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Snorkeling With Sea Snakes and Moray Eels

Snorkeling Hawaii

Fear in the Water

by Richard Speights

When I 
first lived in Hawaii, my house was right on the beach. I wanted to really enjoy the ocean and gave surfing the ol’ college try. But when the waves dragged me over the reefs I quickly tired of that particular form of fun. Here’s a hint for men with hairy chests. Wear a tee shirt on waxed boards or else you will leave some hair behind when you get to your feet. Also, the wax clings to your chest in little clumps, impossible to get off without a lot of pain--a lot of pain. In addition to that pain, I suffered sinus problems at the time, and holding my head up while paddling a surfboard with saltwater filling my sinus cavities caused some nasty headaches.

Okay, so surfing was not for me, but I love snorkeling and decided to explore the reefs that had torn me up so badly. The shallow reefs around the islands teem with plants and creatures. From the beach, the ocean looks rather barren. Through a scuba mask underwater, the sea is alive.

The water was just deep enough to float me, and I pulled myself along by the rocks. I came up onto a rise in the reef and pulled myself over it. On the other side, I came face to face with what looked like a brightly colored eel. Surprised, I pushed myself back to the other side. I then remembered a documentary on sea snakes, which looked just like that colorful eel. Furthermore, the documentary said sea snakes were the deadliest snakes in the world. I began to worry a little.

Suddenly, this creature zipped over that rise in the coral and rushed my mask. He must have seen himself in the reflection and came to investigate. Whatever his motivation, he caught me contemplating death by sea snake.

I burst from the water onto my feet, still in the swim fins, and ran screaming to the shore. There was no time to take off the mask, so I wasn’t really screaming but trumpeting through the snorkel. Three Polynesian Hawaiians were sitting on the beach. They rolled in the sand laughing. I still don’t know if that were a sea snake or an eel. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it was, it didn’t get me.

Later, my wife and I snorkeled Shark’s Cove, less than a mile north of Waimea Bay. The water is about fifteen to twenty feet deep, with rocky ledges where hundreds of fish and other sea creatures darted in and out of the cracks and caves. I noticed a moray eel near the bottom of the rock wall about ten feet down lurking in and out of a hole. These eels are ugly, especially as they rhythmically open and close toothy mouths when resting.

I thought my wife would like to see and got her attention, pointing down. She looked but saw nothing and gestured “What?” I pointed more dramatically, and she still didn’t see. About the third time I pointed, her head snapped forward, and then she was off. I tried to grab her, but it was too late. She was already well on her way to the shore, creating a nice sized wake. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t talk her back into the water. That’s not what I had in mind, but I can only imagine what would have happened if that eel had rushed up and bonked her mask. She might have left the water like a sub launched ICBM.



Images Photoshoped from Google Sat Maps

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