Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And Then There Was Maui

It's official: I'm a fan of a trip to the tropics in January. The thought of making this an annual tradition is extremely appealing, I'm not gonna lie. There's something really satisfying about getting a sunburn in the dead of winter. Though I probably shouldn't have taken another almost full week off of work so soon after being out for an entire week over the holidays, I justified it by viewing it as an indulgent birthday gift to myself. You only turn 30 once, right?

Rach and me at Paia Bay. We'd all gone to Paia for fish tacos and hoped to see some wind surfers in this popular spot, but the wind had picked up too much, and the choppy waves were more than anyone was willing to brave that day.

The change in the weather turned the water and sky a cool gray and green, and the strong winds made for some nice crashing waves.

Very picturesque, no?

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Lahaina, which is apparently the "ghetto" part of the island. The resorts are older, and according to Rachel "ugly." (Old = ugly. Good to know.) On Sunday we went out to Wailea, the not-so-ghetto part of the island to see the sunset and walk the path along the beach behind the stretch of amazing resorts lining that coast. (The Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons are pretty spectacular. Perhaps someday I'll be a guest there, and not just a trespasser. Something to wish for, anyway.)

We got there a little later than planned, so this is about all we caught of the sunset. I'll take it.

On Monday we chartered Captain Steve to take us for some snorkeling/whale watching/dolphin chasing. The snorkeling was pretty ho-hum, frankly. (Snorkeling in Belize has yet to be topped.) But the whale and dolphin sightings were unbelievable.

This was our view as we left the Maui shore to head for Lanai in search of some sea life. They don't call this the Rainbow State for nothing. (And when I say "they," I mean those who, like me, have always thought Hawaii's nickname is the Rainbow State...when it is actually the Aloha State....)

Our fearless captain, whose name was actually Dennis...not Steve, got us right up next to a whale who honored us with a full breach. It looked EXACTLY like this. Unfortunately, it happened so fast that the picture below is actually all I got....

My trigger finger wasn't quite warmed up, I guess. Or my camera likes to take its sweet time focusing before snapping a shot. Either way, I only captured the top of the head and a flipper to document one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed.

After our one whale friend graced us with an impeccable breach, we moved on and found a competitive whale pod which, we learned, is comprised of four or five male humpback whales all competing for one female whale. (Incidentally, this ratio is the opposite of what I encounter in my life.)

At first, we watched the mammoth creatures from a distance, but they soon approached our boat (actually, it was more of a motorized raft, which means we were right next to the water—so close to the whales that it seemed we could have reached out and touched them). We got a nice, close look as they swam just under the surface of the water, showing us their backs as the moved silently past us. Kind of surreal to be so close to that many animals of this size.

Our dolphin sighting topped off an already well-worth-it adventure. We came upon a pod after our snorkel stint and they surrounded our little raft. These pictures don't at all convey how many there actually were. We had probably 25 almost within arm's reach. And we were told that for every one we could see on the surface, there were at least three more below.

Our view of Maui as we headed back from Lanai.