The Gathering Place – O‘ahu

Today is finally Christmas! Even though I don’t have any Christmas feeling at all. We started Christmas Eve with our check out of the hotel, our car return at Alamo and our check in at the Lihue airport in the morning. Then we had our breakfast at Starbucks, surrounded by Christmas carols. I love the Hawaiian airports, they are small, open air and everything happens really smoothly and quickly. Our flight to Honolulu just took about 20 min, my shortest flight ever!

Honolulu is a big big airport. There our luggage and checking out the rental car took longer than expected. Our drive to the holiday inn express hotel in Waikiki was about 20 min through the city. In the afternoon we just checked in and celebrated a little bit Christmas in the hotel room on the 35th floor (amazing city and ocean view!) with exchanging our presents. Then we got ready for the luau in the evening.

We walked through downtown there. Downtown has all the expensive shops but is very beautiful to look at, it kinda reminds me of Shanghai somehow. We also strolled along Waikiki beach which is totally touristic and full of surfers and tourists. The weather is nice with warm winds. After strolling along the beach we arrived at the Waikiki aquarium where the Diamond Head Luau took place. There were about 300 guests so much smaller than the one at Kalamaku. It started with a tour through the aquarium. They have a lot of diverse and beautiful specimen there. Than we got our leis, did some photoshoots and got our drinks and appetizers to our table. Afterwards, we got the chance to try dancing hula and make our own coconut crown. Then after a Hawaiian blessing the dinner started. It was a buffet from farm to table so only local produce. They had a variety of salads, rice, tofu with curry, beef, vegetables and the traditional Hawaiian pork and chicken. For the dessert they offered fruits, coconut pudding and chocolate coconut bars. The main show was very entertaining and told stories of different islands. I participated in dancing hula on the stage as well, it was very funny. At the end there was even a Santa Claus with whom we took pictures as well. It was a very nice Christmas evening!

After the luau, we walked along Waikiki beach and looked around the shops of downtown as well. Back in our hotel we were really tired, figured out our plan for tomorrow and went to bed.

Tuesday morning we had our breakfast at our hotel. I had some porridge with fruits and min some toast, all regular. Taking the elevator in this big hotel is quite a challenge because it has 44 stories and there are many people staying there. Afterwards we drove to Hale’iwa town at north shore for our shark freediving trip with one ocean diving. North shore of the island is very rainy but famous for the big waves for surfing. At the harbor there we got together with the crew. And guess what: my favorite marine biologist (specialist on sharks) and famous freediving model ocean Ramsey was really there to meet and dive with me. My mother organized that for me as a Christmas present. I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy to meet her in person and dive with her too. On the boat ride outside she told us all about sharks and how to behave when being in the water. You have to keep in mind a lot of things: you have to be on top so you are superior and not a prey, you must always watch them and keep eye contact and don’t panic or anything. Furthermore, we have to be aware that we are entering their habitat and so we have to adapt to their behavior not the other way around. I went in the water with my monofin and it was really unbelievable. We mostly saw Galapagos sharks. She dove with me and I got the chance to get really close to a very dominant one but if you act like a predator yourself than they will leave you alone. Really showing no fear (respect of course) and just looking them in the eyes will keep them at distance, even though they were really curious about my monofin haha. Everybody asked me if I was afraid or if I was scared or anything but honestly there is no room for the feeling of fear. All you feel being in the water is being connected with the ocean, seeing these incredible creatures and feeling pure euphoria. It was an unforgettable experience for me! Ocean Ramsey even asked me if I want to become an ocean global ambassador and take the shark conversation to Austria. I certainly will do this and work for them at home from Austria and via social media and shark campaigns at home. Furthermore, I will get sponsored some amazing shark design inspired wetsuits and yoga wear as well. It was an astonishing trip and I had the chance to talk to her about my marine biology studies as well.

After the trip we went to the surf beach of Hale’iwa to watch the big waves and the surfer and collect some beautiful shells. We also strolled along the town which is a cute surf town with little shops.

