Floating facedown over a sprawling patch of coral, I watched the snorkeler beneath me disappear into a void in the reef. Several seconds passed as I hovered there on the ocean’s surface, but just as I began to worry, the free diver emerged a number of yards away, rising through another opening in the coral and climbing toward the sunlight to poke his head into the fresh air.
“You should try,” he said to me above the water with a smile. “Take a look.”
Fifty yards or so from shore, I was bobbing next to an outrigger canoe with Dayne Van Gieson, an activities attendant working with the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina. A former lifeguard for the city and county of Honolulu, Van Gieson grew up not far from the hotel on Oahu’s west coast and has been paddling canoes in the region’s waters since he was a small boy.
On this occasion, we’d taken a break from our canoe excursion to explore a collection of underwater voids in the reef. According to Van Gieson, the openings, created in part by freshwater seeping into the ocean from west Oahu’s mountains, are a favorite haunt for sharks.
“The caves, especially those sandy bottoms, that’s typically where the sharks like to reside and hang out to rest,” he said later. “The coolest thing about this area is that some of the cracks last so long that the sharks can traverse the bottom without being seen.”