An early morning surf to start the day for Mike and Chris. They body-boarded in the Banyans beach directly outside our balcony in the early morning sun. They were not alone. The same collection of local surfers were out again, including the same young boy - about ten years old - who is out surfing virtually dawn till dusk every day. Not surprisingly, he is pretty good at it!
Today we were able to make the most of Kona Boys excellent arrangements, whereby a day's equipment hire is for 24 hours, not just the rest of that day. We made an early start and headed South again to Honaunau and the aptly named 'Two Step' Bay.
It's a lovely place.
There are areas of white sand interspersed with shallow tide pools and lots of flat areas of black lava. Over one of these areas, there was indeed an access into the sea consisting of 'Two Steps' into the water. Even better, the steps were covered with a soft, non slippery cushion of mossy wave-washed seaweed. Easy snorkelling access into deep water with a multitude of coral reefs and if possible, more marine life than yesterday!
There was a shallow launching area for the kayak, which was duly launched and Chris and Bill set off for the high seas while the rest of us explored the reefs.
As well as fish there was lots of rock and coral architecture to explore, and in particular a dark imposing coral lined tube, just wide enough to admit the shoulders and flippered feet of an intrepid snorkeller. Or three. Much diving, swimming and go-pro filming followed. Jacques Cousteau, eat your heart out!!
After a while Chris and Bill reappeared with tales of surf and rocky arches and 'snorting cracks'. A kayak crew swap was effected and Kathy and Mike set off for the rocky headland. We were not disappointed. Surf, spray, plumes of white water high into the air above the cliffs were breath taking. The experience was made even more exhilarating by the arrival of a tsunami sized wave at our stern. And then another. This prompted an abrupt decision to cease photography and start paddling. Paddling hard. Paddling hard against the tide and into the surf, until we were safely back inside the bay feeling both shaken and stirred - but safe.
Back in the bay we snorkelled and dived some more, this time on the other side of the rocks, whilst Chris surfed the kayak rather impressively round the rocks and up onto the beach.
Our kayak return time was noon so it was time to load up and drive back towards Kona. Laura and Frank were there to greet, enthuse, advise and unload. What a thoroughly good organisation!
Then we were back home to Banyan Tree for lunch, and for Chris to cycle up to Ironman registration. After some frustrating moments with a leaking inner tube valve or three he set off for Ironman HQ, leaving the rest of us to finish our tea in a leisurely fashion and follow on.
We met up in the Ironman pavilion - a vast selection of high quality triathlon clothing, T shirts and Ironman souvenirs. All pretty good stuff. Lots of great designs incorporating maps of the Hawaiian archipelago over laid with all the competitors names in tiny letters. We then wandered through Kona browsing for running shorts / beach shorts... Lots of choice.
Chris had been offered a free bike service by the Quimtana Roo team and he went to collect his bike and cycle home whilst went on ahead to prepare for our evening's adventure - night snorkelling with Manta Rays.
We needed to be at the harbour with swim kit, towels and spare warm clothes by 5pm.... And with Mike at the wheel we arrived I at 4.59! ( Skidding under the tape at the last minute as usual!)
This was probably one of our most exciting adventures so far! Snorkelling in the dark using lights to attract plankton which in turn attract the Manta Rays - beautiful harmless butterfly like fish with a wingspan of up to 12 feet.
We found our boat, Sunlight on the Water, run by Dave, Leonardo Di Caprio and Captain Josh.
The team then equipped us with fins and wetsuits. (Apologies to Sharky for putting his height incorrectly on the booking form - I see now that 2 metres, 2 centimetres is not the same as 2.2 metres! They were expecting a 7'5" giant rather than Sharky's meagre 6'8" frame. That was an impressive wetsuit - all XXXXL of it! Room for a friend too!!)
With the sun low in the sky we headed north over choppy seas towards an area just off the westernmost point of Big Island, where the Hawaii population 200 Manta Rays are to be found.
As our boat manoeuvred into position to anchor, the sun started to set and as it dropped below the horizon the sky lit up with yellows, golds and reds before the so-called 'green flash' just as it disappeared.
Once stationary, floating pontoons bearing intense blue/white lights underneath, were lowered into the water and, suitably dressed and equipped with glow sticks fastened to the ends of our snorkels we lowered ourselves into the water and floated around the edge of the pontoons like petals radiating out of a flower. Heads in the water and a breathtaking and eerie sight.... Blue lights illuminating the ocean floor, a shoal of small fish swimming near the surface and gliding into view below us... a Manta Ray. It swam upwards towards us, mouth open, then turned an effortless and graceful backward somersault to reveal its gills and bright white under surface and long thin white tail. So beautiful and so graceful, absolutely bewitching and breathtaking. Then it did the same again, and again. After it swam away another and another appeared, sometimes as many as five were performing their graceful dance together, all in silence. Unspeakably wonderful.
Of course when admiring something beautiful, one would usually turn to a companion to pass enthusiastic comments. Wearing a snorkel and mask, swimming face down in the ocean in the dark makes this tricky, so we resorted to making excited little squeaks through our snorkels or squeezing each other's arms!
After an amazing 45 minutes or so we climbed back into the boat two-by-two and stood under the hot shower as Leonardo removed our Dave removed our wet suits and handed out drinks and snacks as we wrapped ourselves in towels and jumpers.
josh the Captain then announced that he was going to turn off the lights and drive us home. He then put on a peculiar pair of spectacles, plunged us into inky darkness, opened the throttle and the boat surged forward in the direction of Kona. It was an exhilarating feeling as we roared through the darkness with the wind in our hair. The engines flowed s little as we passed the green starboard light at the harbour entrance and we motored steadily back to our berth.
What an experience. Feeling very windswept we drive back into town and to Bubba Gump's Shrimp House for a supper of... shrimp. Coconut shrimp, Shrimp and veggie skewers, teriyaki Shrimp, tempura Shrimp... All delicious and all served with a cold beer on a deck overlooking the ocean.
Plans for the morrow were discussed and agreed - a restful Volcano driving tour for Chris, now winding down ready for the race on Saturday - and another early night followed.