There was something we noticed many people we met on Maui had in common. They had gone to Maui on vacation, fallen in love with the island and cancelled their return ticket. Several of the boat dives we went on had crews that were "formers". Here is how the captain introduced the crew - "This is Kate. She used to teach biology at Georgetown. She is in charge of the lunch counter on board and will be helping with the snorkel gear. This is Chris. He was a trader in Chicago. He is my first mate and is great at maneuvering the boat on rough water. This is Rachel. She was a housewife in San Jose who ran a catering business out of her home. She will be showing you how to use the underwater cameras and making a film of the trip. This is Frank. He was a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic. He now keeps our bathrooms clean and functioning."
As I talked to these people, I found some had been here for a year, some for 5, some for longer. Most of them work several jobs, not always ones they like, just so they can stay on the island, go out on the water and enjoy the beautiful landscape. I asked,"Does anyone ever get tired of this paradise?" Most of them say it never gets old, but they will probably stay another year or so, then move back to the mainland and get on with their real life.
No, Mike and I aren't canceling our ticket home.
This has been an amazing vacation, but I don't want to see it as an escape from real life. I love my life - with all the ups and downs, joy and sorrow, excitement and mundaneness. I want to see this trip as part of my real life. A really amazing, stunningly beautiful, beyond thrilling part of my real life. That way I know I can fit it in again.
So we are done with all the dives. We went snorkeling one last time. It is time to check out of the hotel and hope the wet suits and swim suits don't mildew on the long trip home.
Quite a few of you have been asking about specifics. While so much of our experience was miraculous serendipity, there were also people who helped us with "I know a guy who knows a guy" information. Here are a few tidbits for those who don't want to rely on chance for a great experience in Maui.
- The best time to go is March. The height of whale season. Photos and video can't come close to seeing them in person. And Todd the dive master wasn't kidding when he talked about the difference in whale song underwater when they are close. On Monday we did a shore dive at Black Coral reef. As we were gearing up we saw whales only 100 yards off shore, the closest ever. They were about 20 yards from the edge of the rock point where we were heading. By the time we got in the water and out there they were gone, but the whale song we heard while diving made my bones vibrate.
- Always talk with locals about the best places to dive, snorkel, hike, golf, eat, enjoy the sunset, whatever else you are interested in. Many activities don't have to cost money, or cost a lot of money. Also, once you have a referral for services that do cost, use the internet to check on specials. If you can't find someone who can say "I would do that again" or "I would go to that company again", don't waste your time and money.
-If you are going to pay to get there, set aside at least 10 days to stay there.
- When locals tell you to stay away from the black sea urchins because they bite back, they're not kidding. Mike accidentally brushed against one on his last snorkel swim. It really hurts. He now has a new scar on his leg that looks like a cluster of little dots. Use vinegar to clean, then shaving cream to help remove the needles, and antibiotic ointment to follow up. It should heal eventually. At least that's what the locals tell us.
- The "Don't Touch It!" advice goes for anything else in the water. Look and enjoy. You can get quite close to things, but don't touch or harass. You could get hurt, or fined or arrested. Mike took all these great photos and videos with a Canon G10, and used the underwater casing for it.
-For something different, go to Warren and Annabelle's Magic show in Lahaina. No matter how much you wonder if something like this is for you, trust me. This is a great show and well worth the time and money. Don't worry about including the dinner. Just make sure you fit in the show. It reminded me of when my cousin (a world renowned magician) would perform magic for us at our dinner table, just inches from our curious eyes. These guys are good and funny.
-Wailea for golfing. I am taking other people's word in this one.
- If you only do one hike, hike to Waimoku Falls at the top of Pipiwai Trail. There are not enough superlatives to describe the experience of walking through that bamboo forest.
-Save up your money and splurge on the Alii Nui catamaran cruise to Turtle Point. It is better than a spa treatment. If possible, add on the scuba dive option. Maui Dive Shop handles those and they do a great job with it. Ask for Nicole to be your dive master.
- Lahaina Divers has a great multiple dive package. All their divers and equipment are excellent. On my first dive, I had a moment of panic because all my certification dives were in calm water, very different from the open ocean. The dive master did a great job of talking me through that first minute until my brain could override the panic, and everything started to be amazing. After that, it all clicked. They gave us the best experiences of this trip.
-Don't ever sacrifice the experience for the sake of a picture. We saw the most amazing creatures and were closest to the whales on the dive where Mike did not bring his camera. No regrets. If you want to bring back incredible photos, Maui Digital Imaging sells the best ones at the best prices. Dan has been able to get the best underwater shots of whales and dolphins and anything else you would want on your wall. All the photos on my blog were of course taken by Mike.
-There are easy shore dives, and hard ones. Do the easy ones - Olowalu and Makena Landing. Boat dives are the best. Lanai's First Cathedral was my favorite. Thanks again to Lahaina Divers.
-South Pacific Kayaks for sea kayaking. We love their Makena Landing outings.
-Watch the sunset from Big Beach at least once. Any where on the west side the rest of the time. If you are willing to be one of the few people still wearing clothes (Or not - I won't tell), there is a sunset celebration on weekends at Little Beach, which is clothing optional. You never know how the people there will be celebrating the sun, but all the pre-sunset activity seems exuberant and innocent enough. I won't vouch for the after dark activity.
- MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL....
Have the kind of life that you will want to come back to. Live so that a trip to Maui is just another way to experience paradise in your life.
Now excuse me while I go give Mike a big kiss.