Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Fun Dive with Frogfish and Turtles: Maui

Frogfish Camouflage
  I've been so busy the last week and a half working my new gig as expedition leader on the Un-Cruise Hawaii itinerary that I have just now gotten around to going through some of my last dive photos from my week in Maui. I took my friend Jackie out for a stellar dive at one of my favorite spots, 5 Graves, off the South Maui coastline.

   I was pretty shocked that I didn't find any nudibranchs, usually it is a hotspot for those marine treasures, but we lucked out with two great frogfish sightings. It was funny watching Jackie shake her head, telling me she doesn't see what I am point at, until the last second when she separates the camouflaging frogfish from its environment. We see frogfish in all colors and sizes here in Hawaii, but these two were particularly beautiful. Since they trust their camouflaging ability so much they let me get very close in for a couple of good shots.

   The rest of the dive we focused on the charismatic megafauna that frequent the area, Hawaiian green sea turtles. We saw close to a dozen different turtles. Most of the turtles were dozing in underwater caves found in the lava rock underbelly of this dive site, but some were out hanging at the surface and swimming around on the hunt for algae. One turtle seemed to be determined to swim at it's own slow pace so I had Jackie swim next to it while snapping a couple of quick photos before letting it head off to an unknown destination.

Jackie and her green sea turtle

Is she trying to high five the turtle?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Top of Africa to Top of Maui

Hossmer's Grove
  With a powerful rental car hugging the windy road, and Nate and Kelly in tow with the wine and crackers, we sped up the road to the roof of Maui, the 10,023ft summit of Haleakala Volcano. It was late afternoon already and we wanted to get there in time to see the sunset. We ended up getting there rather quickly so we had time to stop for a few pictures on the way, plus a quick nature loop trail as Hossmer's Grove to find the rare endemic I'iwi, or scarlet honeycreeper.

Sunset behind the Telescopes
    When we got to the summit I was pleased to find no snow or freezing rain and just a little bit of wind. The temperature here often dips below freezing which really messes with your mind since the rest of island is bathed in 80 degree tropical heat year round. Coming up to the volcano has a way to transport you to a distant place far far away.

   We found a little nook out of the wind, cracked open the wine and crackers and sat back to enjoy another beautiful sunset. This place truly is the 'house of the sun.'


Wine and Cheese picnic

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Diving with Turtles and Corie on Maui's West Side

Mala Pier
 The sun was out and the wind was light as usual on Maui's west side. This bode well for a couple of scuba dives that I had planned to show off a bit of the Hawaiian underwater world to my friend Corie. The first spot we hit up was the wreckage of the old Mala pier, just north of Lahaina. This has always been one of my favorite sites to dive for underwater photography. The water here is almost always clear, the wreckage covered in beautiful coral, and charismatic megafauna abounds. 

Bleached Coral Head
 Imagine my surprise when I drop down and the first thing I see isn't clouds of fish, or turtles, or beautiful colors....it is a big vibrant white coral. It had almost entirely bleached. There has been a lot of news surrounding Maui lately with the increase in water temperature leading to mass bleaching events around the island. This happens whenever something like increased water temperature, sedimentation, acidification stresses the coral causing it to expel all of its color giving and food providing commensal algae, called zooxanthellae. If the stress is relieved then the algae can recolonize the coral. That is what I ham hoping happens here. Right now it looks pretty bleak on Maui's reefs but only time will tell.

 After swimming a bit deeper the visibility increased, and the coral looked colorful and healthy. Then we got into the turtles. A couple of young turtles and a few big old guys hung out with us for the rest of the dive. They were all Hawaiian green sea turtles.

 The turtles weren't the only big critters on the reef this dive. Four white tip reef sharks were patrolling the wreckage.

  The second dive we enlisted a team of divers to come along. Nate, Kelly, Ben C., Corie and I all tackled the long walk to Black Rock. We found more turtles and sharks with a few nudibranchs, lionfish, and an octopus to add to Corie's list of Hawaiian undersea critters. Now we will get to share this amazing tropical paradise with lots of people aboard the Safari Explorer.
Diving in Hawaii!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Africa: A Look Back in Pictures

Amazing Animal Encounters 

Incredible Lodges

Great Travel Companions


Interesting Cultural Experiences

Spectacular Scenery

 Amazing Adventures

...and a Very Successful Baseball Season with Baseball 4 Africa