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Honu Heaven

I was sitting on a lava outcropping focusing my camera on a sea bird when O’Ceallaigh said, “Hon, turn around and look behind you.”

I turned and looked. There was a lady sitting at the edge of the beach with her feet inches above the water. Her two sons stood beside her. “What?” I said. I quickly scanned the rest of the beach and the nearby inlet. “I don’t see anything.” I turned back to my camera.

“Hon, look where the kids are pointing.”

I looked at the lady again. Her kids were on the other side of her. I couldn’t tell if they were pointing or not. I looked down the beach for signs of excitement or gathering crowds. None. “I don’t see anything,” I repeated and turned back to my camera. The bird, picking snails and teeny crabs from the rocks, had moved on. I folded the tripod.

“Look here, in the channel,” O’Ceallaigh sounded a bit more insistent. I stood up, turned around and walked over to him. “Where?” I queried, with just the tiniest hint of impatience in my voice.

O’Ceallaigh pointed, and I saw a rock. The rock moved. I took a step closer. The rock moved again. I fumbled for my camera and tripod.

For the next half hour I sat enthralled, watching Honu graze (for more on the honu, or green sea turtle, see OC’s post). I attempted some video, but it was very disappointing. Only the surface of the water is visible.

My next ordeal was trying to get a good shot of the turtle’s head. Turtles cannot breathe under water. Every five minutes or so they come up for air. Trouble is, they are up and down faster than my finger can move and my shutter can flash!

I didn’t realize I had the above photo (enlarge) until I was home and sorting through/cataloging the over 400 shots I took on Kona. Just once I must have been a little faster with the reflexes then I thought.

The turtle swam up and down the little channel between the lava rocks. It was grazing and pretty much let the gentle waves determine where it was going to eat and which way it was going to face.

The tide was coming in, and along with it, more honu, however the deepening water made them more difficult to watch. We decided to move on in to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and look at the replica of the ancient Hawaiian sacred village which was the home of generations of priests and kings. As we moved through the park (a post for another day) we came to a sandy beach.

Approaching the beach, O’Ceallaigh — who was reading the guide map from the visitor’s center — told me to look for sunning turtles. Once again I told him there was nothing to be seen but rocks.

Then we got a bit closer …

And closer — though it is illegal to come within 15 feet of a green sea turtle, so this last bit of close was done with the telephoto lens.

If you’d like to get closer to this fella, click here.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives on The Big Island in Hawaii. When she is not hanging out with Amoeba, she is likely teaching or sewing. Or she could be cooking, taking photographs, or even writing. But if she's not doing any of that, she's probably on Facebook or tinkering with her blog.


  1. Thanks for popping by my blog again. Please drop me a comment if you ever post the “magical” picture you mentioned – whether or not it turns out – I’m curious and don’t want to miss it. Thanks and enjoy another day in paradise. (And I’ll enjoy it vicariously through your photos!) Aloha.

  2. Aww, sea turtles are cute. I’ve seen some snapper turtles, box and paint turtles but I can’t say I’ve ever seen any sea turtles up close and personal.

  3. Just magnificent. Man, Honu look a lot like sea teatles. I wonder if that’s an adaptation. Do they eat children?

  4. Brian — to my surprise!

    Dr. John — thanks, I am proud of these photos.

    Carolyn — done.

    Polona — thanks. I am happy for me, too!

    Jules — yeah, but I don’t have any hippo photos!

    Shrinky — I do love my spotter. He makes a great tripod, too.

    SN — I never had before. It was a special day.

    Doug — only if the children are made of seaweed. Go read OC’s post!

  5. Are they as big as they look? Looks like you could ride one, but I guess that would be a bit hard if you can’t come within 15 feet of them. Is that for their protection or yours?

    Every picture I see makes me want to visit Hawaii, more and more. About 20 years ago, my Mom got up the courage to fly to Hawaii. Now you have to understand, my Mother does NOT fly. So she must have really wanted to see Hawaii. her only mistake was she went with three other ladies. One was her sister, that was okay, but the other two were from her church, and the one lady felt that she was in charge. So she commandeered the entire trip. Mom wanted to see flowers, and sights, and this lady only wanted to shop, and see the volcanoes. Mom was very disappointed with the trip, by far. But she still enjoyed it, or at least the idea of it. But she would have enjoyed it far better is she had only gone with her sister, and knew someone there who could have given her advice of where to go.

  6. Quilly those are wonderful shots! What a fabulous experience – and to have him swim a channel where you could get shot after shot after shot (x 400!)

    Really well done (and the one who insisted you look!). I love these photos.

    Came over from David’s btw but been around before I’m sure!

  7. Nea — I don’t know your size, but I couldn’t ride one of these. The smallest of the 8 or so we saw had a shell about 20 or so inches long.

    There is no way I would ever go on a holiday with a shopper unless she knew right up frontht at I wouldn’t be joining the group for such nonsense — especially on an island where EVERYTHING is imported and the mark ups are horrid!

    Cath — thanks. We counted — we think — 8 turtles. Only the ones pictured were close enough for photographs.

  8. AWESOME!!! See Quilly? I started at the bottom where I left off! These are GREAT pictures! I bet YOUR smile was even bigger than MINE – which is BACK by the way! 🙂

  9. Melli — at the time I was snapping the photos I think I was in too much awe to smile, though I was definitely joyful! The smile came when I downloaded all the pics!

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