I remember coming to Hawaii during the 90s and 00s, and one of my favorite spots was Hanauma Bay for snorkeling. I was always transported to a dreamy underwater world full of colorful tropical fish, and huge turtles. I recall Hanauama Bay having free public access, a rental booth for snorkel gear, and a station where you can purchase fish food. It was fun and there were no rules, just a feeling of freedom to observe and mingle with underwater life.
Hanauma Bay today is completely different. Bus loads of tourists are dropped off here everyday (which is great for the economy), as this place is one of the top snorkeling locations in Hawaii. It is a safe place for visitors because it is a protected cove where waves don’t get too big here, and the water is pretty shallow. Visitors don’t have to worry about being swept out to sea (good thing for lifeguards!). Today, a fee of $7.50 allows you access to this beautiful cove, but locals with a local drivers license or military id are exempt from paying this fee. You will also find that you are required (local and tourists alike – no discrimination), to watch a 7-8 min film about the bay, its history, the types of sea life you may see, and RULES of what NOT to do. (There’s also a list you can sign right after the movie that will allow you access to the bay for a year without watching the film.)
So the rules they cover are:
NO STANDING ON CORAL REEF
NO TOUCHING TURTLES
DON’T FEED THE FISH
Times have changed and we must change with the times. I can appreciate what they are doing…preserving ocean life and making sure locals and visitors alike can enjoy this preserve for a very long time.
Even with the rules, I still see people standing on the reef and the last time I went, I saw snorkelers touching a turtle. Obviously, not everyone can be stopped, but if we all look at the big picture, it affects the bay and its sea life negatively in the long run, and ruin it for all of us who want to enjoy this vast, natural aquarium. We need to respect and preserve their natural habitat, since we are guests in their ocean home. I mean, how would you feel if you constantly had random guests barging into your home and touching everything? Imagine what that would feel like for the turtle, fish, and even the live coral. We are all responsible for taking care of and preserving not only this bay but all of its inhabitants.
From a broader perspective, we need to respect the ocean, as its a body of water than connects us all. I’m not here to preach, but to bring awareness of how we can help preserve the oceans surrounding the Hawaiian islands.
The best way to enjoy nature is to RESPECT it.