On a sweltering morning at my grandmother’s house in Honolulu, Hawaii, I drowsily clambered from my bed at the sound of my father’s voice. It was early, and the perfect time for my first low-tide wading through shark-infested waters to Chinaman’s Hat Island, or Mokolii, in Kane'ohe Bay. Barely clinging to consciousness, I sleepily got dressed, wolfed down breakfast, and crawled into the car.
Minutes later, we were poised, isolated, on the reserved shores across from the obscure, peculiar island. Wading into the frigid water, we began our journey forward. Carefully, we waded past a barrier set up about fifteen feet from the shore. Once away from the shore, the reef plunged to about eight feet.“The water is a lot deeper than it used to be,” my dad mentioned, hardly disconcerted, yet foreshadowing the gruesome trouble ahead of us.
Slowly, we made progress, wading cautiously through the water and over the reef. The boogie board which carried our cameras was soon burdened by our reef shoes, as the water was too deep and the bottom too obscure to walk. Fortunately, the water remained as peaceful as before.
Suddenly, I felt a bizarre sensation in my ankle, as though a piece of seaweed had anchored itself to me. Flabbergasted, I paddled away as rapidly as possible. Within seconds, I felt an acute pain across both my ankles, as though I had been slashed with a whip. I howled wildly in surprise, glancing backwards to inspect the water for some indication of a defining culprit.
“What was that?” I shrieked to my dad in hysterical panic.
“That was probably a man-of-war, a Pa'imalau,” chuckled my dad, amused.
But neither of us was amused as we discovered more of the creatures, their iridescent purple-and-blue bubble sails hovering on the surface and their undetectable tentacles dangling ominously below the surface. Times had changed since the last time my father had visited the island, as the waters were now infested with the hostile creatures.
After much agony and misery, we reached the border of the island. However, the Pa‘imalau were the least of our worries at this point. A tenacious current had heaved us toward a cove near the shore, and soon, we were dragged towards a bevy of ominous, dark boulders jutting from the turbulent water. My father narrowly escaped being slammed into them by the forceful surge, and made it safely to shore. Unfortunately, I did not meet the same fate, and soon the obstinate waves launched both our boogie board and me against a massive boulder protruding from the surface. Our disadvantageous possessions tumbled off the board, and I scrambled about, trying to gather them from the tempestuous water. Furiously, I grappled with all my might for the shore, clashing against the dilapidating waves. After many endeavors, I broke away from the grasp of the current, and cautiously waded towards my dad, who wrenched me, exhausted, from the water.
However, through all the trouble we faced during our surprisingly memorable adventure, we soon found the cryptic treasures of the island to surpass our troubles. The swelling, cuts, panting, and struggle were worth every bit. We ambled about each crevice of the island, discovering magnificent tide pools untouched by human destruction and filled with fascinating creatures. Sea crabs, hermit crabs, and tropical fish darted about in the miniature aquariums. The view was dumbfounding, and the island provided a peaceful getaway from Honolulu. Although we encountered Pa‘imalau, were whisked away by the current, and risked confrontation by other predators in the waters, the result was worth all the labor of our eventful excursion.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.