Thursday 15 December 2016

RIP, Olympus Tough

Last night's passage was fortunately less lively than we'd be warned it might be - though it was still pretty bouncy and most of us spent some time awake in the darkness braced against being flung out of bed. Now we're at the Big Island (so called because its official name is also Hawaii, and it's twice as big as all the other islands put together).
We began the day by kayaking with Mitch along the coast, where the lava flows are even more dramatic than on Maui, with huge shattered boulders a picture of frozen violence, and lots of caves, some of which we ducked into. My partner today was Dave, who shared the paddling much better than Tom, I'm glad to say. He even, gallantly, took charge of propulsion while I snapped away with my trusty little Olympus Tough waterproof camera - in blissful ignorance of the fact that, within the hour, I would leap with it into the water for a swim off the back of the Safari Explorer, having forgotten to shut the cable cover, and thereby kill it by drowning. Sigh. (All subsequent underwater photos supplied by Dai Mar.)
The pattern was different today: lunch was lighter, and after some down-time (during which some of the gamer passengers tried SUP in less than ideal conditions, generously supplying the rest of us with exactly the shots we were hoping for) we assembled again for a very early dinner of Caesar salad at 4.30pm. That was followed by a presentation by Ian, a manta ray expert who, impossibly, was even more enthusiastic about his pet subject than Dai Mar. Using Blanca, a ray hand puppet, he taught us more about mantas than we had ever imagined knowing, and got us whipped up into a fine frenzy about swimming with them tonight. We had a 90% chance of seeing one, he told us - but, "like a nightclub in Vegas" they could touch us, but not vice versa.

We got all togged up in wetsuits and goggles (UnCruise is very well equipped and organised for all this kind of thing) and buzzed out into the bay where the 'campfire' had been lit: underwater lights to attract the plankton the rays hoover up. It was a smooth operation: we hung onto surf boards that also had lights, and were towed into place. Nothing happened for a while, apart from lots of glittering Hawaiian flagtail fish flicking about, and divers creeping along the sea floor about four metres below, their bubbles fizzing up around us like silver baubles.

Then a ray came swooping into sight, over the light, around and back - and then he was gone. Honestly? It was a bit disappointing. But of course that's nature for you, and at least we weren't one of the 10%. And later, after a hot shower and over our belated dessert at the bar, we all agreed we would rather have had that glimpse than stay on the boat and see nothing.

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