In the afternoon we drove to Koko Head Crater Trail for some hiking (a recommendation from a friend at home, thanks for this!). It’s trail consisting of an old railway track. Therefore, there are about 1050 steps, so a good stairway workout in this tropical heat. I think I could jog them up as well haha. On top we had a beautiful above Hanauma bay, part of Honolulu and the Diamond Head. It was really worth the workout and I am very proud of my mum because she kept up my pace.

At 5:30 pm we drove back to our hotel to shower and get ready for going out for dinner tonight. We strolled along downtown Honolulu and Waikiki beach and finally got a table (after 30min waiting) at the famous Cheesecake Factory. We had a really delicious dinner there. Because we were really tired after this day and have to get up early tomorrow for our snorkeling trip to Hanauma bay we just went to our hotel afterwards and relaxed before going to bed.

On Wednesday we got up at 5:45 am for our trip to Hanauma Bay which is a natural preserve for snorkeling. It was totally dark when we drove off and we packed our breakfast together to enjoy it on the beach there. Before we also went to Starbucks for coffee and tea haha. We arrived at 7 am at the Hanauma Bay and the parking lot was already almost completely full. We had our improvised breakfast there and then had to stand in line for the entrance to the bay. Firstly, we had to watch a 9 min movie about the bay, natural reserve and the rules there. The bay was incredible: crystal clear turquoise water with a lot of stony foundation corals and the highest diversity of fish I have ever seen. Like you can see almost over 50 species in one spot. I really adore the humuhumunukunukuapua’as because they are very colorful, territorial and dominant fishes and try to bite you haha. I really enjoyed spending the day freediving and relaxing at hanauma bay.

In the evening we decided to have dinner at an Italian restaurant at the koko head marina. Back in the hotel I did some workouts, wrote postcards and worked on the GoPro pictures before we went to bed.

On Thursday morning we had another freediving session with oneoceandiving and the sharks. We got up at 6:30 am and drove to Hale’iwa town to have delicious breakfast at our favorite island vintage coffee cafe there. Afterwards, we rented some weights for today’s freediving because Juan (world famous underwater shark and freediving photographer) told me last time I have to get some for this trip. We started at 10 am and in the beginning ocean wasn’t at the boat. She stayed outside in the open ocean with the sharks only with a paddle board and buoy. That’s crazy but this could be me in the future as well! I am really going to join her program. Today’s trip was just unbelieveable! The sharks were bigger and came closer. Even my mother was brace enough to go into the water and see the sharks. I am so so proud of her! Juan did a lot of photoshoots with me which was pretty exhausting because I had to go deep and close to the sharks. Especially one shark her name is Marlou adores me very much. Juan said that this is very rare because she has a fisher hook in her jaw and a ripped tail as well. I am very proud that I could gain her trust and dive with an amazing and very big Galapagos shark like her. What’s more: I could really hear humpback whales singing underwater, it is now their migrating season here. It was one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve ever heard. Furthermore, I got to meet Ocean Ramsey and Juan two of my idols so this trip was just amazing!

There is no other feeling as being in presence of a shark. It is hard to describe it’s something that should be on everybody’s life bucket list. They are beautiful and intelligent and totally misunderstood creatures and their conservation and protection is necessary because the ocean and therefore we as humans who breath rely on them. I guess I might specialize and focus my studies on sharks in the future.

After the trip, we went to the Xcel wetsuit store because they had the wetsuit designs of Ocean Ramsey and Juan sharks. I even got some whale shark and wave designs sponsored!

In the afternoon we decided to drive to Electric Beach on the west coast of the island. This beach was pretty full and there was a strong current too so we decided to drive a bit up the coast to look at the beaches there. 10 min away we found the famous sea cave Mermaid cave. It is a big cave system in the lava rocks filled with turquoise water. Because of high tide it wasn’t possible to go in but we got really close to it.

Afterwards we relaxed the rest of the day at a beach nearby which had beautiful soft white sand and crystal clear water.

After sunset we drove off to an organic farm restaurant which I just found over the internet. It was called Kalamahu Organic Farm and cafe. It is also a retreat center for yogis. They had delicious food: I had some lentil curry and mum chicken with farm vegetables with salad and dark garlic bread (almost like in Austria!). The owners wife also comes from Austria so we had a good talk with both of them. Then we just drove home to our hotel in Waikiki.

