We ended up booking our tour with Trilogy. They're the largest operator for sailing/snorkeling tour operators on the island. They've received mixed reviews in the past, but have apparently gotten much better in recent years. After experiencing their offering I think we made a good choice.
Our vessel was the Trilogy II, a 50-ish foot long sailing catamaran that left Maalaea Harbor at 8AM sharp. Captain Brett (his red hair and beard made him look like a 21st century pirate), First Mate Shane (he belongs on the cover of a surfing magazine), Mike (the new guy) and Dave (the old hand SCUBA/SNUBA instructor) completed the four-man crew.
|Captain Bret giving his patented safety lecture|
The trip out to Molokini took an hour under power. On the way we were treated to Captain Brett's laconic wit, while Mike and Shane served up breakfast-- freshly baked cinnamon buns (from the owner's mother's original recipe), fresh fruit, coffee and juice. I had misgivings about getting seasick, but a couple of prophylactic ginger capsules made for smooth sailing, gastrically speaking. The highlight of the outward leg was a brief sighting of a giant Manta ray jumping into the air. Unfortunately I was on the starboard side of the boat and, you guessed it, the ray made its appearance to port.
|Dawn & Molokini|
After circling the island and mooring at its designated spot, Captain Brett offered a snorkeling lesson for all the newbies. Throwing caution to the wind, Dawn and I skipped the orientation, donned our equipment and got right into the water.
Clouds came and went throughout the morning, so the lighting wasn't always the best, especially when you're looking at fish and coral thirty feet (10m) down, but we got to see plenty of submarine denizens, including a moray eel:
Near the shore the water got pretty rough, and where the island disappeared into the sea there was a spot that Captain Brett lovingly referred to as the Swirling Current of Doom, just in case there was any doubt as to whether we should try our snorkeling skills out there. We heeded the advice and stayed away.
The SNUBA folks (I think they were a family) got together for a group portrait:
I don't see the point, myself. If you're going to swim with SCUBA gear floating above you, you might as well put the vest and tank on, and enjoy the full experience. But I wasn't paying for the privilege, so to each his own. I went back to looking at the incredible diversity of coral on the sea floor:
After about an hour in the water we gathered back aboard the Trilogy II for a short trip to our next destination, "Turtle Town". Every operator seems to have one of these spots, and each one makes it sound like theirs is unique. In fact, Green Sea turtles (honu in the parlance of the islanders) are widespread in the waters around Maui, as we discovered at the nearby Black Rock beach, just a short walk from our hotel. Our Turtle Town was a spot just off the southern shore of Maui where lava fingers from the island's distant past jutted out into the ocean. Lava is full of gas pockets and fissures that wave action and time eventually convert into caves, tunnels and arches beneath the water. Turtles, apparently, love these little hidey-holes.
We noshed on chips and pineapple-mango salsa (with Maui onions and tomatoes, of course) on the way over, and warmed ourselves with hot coffee. When we arrived at the coast we exchanged moorings with the Trilogy V, which was just heading back to harbor with its passengers who'd gotten started an hour before we did:
Captain Brett parked us right over one of the lava fingers and in we went for more snorkeling fun. As at Molokini, the sea life were abundant and they didn't mind coming close. The lava fingers were closer too, which made photography a little easier, but also made for more turbulent currents. Despite that I managed to get some colorful fish in focus:
Of course we were there for the turtles. The guide book we've been using, Maui Revealed, claimed that the chances of seeing a turtle in Turtle Town (any of them) were about 50-50, so I was prepared to be disappointed. It wasn't too long before I found a little lava cave with a shell and two flippers sticking out of it. I parked myself overhead and, sure enough after a few minutes the turtle decided to come up for air:
Now I figure this fellow must have been a youngster, because he made a beeline right for me. Maybe he was being playful, or curious, or both, but as he got closer, he looked right at me and did his best "if-you-don't-get-out-of-my-way-I'm-going-to-run-into-you" impression. Well, these waters were his home, and I was just a visitor, so I slipped to the right as best I could, shooting pictures as I went. It was frankly awesome to watch the honu pass by me on his way up, and the pictures speak for themselves:
We saw not one or two, but three turtles, including a massive male, though he was too far away for me to get any good pictures of him. It was a thrill regardless. The reefs along the lava fingers were plenty impressive on their own:
We were having such a good time looking for turtles and exploring the reefs that Dawn and I were pretty much the last ones back on the boat for lunch. Trilogy does it up right with teryaki chicken barbeque, rice and a nice healthy green salad. After seconds (and thirds for some!) we were underway, headed back for the harbor. The trade winds really started to pick up after noon, so we got into some drier clothes and enjoyed the ride back. It turned out there was a couple from Irondequoit on the boat with us, so we chatted them up and traded Rochester stories. As we got closer to shore, Captain Brett decided it was time to do a little sailing, so he sent the crew forward to unfurl the canvas:
The engines switched off, we ate ice cream and enjoyed a nice 40-minute sail back to the harbor.
All things considered, a day well spent. The sights were terrific, the sailing was extraordinary fun and the crew were top notch. If you ever get a chance to snorkel Molokini Island, I don't think you'll do much better than to take a tour with Trilogy.