Becoming a Believer - Page 3
THE PRIVATE ISLE
We are aboard one of PADI Gold Palm Trilogy Excursions' dive boats and cross the Au'Au Channel toward an island whose main draw is the tantalizing illusion of splendid isolation: Lanai. The evening before we'd watched the sun settle for the night behind this nearby island in a tranquil hush of orange light. But each day as the sun passes overhead, we're told, beams of light gather in volcanic undersea cathedrals. They slip through the holes and cracks in the 20-foot-high lava grottos and passageways that make up First Cathedral and are forced to spend the day at play, dancing, darting and fluttering in vain attempts to find their way back out.
When we actually descend into the 100-foot-long main chamber of First Cathedral, a whitetip reef shark, startled by another diver, wends its way in and out of the forest of lightbeams like an otherworldly monk headed to prayers.
I've spent a fair amount of time in and out of what seems like hundreds of churches in my travels throughout Europe, and none has the majesty or instills a sense of awe like this place. Each opening in the ceiling reveals a wash of blue that mimics a stained-glass window. I look at Andrew, and he's just hovering in the water column trying to take in the entirety of the atmosphere. Neither of us is too religiously inclined, but the place fills us with wonder nonetheless.
We gather our senses for a dive on Second Cathedral. Even though it's numbered second, its main chamber is even larger than First Cathedral's. As we sweep our dive lights through the dark edges and shadows, we realize the place is chock-full of shrimp and other invertebrate life. In places the ceiling practically ignites with burning bushes of orange tubastrea corals. Pyramid butterflyfish flitter outside the main opening of the cavern, and we spot about a dozen tiger cowries hidden away in the nooks and crannies.
During the trip we come back to Lanai twice more with PADI resort Ed Robinson's Dive Adventures. For our first dive, we're dropped off at a set of pinnacles and lava arches called the Pyramids. This is Andrew's favorite Maui dive, and even though I like to give him grief about how easily he gets fixated on things, I don't put up an argument when he asks to dive the site twice more – and neither do the other divers.
It's called the Pyramids because of the massive packs of pyramid butterflyfish that gather over the pinnacles, but it's also a place for treasure hunters. We find viper and snowflake morays, cowries, clown crabs and some of Hawaii's most fearless and blasé- about-divers whitetip reef sharks. Snapper and barracuda are constant companions, green sea turtles keep trying to use Andrew's head as a landing beacon, and we have a lovely visit from a passing spotted eagle ray.
THE FIVE GRAVES
Not too many nonlocal divers make the trip to Five Graves, but since I have an affinity for sea turtles, the next morning we drive to Makena, about three miles south of Kihei. There's a small graveyard on the way to Makena Landing, which gives the entry point its name. Other than the shore entry, there's nothing too spooky about the site, unless you're afraid of green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, piles of (well-fed) reef fish and sleepy whitetip reef sharks – all of which are waiting for us.
We get out just as the surf picks up, shower at the landing and decide to head back to the road to Hana. We have some unfinished business there, and feeling like the spirit of Maui is a bit more cooperative, I once again take the keys from Andrew (who grumbles), and we set off on a Bamboo Forest quest.
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