By Allen Golden, Sunday, August 14, 2005
This morning we grabbed our gear and left the Hi’ialakai for a rendezvous with Mokumanamana and its marine life. As we approached the island in our small motor boat, it was hard to fathom that this small piece of rough rocky land measuring about a mile long, was the last remaining remnant of an island that was once the size of Oahu.
As the Hi`ialakai began to shrink in our field of vision, we realized why the massive vessel was unable to take us closer to Mokumanamana. Most of Mokumanamana is submerged and thus, too shallow for large vessels to tread. In fact, the submerged parts of Mokumanamana extended well beyond 8 miles in certain areas – making this island a wonderful environment for marine life.
As we approached our point of destination we could see the works of ancient Hawaiians who at one time or another, walked the great cliffs of Mokumanamana. Their legacy is thirty-three rock piles that keep researchers guessing. Were these pilings for religious purposes? Were they for navigation? Perhaps we will never know what these piles of rocks were used for. However, what we do know is that various types of birds just love to perch on the tops of them.
About ten minutes had passed since we left the Hi’ialakai and we were well within our snorkeling destination – a spot just under the largest cliff section of Mokumanamana. As our boat came to a stop, we put our gear on and prepared to have the experience of our lives. The ocean was unbelievably calm. One could easily dive at the base of the cliff – almost unheard of in this region. I would liken this experience to the weather being so perfect on Oahu, that a group of divers could hug the rocky cliffs of Bamboo Ridge. Obviously, this was an exceptional day with exceptional weather.
The first few divers began to take the plunge. Right off the bat, we realized that we plunged smack dab in the middle of a school of huge Omilu. These Omilu did not flinch, in fact, they calmly swam around us. Within seconds, a shark was spotted. When we were finally able to collect our breath, we realized why we were here in the first place. There were thousands of fish. The variety and amount of reef fish was unbelievable. From small colorful reef dwellers to torpedo-shaped predators, this marine environment had it all. None of us had experienced this type of marine life on Oahu. In fact, the tremendous variety of fish at Mokumanamana made Haunama Bay look empty. There were that many fish.
We snorkeled around for about forty-five minutes; absorbing all there was to see. Some of us went right to the base of Mokumanamana's cliffs. Others preferred snorkeling farther out. In the end, it did not matter where one snorkeled – there were fish all over the place.
When forty five minutes were up, we began to file back into the boat and a beautiful Green Sea turtle decided to accompany us part of the way. Most of us had the experience of a lifetime snorkeling at Mokumanamana. However, just as we began to reflect on our completed dive, one crew member nonchalantly said, "You ain’t seen nothing yet."