Riding a Sunbeam, Honaunau Bay, South Kona District, Big Island of Hawaii, Hawaii
Photograph by Barry Fackler
Honaunau Bay is very tiny area of the Pacific Ocean that hosts a wide variety of marine life. In addition to small, tropical fish and invertebrates, on any given day you may find mantas, sharks, eagle rays and monk seals. Many sea turtles call the bay home as well. Over the years the bay has earned a reputation for encounters with spinner dolphins. These are nocturnal dolphins that feed in the depths at night and return to protected bays and coves in the morning to rest. For the first hour or so after entering the bay, the dolphins remain quite active: leaping and spinning and engaging in play and mating. Afterwards, they settle into an almost rhythmic, resting swimming pattern of surfacing and submerging in small subgroups.
On this morning, around 50 to 60 dolphins entered the bay. I was submerged around 50′ down watching the spectacle unfold. There were several mama dolphins with their calves tucked in close by their sides. On a couple of occasions a mom/baby pair approached closely to check me out and I felt like, perhaps the mom was explaining to the calf just what I was.
Before long, the sun had crested Mauna Loa, sending shafts of light into the depths. That’s when I looked up and snapped this photo of a mother, calf, and their escort riding a sunbeam back into the deep after breathing in fresh air.