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Travel Mishaps Part 3: Less Mishaps, More (Sea Turtle) Serendipity

Updated on May 14, 2016
Less mishaps, more sea turtle serendipity.
Less mishaps, more sea turtle serendipity. | Source
More turtle medicine was well worth the accidental price.
More turtle medicine was well worth the accidental price. | Source

Part One of this series of Travel Mishap hubs was based on our six days stranded in LAX. Fortunately, that experience eventually landed us in Hawaii. Unfortunately, a destroyed cell phone and laptop were both part of the cost of the trip, which included a wonderful day with sea turtles (Travel Mishaps Part 2).

This hub, Part 3, represents my chance to test my earlier theory that I’d gladly do the same thing all over again,given the wonderful outcome.

This trip included a series of little mishaps with associated pay-offs, as is usually the case on any vacation. It also included the accidental but worthwhile repeat of past mistakes on the last day of a wonderful trip (later the very same year).

My Stand-By Flight Route To Jenni

flathead county airport:
Kalispell City Airport, Kalispell, MT 59901, USA

get directions

salt lake city airport:
Salt Lake City International Airport, 776 North Terminal Drive, Salt Lake City, UT 84122, USA

get directions

seattle airport:
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), 17801 International Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98158, USA

get directions

Our Needed Route to Oahu

seattle airport:
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), 17801 International Boulevard, Seattle, WA 98158, USA

get directions

honolulu airport:
Honolulu International Airport (HNL), 300 Rodgers Blvd, Honolulu, HI 96819, USA

get directions

Another Trip to Oahu

Even with the ability to fly free (through my husband's summer second job), I certainly didn’t expect to be back in Oahu so soon. But a very dear friend was at a not-so-fun point in her graduate school life, and I traveled to Seattle to cheer her up.

I joked that we should test out the buddy pass part of our flight benefits (greatly discounted companion fares).

We started looking at flights, and decided to try one flight. If we didn’t make the first flight, it wasn’t meant to be.

I was more than a little gun shy after my LAX experience, and she was organizing a conference later that week. So neither one of us was willing to risk getting stuck (as can easily happen flying stand-by) and Jenni was planning to buy a return ticket if we made it, to ensure she made it back.


Stand-By Serendiptiy

We made the one flight we were going to try, and ended up on our way to Oahu, bumped to first class for a short but wonderful trip.

Short But Sweet Oahu Vacation

Jenni and I had been travel companions for years, traveling and moving together all over the west in our late teens and early twenties. It was very freeing to have the time together so many years later, removed from daily life and familiar things.

We ate, we walked, we rented snorkels from Snorkel Bob’s and we explored the island. She bought me an amazing small canvas turtle painting in an art store in Haleiwa. As with all travels, there were alternating ups and downs, as far as luck over the course of each day.

It was an amazing trip, filled with alternating mini-adventures and mini-mishaps.

Little Serendipities and Mini Mishaps

For almost every stroke of travel luck, there is an equal and opposite mishap. Not always. Sometimes great things just happen over and over. More often, this is the case and the goods outweigh the set backs. And on those kinds of trips, even the little strokes of bad luck usually have a fortunate aspect that just wasn't initially apparent.

Lovely beach, but lovelier up close (when sea turtles are on shore).
Lovely beach, but lovelier up close (when sea turtles are on shore). | Source
Devoted and knowledgeable volunteers were a pleasure to speak with!
Devoted and knowledgeable volunteers were a pleasure to speak with! | Source
More time with sea turtles...
More time with sea turtles... | Source

(Pseudo) Mishap: Turtles and No Snorkels

I had researched a good turtle beach before previous trips, but hadn't been able to get there on one trip, and my timing was off on another (so I wasn't sure I had the right place).

This time, Jenni and I hit it just right. There was a parking space (despite the crowds that stopped to see the turtles), volunteers to handle the crowds, and an increasing number of sea turtles sunning on shore. Which was killing me, since we'd opted to use the following day for snorkeling and hadn't rented gear yet.

It was killing me that I was basically inches from swimming with sea turtles. In chatting with the volunteers, wondering how to maintain the legal and appropriate required distance from the turtles, I learned that the turtles here would most likely follow you and try to approach. It was painful information, given our stuck on shore status.

Related Serendipity: Hours On Shore withTurtles

My previous trip had been my first time seeing sea turtles, and it was magical. But, this was my first time seeing them out of water, and it was amazing to be so close. And rather than detracting from the experience, the crowds were actually a part of the experience.

Almost everyone was respectful, and a good percentage of the onlookers were mystified and beautifully blown away. The volunteers roped off the turtles to keep people back and were right there to share information. They had laminated information sheets ready for the known turtles, giving the Hawaiian name and the English name, and the age and known information for that individual turtle.

I get more than a little carried away with my camera, and more than a little carried away with turtles. Jenni waited patiently for hours. Not for what seemed like hours, but truly for hours.

Volunteers for Sea Turtle Conservation

Mishap: Snorkeling and No Turtles

The next day, we rented our snorkels and headed the same direction. But having waited for hours the previous day and having had her fill of that beach, Jenni dropped me off with the turtles and headed to a few of her own target destinations.

