One should never snorkel alone – but what do you do if you don’t have anybody with whom to snorkel? Give up? That is not in my make-up! So I did it on my own. Usually I didn’t swim too far from the beach but this time I swam straight out towards the horizon. I knew there was a reef across the bay and the sharks were on the other side of it. Looking around I did not see a single colorful fish. I was always looking for the Humu humu nuku nuku apua’a, the Hawaiian Statefish. I loved the coloring, the design as if a young child had painted it. Lots of corals and seaweed were under me here in the Anaeho’omalu Bay and it looked rather dark. I just kept my face down, hoping to see something and kept on swimming.
You know the sixth sense you have when someone watches you? I definitely had that sensation and looked to my left. I remembered that once on Cuba people were waving and screaming from the beach at me and when I looked around a Barracuda, about two thirds of my body length was swimming next to me. The waters on Cuba are very clear and I was not too far from the beach. I kept my cool and did not make any hasty movements and after a few more meters the huge creature turned away. But now, onthe Big Island of Hawaii, with all the darkness beneath me, it was different. When I looked to the right I was so shocked that I let go of my mouth piece and swallowed water. A small head on a long neck sticking out from a plated body was turned directly towards me, observing me with large slanted bulging eyes. It was a rather large “Green Turtle”. The Hawaiians call it ‘hona’. I was treading water and tried to get my breathing under control again while the turtle waited next to me. It then started to swim a few strokes, waited, looked back at me as if to say “come on…” and when I tried to turn around it kind of coaxed me to keep swimming next to it. I knew they were not dangerous, so I did what it seemed to suggest to me. After maybe another fifty meters it veered to the left. There was a great big light spot in the sea, lit up by the sun. Coming closer I was surprised to see a huge circular pit with light sand probably about thirty meters wide and quite deep. With the seaweed earlier I had no idea how deep the ocean under me was, – but this was an incredible sight. The sunlight was filtering down and the movement of the sea caused changing shapes and shadows just like an enormous kaleidoscope.
My turtle stopped a moment beside me as if enjoying my surprise, looked me in the eye and then swiftly descended for just a few seconds, came back up clearly inviting me to come down visiting with its family. I counted thirteen turtles, – five of them very large and the others all of different sizes, even some small ones. Growing children, I thought. They seemed to congregate in groups of three or four. I couldn’t help staring down at all this beauty for a couple of minutes before I felt a shiver and realized I had to get back. But now I knew what my friend had been up to. It had a purpose for accompanying me; it wanted me to see this little wonder in the middle of the dark ocean. I watched it while it joined a group of three its own size and one smaller one. Another shiver went through me and I turned and started to swim back towards the beach.
I hoped to get a bit warmer by swimming with strong strokes but I soon realized I was in trouble. I half expected my turtle friend to come back and help me on my return but that did not happen. A few times I was ready to give up. I was awfully cold and tired. Hypothermia, my brain registered. I knew my friend Elsa was at the beach waiting for me and was probably already worried. The beach was much farther away than I had realized swimming out. I had been too curious about what the turtle next to me wanted from me. I had seen a small paradise but it could have cost me my life. The last few meters walking to the beach with my flippers in my hands were almost too much. I fell onto the sand, Elsa was there with a big towel, she covered me and I immediately went to sleep. She and six other people stood around me when they woke me after two hours. I was lucky the sand and sun had been warm.
It was an incredible experience but I should warn you: Do not, under any circumstances, swim or snorkel too far from shore. Remember you need more strength for the return since your body temperature has gone down. It just makes you so very tired and it would be too easy to just give up. I have a very strong will to live. This was not the first time I just made it.