named “Fleetwoods” in town. Although Maui is more developed than Kauai, it still seems to be a haven for the well-heeled.