Sunday, April 24, 2011


A friend asked, “Where are you going on vacation?”
“Maui”, I replied
“Oh no, what are they doing to animals on Maui?”
“It’s just a vacation. I’m unplugging this trip.”

I find it ironic that I’ve been actively looking at the plight of animals for all of 6 months and it’s already the way people see me. On this trip, I really wanted to savor nature and step away from the advocate roll for a few weeks. What I found is that while you can say that’s what you want, once you open your eyes to what’s going on, you can’t not see it.

On a drive up the west coast past Kapalua, we saw a mongoose. Pulling over to take a closer look we found that he was eating the remains of a skinned and gutted feral pig. So a hunter removes one invasive species but leaves food for another invasive species. The mongoose was brought to the islands to help control the rat population but it is now taking its toll on the indigenous bird population. I’ve been to Maui a few times and have never seen mongoose before. On this trip, we saw several.

I love snorkeling and body surfing. Coming back from a long float with the fish and turtles, I swam around a corner of the reef to a spear pointed in my face. This was just a little unsettling. I swam around the woman brandishing the spear to see her friend, standing on coral yelling at her to spear the fish as he chased them out to her. I didn't say anything because I was really trying to unplug and this is a situation where I knew I would just start screaming at these people in very colorful, inappropriate language. Fighting back the anger, I swam back to shore. Later, bobbing in the waves, I overheard a man tell friends that he saw a lobster in the reef. (I would love to see a lobster.) “Why didn't you catch it?” a woman asked. “Should I go get my spear?” asked another. Why do we feel the need to conquer and kill everything? Another day, I swam past two spear fishermen towing two tiny convict tangs whose bodies were pierced. I just don’t get the taking of these. It certainly couldn't be for food.

The number of fish on the reef was way down from past years. I don’t know if it’s the spear fishing or the fact that sand was washing back on the beach. In the two weeks we were there, we watched the beach sand increase by two feet. I enjoyed watching the rebuilding process. I was also pleased that I never saw anyone come out of the water with any big fish. Several times we swam with several very large crevalle and the fisherman love crevalle.

It really was a great trip. One night we took a full moon cruise and heard whales singing in the moonlight.

On one murky snorkel, I was floating out past the reef looking for turtles when I noticed something large swimming toward me. It was a manta ray passing within arm’s reach. We watched each other swim by. I love that I am not the top of the food chain in the ocean and the crevalle and rays seem to know that I’m not. The little reef fish and turtles know it too and they let me share their space.

I’m rested, recharged and looking forward to what’s on the horizon but enjoying what’s here now.