Take the time to rediscover Hanauma Bay
A BUMPER sticker on the back of my car says, "Honk if you love Horatio Hornblower."
So when drivers behind me honk, smile and wave, I assume they too are fans of that fictional sailor.
Last Saturday, though, the waving and honking on Kalanianaole Highway turned out to be friends driving to Hanauma Bay. "Join us," Tim said when I called his cell phone.
I had excuses why I couldn't go -- no swimming suit, no snorkeling gear, stuff to do. Tim, however, had a solution to each obstacle, and soon the four of us were standing in line to see Hanauma Bay's mandatory movie.
The 10-minute film explains the geology of the bay and its human history. In addition, viewers learn how to treat the marine life there and how to stay safe in the water.
You can skip the movie if you've seen it within the last year, but we residents are there so often with visitors, we see it over and over.
YOU'LL NOT hear me complaining. There's a view of the bay to die for while waiting to get into the theater. And once inside, watching masses of people learn about coral reefs should warm the heart of any environmentally conscious resident. It certainly warms mine.
The Kona winds that blew last weekend made our island hot and muggy, but they had an upside, too: They made Hanauma Bay's water as smooth and clear as it gets. Wearing my shorts and Tim's rash guard shirt, I rented snorkeling gear (a reasonable $5) and plunged in with Tim and his Ohio relatives.
I love snorkeling with novices. They make me notice creatures I often take for granted, and also ask questions I can answer.
We saw several kinds of goatfish cruising along the bottom, their two chin whiskers working like little eggbeaters in the sand. All goatfish have these whiskerlike organs, called barbels, which bear the fishes' taste buds.
The sand-whipping is the goatfishes' way of tasting the sand for the presence of worms, snails and other hidden invertebrates.
ANOTHER COMMON fish I was asked about was a big, fat pufferfish that paddled past us fearlessly.
These fish aren't afraid of us, or other predators, because they're masters of defense. Even big fish don't pursue pufferfish, because when alarmed they fill themselves with water and become bristly balloons too big to swallow.
If that doesn't defeat a predator, the deadly toxin in pufferfish spines, skin and organs does. The poison, tetrodotoxin, is one of the most deadly in nature.
Still, pufferfish is a delicacy in Japan. Fans of this fish dish say the small amount of poison left in the specially prepared flesh produces a feeling of euphoria. My doctor friend, however, jokes that people feel good after eating it because they're so happy to still be alive.
Since Hanauma Bay is in our own back yard, it's easy to find faults with it or even forget it's there. This jewel of a marine park, however, is among the best in the world, and I'm going to stop there more often.
Honk if you're going to Hanauma Bay.