The Big Island was in a dark and sulky mood when Dave and I visited Hawaii in early March. Waves pounded the Kohala Coast and a mix of storm clouds and vog from Kilauea obscured the sun. The warnings were dire. Sneaker waves and riptides made it dangerous to get close to the water.
It didn’t matter much; we had work to do, but on our last day the sky cleared and we walked the shoreline access to Anaeho’omalu Bay. We hurried past the lava ponds eager to reach the rocky beach, hoping to see a turtle or two, but there were none to be found.
No one knows why for sure, but Hawaiian green turtles come on shore (unlike many other sea turtles) to bask in the sun. It may be as simple as the pleasure of a warm nap without the threat of being eaten by a tiger shark.
A well-situated piece of driftwood convinced us to stop hunting for turtles and sit down. Mesmerized by the sunlight on the water it took a moment to realize I was looking at one of the two-hundred pound reptiles. Slow and awkward on land, the turtle or honu, as it is called in Hawaiian, was graceful in the water. bobbing in the waves, occasionally extending its leathery neck above the surface to take a breath of air.
I expected it to disappear quickly, to swim away, but the big turtles don’t move fast, only about a mile per hour. Once they find a good place to eat the sea grass and algae that make up the bulk of their diet, they tend to stay put.
We sat and watched until the sun went down.
On the walk back we saw a handful of surfers legs astride their boards silhouetted against the darkening sky, hoping to catch one more big wave.