The Black Sand Snorkel Sail costs $126 per adult and $63 per child ages 6 to 12. Children ages 5 and under are free.
Commission: 20 percent
I have a theory about snorkeling. We don’t ever see fish walking around on our land, so why should we be splashing around in their neighborhood?
For many years, this theory served as the cornerstone of my slight snorkeling phobia. Instead of being transfixed by the vibrant aquatic plumage of exotic fish and coral, I found myself, more often than not, wishing I could be on the beach with my toes planted firmly in the sand.
Recently, though, I’ve made adjustments to this theory of mine, mostly because of a snorkeling experience with Big Island-based tour operator Ocean Sports.
While boarding Ocean Sports’ 50-foot catamaran, the Sea Smoke, I initially harbored a few trepidations. Within a few minutes, though, those fears dissipated as we left the shore and glided on crystal-blue waters. Even though it was only 8:30 a.m., the sun was already out in full force, and I was eager (and anxious) to arrive at Keawaiki Bay.
Along the way, Captain Will and his crew of three entertained us with stories about previous snorkeling adventures, enticing us with tales of the types of sea creatures we might encounter. They included turtles, dolphins, eels, coral, sea urchins, parrot fish, butterfly fish and octopus, to name a few. We were warned not to touch certain types of urchins and fish, and to be mindful of the delicate coral system beneath us.
While such discussion satisfied our thirst for knowledge about marine life, the staff made sure to whet our appetites. As we headed to the bay, we had our choice of yogurt, fruit juice and pastries.
The Sea Smoke was a fairly spacious vessel, with room for up to 49 passengers. It had a shower and bathroom, plus a full bar serving beer, wine, mai tais and other cocktails.
Some 45 minutes later, we arrived at our destination. I could feel my nerves get the better of me, but I tried to remain optimistic.
Ocean Sports provides snorkeling equipment for guests, including flotation tubes and boogie boards, if desired. Before we started snorkeling, the crew gave us a thorough demonstration of the proper way to put on snorkeling gear. Don’t make it too tight; make sure the snorkel tube is in the right place; breathe only through your mouth.
That’s when I finally realized why I always hated snorkeling before — I was putting on my snorkeling mask the wrong way (too high up, not tight enough) and taking in more sea water than sea sights in the process.
Now that I was properly outfitted, I was actually eager to dive in. Counting from one to three, I plunged head first into the lukewarm waters and finally understood why so many people loved snorkeling.
The coral reefs were so vibrant that I could hardly believe my eyes. The water temperature was just right, and there was barely a wave or current. I spotted jailhouse fish, and a crew member let me hold a sea urchin so I could feel its hundreds of spines move across the palm of my hand. Later, a crew member brought a puffer fish onboard before releasing it back into the watery depths.
By the time our hour and 40 minutes of snorkel time was over, I was sad to leave. Onboard, however, the crew did their best to cheer up the group. We crafted sandwiches from cheese and deli meat, and feasted on green salad, chips, salsa and chocolate-chip cookies. Most guests opted for seconds and thirds.
On the journey back to Waikoloa Beach Resort, we spotted spinner dolphins leaping in the waves, and when we returned, it was only 1 p.m. but it already felt like I had accomplished a full day’s worth of activities.
It’s safe to say that the next time I’m invited on a snorkel adventure, I won’t hesitate to say yes.