Located along Maui’s south shore lies a stretch of sand that is completely undeveloped. It is almost a mile long with lava outcroppings along each end of the beach which provides fabulous snorkeling opportunities. The sheer size of this beach gives everyone a chance to spread out so it never feels crowded. This spectacular golden beach is called Makena State Park, or more famously known simply as Big Beach. And it is without question one of my favorite beaches on Maui.
Next to Big Beach is a smaller beach known as Little Beach (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that nickname). It’s about a five-minute hike up over a hill–you have to climb up some lava rocks to reach the top–and then its a quick walk down a sandy hill to the other side. It’s not a huge secret that this beach attracts nude sunbathers, while it’s illegal to be nude on any Hawaiian beach, the area is considered a little more remote so as far as I know, it’s not heavily patrolled.
Every Sunday, locals and visitors alike head to Little Beach to witness the drum circle and fire ceremony that is held here every week. The drum circle was recommended to us by a few different Maui residents both this time and the first time we traveled to Maui. We went knowing that we would see a few people naked; the thing we didn’t realize until after we arrived was that more than HALF of the beach was naked. Naked and dancing around… Uhhhh, awkward…..
I sat down in the sand and stared out at the ocean so I could avoid the awkwardness of the situation and just listened to the drums. However, when the naked 80-year-old couple walked by in front of us we turned to each other and said “Alright, I think we’re done here.”
I’m not judging those free spirits. If they feel that comfortable in their skin, more power to them. I have some family members that would probably fit in perfectly because of their outgoing, free-spirited, don’t-care-what-anyone-else-thinks-(or sees) personality, however for us, it’s just not our scene.
So we found ourselves back at Big Beach a little ahead of schedule and this is where the story gets REALLY GOOD, my friends.
As we stood on the lava cliffs between the two beaches we took advantage of the awesome Big Beach photo opportunities. My husband was busy taking photos, when a shadow within the water caught my eye. The shadow appeared for a split second and then it was gone.
I turned to Cody and said “I think I just saw a shark… I’m not 100% sure, but I know it wasn’t a rock or a sea turtle.”
To my horror, I looked below and saw a spear fisherman in the same area swimming towards the shore. It was at that moment the shark reappeared, and he was heading straight towards the fisherman.
My husband and I frantically began yelling “Shark! Shark! SHARK!” and that’s when the spear fisherman turned around just in time to see the shark attack his fish bag, which was floating just a few feet behind him. The shark thrashed around as he latched onto the bag, flailing its body and tail out of the water. The shark swam off just as quickly as he attacked, and soon he was circling back for another chance at the fish.
It was an intense minute or two, but thankfully, the fisherman made it to shore without any injury. However, because the shark didn’t get the dinner he was searching for, he began prowling the shoreline for his next meal. We looked down the beach to see more swimmers and snorkelers in the water. The fisherman ran down the beach yelling at everyone to get out of the water as we watched the shark swim back and forth around the north section of the beach. I felt like I was having a nightmare where everything is in slow motion and you can’t move fast enough.
After things calmed down we walked over to talk with the fisherman. He explained that he saw the shark out on the edge of the reef as he was fishing and figured it was probably time to get out. He had no idea that the shark had followed him into shore until he heard us yelling “shark”.
I have always known that there are sharks in Hawaii. It is always a thought in the back of my mind when I’m out snorkeling. While snorkeling at Big Beach that day, the story of the german snorkeler who died from a shark attack at this same beach only a few months earlier played over and over in my mind. So much so that I kind of psyched myself out and stopped snorkeling before I was really ready to get out.
Even after everything that happened, I don’t think I’ll ever stop swimming in the ocean, it’s too engrained in who I am. My love for the ocean is intense. The feeling I get from stepping onto the beach is unlike any other. I feel calm. I feel relaxed. I feel at peace. The soothing sound of the waves and the salty smell of the ocean bring immediate happiness.
However, I will never forget about this close encounter. As the sun began its descent that Sunday evening I thought about our exciting day. We had witnessed a shark attack. A shark attack that thankfully left everyone with a cool story to tell.