Ocean Joy Cruises delivers stunning views of sea life. // © 2011 Ko Olina Productions
Ocean Joy Cruises
The Morning Calm Cruise starts at $139 per person. A hot Hawaiian buffet, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, taxes and transportation to and from Waikiki hotels are included in the price. Commission: 30 percent
Suspecting our lurking presence, a Hawaiian green sea turtle jerked its head in our direction and descended toward the sandy ocean floor. The perceptive creature watched on, keeping in close proximity to the rest of the bale, which included an adorable baby turtle. Before long, another sea turtle swam in our direction, making its way to the surface for some fresh air and coming within a distance of three feet from our group. We had only been in the ocean for about 20 minutes and had already taken in an eyeful of underwater sights. Without a doubt, our snorkel excursion along the West Oahu coast was off to a grand start.
We were on Ocean Joy Cruises' Morning Calm Cruise, which departs daily from Ko Olina Resort & Marina. Upon arrival, the staff warmly welcomed us onboard their state-of-the-art power catamaran and encouraged us to dig into a spread of miniature breakfast muffins, yogurt, soft drinks, coffee and tea. The refreshments, however, were a mere precursor to the Hawaiian-style feast -- consisting of teriyaki chicken, kalua pulled pork, macaroni salad, white rice, made-to-order mai tais and a fruit salad prepared with pineapple, cantaloupe and strawberries -- that would be served after a hearty day of sunning and snorkeling.
As we boated alongside the Makua Valley, Yokohama Beach and the Kaena Cliffs, the sun began beaming through the partly cloudy sky. It wasn't long before our captain shifted our attention to the ocean, announcing that a pod of about 75 Hawaiian spinner dolphin was nearing our ship. These particular mammals, he informed us, are among the smallest dolphins in the world, measuring about five feet in length. We watched in awe as the creatures leapt out of the water and spiraled their bodies in mid-air, a feat befitting their name. The captain and crew ensured that everyone had plenty of time to snap photos and take videos of the spectacle before continuing our voyage.
After arriving to our dive spot, we gathered on the foredeck for a 10-minute safety briefing and to collect our snorkel equipment. Everyone, even the most experienced swimmers in the group, donned a bright yellow safety vest (novices could inflate the vest for extra buoyancy). Kickboards and floating devices were on hand for anyone in need, and crew members monitored our group from both the aft deck and in the water.
A highlight for me was when one of the crew discovered a crimson-colored pencil sea urchin with remarkably thick spines. He showed us how to cup the urchin in our hands, and a few of us gave it a try.
Guests on any given Ocean Joy Cruises snorkel tour can also expect to spot a number of tropical fish, including black trigger fish, malolo (flying fish), trumpet fish and, with a little luck, Hawaii's state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa.
What's more, the tour operator guarantees dolphin and/or whale sightings on every Morning Calm cruise, and we weren't disappointed. From swimming with sea turtles in warm ocean water to watching dolphin at play in their natural habitat, our excursion lived up to the expectations and, perhaps, surpassed them.