Snorkeling with Dolphins and Sea Turtles in Hawaii

sea turtles in hawaiiOn Oahu’s west coast, in a nondescript body of water called Makaha Bay, sea turtles come to take a bath.

Personally, I’ve never given a lot of thought to turtle hygiene. If pressed, I would have thought that turtles swimming in the ocean their entire lives are self-cleaning.

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Snorkeling with Sea Turtles on Oahu

snokeling in Mahaka Bay, OahuIf a boat spends enough time in the water, algae and barnacles begin to grow on its bottom. The same thing happens to sea turtles.

They use their little flippers to scrape off some of the parasites, but they just can’t reach some places on their shells. If you’re a turtle, that’s got to be very annoying, like an itch in the middle of your back that you just can’t scratch.

Fortunately, in the underwater world, there are fish that like to nibble on such yucky stuff. They are called lavender tang and they hang out in Makaha Bay. So that’s one of the places where we went snorkeling and it was FREAKING AWESOME! We could actually see the fish nibbling yuck off of the turtles.

snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii

Our son Brad snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii.

Whales in Hawaii All Year Long

Our trip to Hawaii was in early November and we feared we wouldn’t see any whales. Most of the big humpbacks don’t arrive from their summer in Alaska until December. I should have known better, because there are indeed a number of kinds of whales in Hawaii all year long.

pilot whales near Oahu

This pod of pilot whales played around our catamaran for half an hour. We could almost touch them.

Of course, dolphins also play in the warm waters around Hawaii all year long. We hopped in the ocean near them and hoped they would come our way. We stayed fairly still and just watched them play, trying not to disturb their environment. At times, they were just inches from us.


spinner dolphins in the water of Oahu

Spinner dolphins off the west coast of O’ahu.

sea urchins in the water near Oahu

Kim collected sea urchins from the ocean floor for us to touch, then gently placed them back where they belonged

Our guide was an exceptional young woman named Kim, a marine biologist working on her master’s degree. She made sure we respected the space around the wildlife and shared all sorts of information that, since I didn’t write it down, I forgot immediately.

But the lasting impression of the day is that these are special creatures in a special part of the world. Although some of us may go a lifetime without seeing them in the natural habitat, they are as much of this world as we are. And we are indeed blessed to share the planet with them.

snorkeling with dolphins in hawaii

Update: As of October 2021, the state of Hawaii no longer allows tour operators to offer opportunities to swim with spinner dolphins. These dolphins are most active at night and tend to rest in the daytime hours, when humans are most active. Too much human activity stresses the dolphins. We love our dolphins, so let’s keep them healthy and happy.

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