The sun shimmered through the crystal waters of Molokini Crater. I floated on my back in peaceful bliss. My dad, brother and I had booked this morning’s snorkeling tour because we were seeking an adventure. The aerial views featured on the Pacific Whale Foundation's brochures were enticing. The half submerged crescent-shaped volcanic crater looked as if a mother's loving embrace fell directly from the sky and into the warmth of the Pacific Ocean. Just off the Maui coast, the crater is 0.4 miles from tip to tip and merely thirty-five feet deep at the crater basin. Excitedly, we boarded the Explorer and watched it heave away from the old, wooden docks.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Avoiding the crowds, we shuffled below deck and claimed a window seat. The Explorer tore through the calm water creating white, foamy waves in our tracks. When we arrived at Molokini, the rays glistened through the glassy water, spotlighting the coral and luminous colors of the fish. The crater was beckoning me, begging me to explore. It was absolutely mesmerizing.
I rushed to grab our snorkeling gear from sun-worn buckets. We waddled like penguins across the slippery surface of the deck. My brother and dad jumped in without hesitation, but I sat on the sand-papery transom steps accustoming myself to the water and taking in the splendor before I joined them. I slipped in, careful not to scrape the bottom of my bathing suit. I ducked my head underwater and suddenly entered a vivid new world.
I quickly recognized the first fish I saw. Throughout my years of visiting the Hawaiian Islands, I knew it was the Humuhumunukunukuapua'a—a delicate sunset-colored fish with a black mask stretching from its eyes to its lower belly, and sudden bursts of blue and red hues that streaked its body. Its paper-thin pectoral fins worked quickly as it propelled away with another flick of the tail.
We swam closer to where the crater's peak broke the surface, majestically soaring over the ocean surface. I saw an amethyst spiked ball move stealthily across the sandy floor: a sea urchin. I knew the spines were poisonous. But, there was something about this urchin that did not belong. Squinting my eyes, I dove closer to take a better look. I snickered when I realized what—stuck to one of the spines was a dollar bill. Haha, I thought, I don't blame whoever lost that for not getting his money back. I looked above me—air bubbles from my underwater giggles slowly danced to the surface.
This underwater realm was filled with bright colored fish of different sizes and shapes. There were some fish that darted past that were no bigger than my pinky. They were content in swimming in circles around these strange human figures invading their territory. It was like they knew that all we wanted to do was catch a glimpse of their secret world.
I swam to my brother and hit him lightly with my flipper. He surfaced and I told him I was going back to get some drinking water. He and my dad followed close behind. Ironically, swimming for a couple hours can make you thirsty like you'd never believe.
Snorkeling near the surface back to the boat and looking down at a variety of marine life, I smiled. This adventure brought me out of my comfort zone and dropped me into the depths of the Pacific. This was yet another example of nature's beauty. I was fortunate to get a glimpse of this natural habitat. This experience was amazing. I hope to be back to swim with the wildlife of Molokini Crater again.
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