The previous day, the turtles were rolling in the waves all along the shore. The volunteers had resolved my fears of bothering the turtles by snorkeling by explaining that once in the water, you can hardly get away from them. I had seen a few snorkelers the day before and was excited to get in the water.

I'm not an ocean-savvy person, nor an underwater person, nor a particularly strong swimmer. So I didn't intend to spend too long in the water or go very far on my own. But it was worth a try, although the turtles in the waves the previous day were almost completely absent. A few turtles were on shore, but very few additional turtles were rolling in.

I entered in the only area I could see other snorkelers enter, though there were very few people in the water. It was dark, choppy, and murky, with very scarce visibility.

In Montana, grizzly bears, moose, mountain lions, rough terrain, and harsh natural elements (including fire) are an occupational hazard I am accustomed to. Over the years, only a few bear encounters have really made me nervous, and in a couple of those cases in particular, I got goose bumps and a bad feeling in advance.

In the water that day, I had that feeling. I assumed it was the lack of visibility and a bit of common sense making me nervous, even though I was fairly close to shore and not in waters that were all that deep. This was probably partly true, but I also had what seemed like a more distinct feeling that something was out there.

Serendipity: Not Seeing a Tiger Shark

I got out of the water and had a great day taking more pictures and some videos of turtles emerging from the waves and volunteers interacting with the tourists.

It was another great day of obsessive picture taking and turtle watching.

On the last day of my trip, standing on the turtle wall, I met a couple that had been scuba diving in the same bay the day I had attempted to snorkel. Their trip had been made by a close encounter with a tiger shark. One partner more than the other, as she had wanted to see a Tiger shark for years and was ecstatic.

They reported that their tour guide was aware of the shark and the possibility of an encounter based on other sightings and the complete lack of sea turtles in the water.

I'm certainly not saying the shark was in the same vicinity as me. But I am still certainly glad I got out of the water.

Two Days with Brutus and the Sea Turtles

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Click thumbnail to view full-size

Return to the Turtle Wall in Waikiki

On the final day of our trip, Jenni's plane left early in the morning and mine left very late at night. We had scheduled the rental car return when her flight left, so she returned the car, and I was able to store my luggage at our hotel while I made the most of my last day, once again on foot in Waikiki.

By mid-morning, I headed to the "turtle wall" where I'd seen my first sea turtles in June (and drenched and ruined my cell phone). There were no sea turtles yet, but plenty of boats and surfers, and the wall and the view were amazing, leading to endless photos before moving on, intending to return later in the day.

The View From The Wall

Click thumbnail to view full-size

"Is that a sea turtle?"

I moved to a crowded beach that wouldn't usually be my style, just for the novelty of it. The friendly woman next to me leaned over with a smile and said, "There's something in that wave, could that be a sea turtle?". Once again, I was being shown the turtles by a random stranger.

It was only there for a moment, but I rushed back to the wall in case I was missing them.

The Shark Girls and My Hat

Eventually, a few turtles and a few people rolled in. Including the couple I mentioned earlier, that saw the Tiger shark I was fortunate not to see. We talked for quite a while, balancing on the wall and watching the waves, until a huge wave came and knocked a few of us over.

I was a little stunned but got my footing, and just barely caught my hat before it was carried off to sea. Luckily I had put away my camera.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
"Look behind you!"
"Look behind you!"
"Look behind you!" | Source

"Look Behind You!"

As the turtles rolled in, I picked a safer spot and got my camera back out (and put my hat away). We all watched a snorkeler approaching the wall farther down from where we'd been sucked in earlier, and were a little wary, but the waves were dying down.

He was clearly looking for sea turtles, too, but looking under water with a disposable camera. We were pretty sure he was on the wrong side of the wall, until we started seeing a turtle occasionally surfacing right behind him. He looked and looked in the other direction as it got closer and closer. We tried to get his attention, but he couldn't hear us.

When the turtle was practically touching him, we finally had enough voices to get his attention. But the pictures really tell the story best. It was pretty darn funny.

The couple that lowered me over the wall and drug me back up, attempting to retrieve my sunglasses.
The couple that lowered me over the wall and drug me back up, attempting to retrieve my sunglasses. | Source
Last picture of my sunglasses
Last picture of my sunglasses | Source

And Once Again...

As I chatted with another nice couple, I hadn't realized yet that I was standing in the exact same spot where the wave in June had come from the wrong direction (bouncing off a nearby walkway) and soaked me and my belongings, including my phone. So the wave that hit me should not have been such a surprise.

I was somehow able to protect my camera, but it sucked my sunglasses right off my head and we all watched them slowly sink. They were very expensive, and I'd had them for years, through firefighting and many jobs, schools, and zip codes.

The couple and a few others lowered me down the wall to try to get them, then yelled frantically when a turtle was coming (we were all trying to stay the required distance away) and just as frantically pulled me up before a huge turtle got to where I had been. It was such a fast ascent that I scraped my arms getting pulled up, but it was a heart warming group effort. Though not a successful one.

I still miss those sunglasses, but as with all of the trade offs of that trip and the previous one, it was all more than worth it. And being a sucker for coincidence, I still can't believe the same wave, in the same spot, took my sunglasses to the bottom of the ocean. Go figure.

Travel Mishaps Part 3
Travel Mishaps Part 3 | Source

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