Friday, July 16, 2010

Check Out the Seahorses!

Today we went kayaking across Kealakekua Bay to the Captain Cook monument, which, interestingly enough, is on British soil even though the Hawaiian Islands are part of the United States. The monument (actually a plaque nearby it) marks the spot where the native Islanders murdered the Captain once they figured out he was not the god Lono as they'd originally thought. Also of interest along the cliffs were all the small caves where the bones of the ali'i, or the island royalty, were buried. Apparently what they would do is lower a man on a rope to the caves, where he would pick one and secret the bones. Then he'd call up that the bones were hidden. The ones at the top would then cut the rope and the man would fall to his death.

It was considered a great honor to be sacrificed in this way, protecting the burial place of a king or queen.

The waters around the monument are an ocean refuge because of the coral reef, the fish, the sea turtles, and dolphins. Consequently there were many snorkelers, and I thought we did very well to not bean one of them accidentally with a paddle.

Kayaking in the ocean is not as treacherous sounding as you may think, even though it was my first time kayaking. Actually, the hardest thing was getting into the darn boat without capsizing it. I succeeded in capsizing not the kayak, but myself. Into the water I slipped with a splash, grazing my back on some rocks, much to the amusement of the locals and the other tourists in line awaiting their turn.

But there in the water near me floated a shoe lost by a little girl, so I snatched it up and swam over to her with it. Ha! Suddenly the fat haole girl who fell in the water was a heroine.

The highlight of the day, though, was going to the Ocean Rider seahorse farm, where seahorses are bred in captivity for research purposes and to sell to hobbyists and aquariums so that wild seahorses not be caught for pet stores to sell, thus depleting the oceans of them. It was a cool experience to see how they're fed, bred, and grown, acclimating them to aquarium life so that they don't get attached to a single mate. (The wild ones die in captivity if a mate dies; they grieve, stressed, and starve themselves to death.)

Here is video of some of them swimming around:

The other, very interesting, thing to learn about seahorses is that not only do they mate for life in the wild, but it's the males who get pregnant, carry the babies, and give birth. They give birth to about 600 tiny babies; then the male has about a minute of rest, and the female will do the "tail dance" with him and impregnate him all over again. What a trip.

At the end of the tour, we were all given the opportunity to hold a seahorse for a moment if we wanted. Now you KNOW this Tigger isn't going to pass up a chance like that! So we were directed to touch our fingertips together and hold very still while one of the guides draped a seahorse into our palms. Mine was a shy little female who
was soft and slippery (I'd say something crude here, but I guess I won't.)

Anyway, on the way home, I stopped long enough to snap a quick photo of all the beautiful blooms lining the road. Kona is truly a tropical paradise. It will be hard to leave here.

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