The gift was from my son Erik and his wife Katie. They had just been to the Big Island of Hawaii and knew that I was enamored with all the fun outdoor activities they did on their trip. “This check is for you to pick your own special adventure,” they explained.
I spent hours researching snorkeling tours, kayak trips, sunset cocktail cruises and other ideas, eager to pick just the right one. Finally I settled on a kayak trip to explore sea caves. I was excited about the idea, knowing it was something I couldn’t do on my own and would be unique to this locale. Yet I just couldn’t make myself book the tour.
It was the High Surf warnings that haunted me. Easily prone to seasickness, I despaired that being tossed around in the high seas would unsettle me, and leave me heaving over the side of my kayak. The tour guidelines included children down to age five, and I tried to reason with myself. If a five year old can do this, surely I can? But those waves…
As our remaining days on the island dwindled, it became a now or never deal. I poured way too much nervous energy into my deliberations until Rich, tired of this game, gave me a giant shove. “Just book it, Molly. You’ll be fine.” So I did.
The day dawned sunny and I tried to convince myself the ocean was a bit calmer. Rich delivered me to the dock to meet my tour at 9:00am, and I took heart in the variety of fitness levels of the eight other participants. If they can do it, I can, I repeated. Our guide Jasmine oozed confidence and experience along with her associate Lila, as they gave us instructions for getting in the water and launching our kayaks. It was a stroke of luck that I was the odd person out, and given a single kayak to pilot – much to my glee.
We started out in the narrow calm bay forming a flotilla while Jasmine briefed us on the safety protocols and plans for our outing. Kim announced that she had her cell phone and would happily take photos. Having left mine behind (no more floating treasures for me, thank you) I happily added my phone number to her list to text the pictures. With that, we launched.
As we left the bay, the water became wavier and more turbulent, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The paddling and excitement was enough to keep my stomach calm, and I eagerly glided along the coast with the group. Reaching an inlet, Jessica waited for the kayaks to regroup, and we floated gently on the lightly rolling seas. Before we had time to proceed, movement in the water caught her attention.
“It’s a humpback whale!” she shouted. “We’re going to follow it!”
Sure enough, we could see spouting water and whale backs surfacing as they swam, close enough to easily recognize, but still in the distance. Before long, Jessica spun her head around and we did the same. “Over there! More whales!” And off we went in that direction.
When the action quieted, Jessica addressed the group. “This is amazing! Do you mind if we totally change our tour, and chase whales instead of going to see the sea caves?”
“No! Let’s do it!” came the resounding response.
As if to validate our choice, three whales swam right in front of us, alternately surfacing and blowing in a line, then flipping their flukes. We could hear the expelling air and they felt almost close enough to touch. Suddenly, Jessica jumped in the water with her face mask. “They swam right underneath us!” she exclaimed. Just the thought of those giant creatures below was thrilling.
The trio of whales stayed close by, swimming in the area. From a little further away, they waved their fins, expressing joy we were told. Jessica jumped in again and reported that she could hear them singing under water! That was enough to get me in the water, and I did hear their faint sounds. Was this really happening?
We continued to see whales throughout the three hours we spent out on the water. Away from the shore it was nearly calm, and we could easily spot them when they broke the surface. One whale even poked his head out of the water, which Jessica told us was called spyhopping.
Throughout all this activity, Kim doggedly snapped photos. This one – her best whale shot – epitomizes the experience!
Gradually the whales moved off and although they never got that close again, just experiencing the activity from a kayak was enough for me.
As we made our way back to shore, the wave action increased again and pummeled the shoreline with its breaking surf. We all had to dig deep to push through the water, sometimes riding the waves sometimes battling.
Once back in the calm bay, I could see Rich at a distance shooting photos as we returned triumphant.
I have Erik and Katie to thank for this grand experience. Without their gift, I am certain I would have given in to my fears and successfully talked my way out of that tour. But I couldn’t let them down. I had to use it for its intended purpose. And boy did I get their money’s worth. It wasn’t just a Hawaiian adventure, it was the adventure of a lifetime!