Monday, April 23, 2012

Kauhako Bay (Ho'okena): swimming with the dolphins

19° 22.630'N 155° 53.825'W

I motored in light wind from Honomalino to Kauhako Bay.  The cruising guide gave a GPS waypoint for an anchorage location which I motored to.  I liked the position although I thought it was too close to the rock wall for my comfort so I moved over some and anchored.  I dove on my anchor found the sand patch I anchored in was extensive - you could fit several boats here easily.  During my four day stay I again did not see any other sailboats.  The anchorage was empty when I arrived and I was the only boat there for the entire stay.

After Honomalino Bay this bay was busier - there were people and occupied houses on shore.  There is a campground on shore behind the beach with room for 8 or so tents, maybe half occupied.  There is a small village here, although no shops or restaurants.  There is a small non-profit tent which sells a few touristy items as well as microwaved cheeseburgers or burritos.  This was not exactly the food I was seeking, but as it was all there was on offer I had lunch on shore a few days in a row - enjoying that someone else was making my lunch, not me.  There is an open air fresh water shower on shore, although you can't use soap as the water drains directly onto the beach.  You can also drop off garbage which was handy.

The boat was anchored close enough to shore for me to swim in again.  When I got there I looked at the shore evaluating it for a dingy landing and thought that it was doable but that it might get messy.  There was a 3' swell rolling into the anchorage the whole time I stayed there.  The spot my cruising guide recommended for the dingy was beside the old wharf (only the pilings remain.)  This spot had some rocks which the swell was breaking on which made it tricky.  The beach on the extreme east side has no rocks but has the largest waves - this might have been the place I landed the dingy if I needed to.  Its where I swam into and from.

The biggest attraction in this bay ended up being the dolphins, they are simply amazing.  Either the pod I met in Honomalino Bay followed me up here, or an identical pod was resident here, but there were 16 or so dolphins here each morning, swimming slowly around.  There was a small sign on shore explaining that spinner dolphins feed at night and rest during the day.  They find small shallow bays like this one to swim around slowly and rest.  Every now and then they will take off in some direction, checking something out and you can get a sense of how fast they can move when they want to.  Their slow swim around the anchorage is definitely a resting state for them.

Each morning a few people would swim out from shore and watch the dolphins at rest.  The dolphins do not seem to mind our being here.  The anchorage I was in was quite large and the dolphins would swim slowly in circles but would continually come back to us.  You could see them looking at us as they passed by.

Some of the people from shore would bring out large leaves, about six inches in diameter for the 'leaf game' with the dolphins.  The leaves would be left underwater, a few of them scattered around.  When the dolphins see them they come over and pick them up.  By 'pick them up' I mean they swim by and hit the leaf in the middle with their fin.  The leaf is then pressed against the fin by the water pressure and the dolphin can swim along 'wearing' the leaf.  They would often adjust the position of the leaf on the fin once it was picked up by making small movements.  I could only figure out two moves in the game.  The second move they would do would be to pick up the leaf with one of their forward fins, adjust it properly, and then drop it back to their tail fin.  This is a pretty tricky move and I saw it successfully accomplished many times, only missing a few attempts.  When one dolphin was done with their leaf they would drop it off and another dolphin would pick it up - perhaps circling around behind the pod to go back and pick the leaf up.

One time I was watching the game being played and I laughed into my snorkel, underwater.  Upon hearing the laugh a few of the dolphins came closer to me to investigate.  I made a few more talking noises under water and they replied with a few squeaks of their own.  It was a pretty amazing experience. Swimming with the dolphins.  Wow.

There was no AT&T coverage in this bay, so no email or internet.

I left Kauhako on April 26th heading toward Kauhako Bay, more on that soon.

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