Back in the hotel we tried to dry all wet things, wrote some postcards and quickly fell asleep because we were both exhausted from this day.

On Friday our last day we slept a bit longer and had breakfast with delicious cinnamon rolls at our hotel in Waikiki. Then we packed our luggage so we won’t have to do this in the evening. Today it was raining heavily but we walked down to the beach and shops to get a mani- and pedicure and shop a little bit souvenirs. We also bought some cookies at the famous Honolulu cookie company. It was raining more and more throughout the morning and big thunderstorms were traveling over Oahu therefore the government was sending out flash flood warnings and the Kamehameha highway is closed. Pretty awful situation right now but just grabbed some coffee and headed to our hotel where we went to the gym (worked out there for about 2,5 hours because I was really motivated) and relaxed afterwards.

Around 6 pm we strolled along downtown Honolulu and had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory again. It was delicious as always. Afterwards, we went to the beach and it was time for me to say goodbye to the ocean which was really hard. It’s like saying goodbye to your home or your soulmate. I know I sound crazy but that’s just how I am.

In the evening we just bought gas for our car and got everything ready for the check-out in the morning tomorrow. We have to get up at 4 am to catch our flight to LAX. I am really sad to leave Hawaii but I am also excited to go back home again and see all of my friends and family.

Saturday we got up at 4 am to check out and drive to the Honolulu international airport. There we returned our rental car and checked in at Hawaiian airlines. Honolulu is a really big airport therefore the security check took his time. We had breakfast at Starbucks as usually. Our flight takes about 5:30h to LAX but it is strange because we are losing time while flying back. Getting back home will be really difficult for us with the time change difference.

Our flight back home was very convenient. We both watched Mamma Mia 2 (I literally cried almost the whole time because it is so affectionate especially the daughter and mother relationship, it’s also a very cheerful and joy up movie, I loved it and I am gonna buy it on dvd back home). Then I watched Ant man and the wasp and read a little bit. The flight was over sooner than expected, I mean it felt like that. It took us long to get all our baggage back, getting to the hotel with the shuttle was also not that convenient along with the check in because there were so many people at the Hilton LAX. Then after managing the check in for tomorrow’s flight we had a little meal at the hotel before we went to our hotel room where we spent the evening. I did some workouts and stretching and did my beauty routine before tomorrow’s flight. We have to get up at 3:15 am to catch our flight to Newark.

I didn’t get enough sleep because of the stupid ice machine next to our hotel room therefore I was pretty tired at 3:15 am when we got up. After the drive to the airport the check in at United airlines took its time, they are so unfriendly and offer no good service. However, the security check was pretty fast. The LAX airport is very old and not renovated at all, its pretty necessary that they invested about 2 million in the new project. My airport breakfast consisted of a banana and an orange haha. Our flight left early, I watched Tomb Raider and read a lot. The time difference to New York was +3 hours, it’s so confusing because I am stuck in between Honolulu and LA time, so somewhat 11 o’clock right now. Because I didn’t get my boarding pass for the flight from Newark to Vienna we had to find somebody from Austrian Airlines and first take the shuttle to the other terminal. There we finally found someone in the Lufthansa and Austrian Lounge who helped us with the boarding pass. Afterwards, we could relax had some mozzarella and tomato salad and fruit salad (I know it’s weird) before our boarding started. The flight back home took about 8 hours and was very convenient with a good dinner and breakfast. Furthermore, I watched Crazy Rich Asians and after sleeping I watched my favorite spots from Mamma Mia 2.

We arrived half an hour early in Vienna. I was so happy to see Tina (my second mum) at the airport picking us up. After having tea and coffee we drove back home. After having a reunion with my grandma, my mother and I went shopping for the next days and some breakfast. After trying on my new dresses (which I bought online in November) I decided to wear the red one tonight for Silvester. Afterwards we both very exhausted just went to bed to catch up on some sleep.

After getting ready we arrived at Sabrina’s house around 7:30 pm. Firstly, Sabrina, Bastian and her parents greeting me, they lit up the Christmas tree and I received some cute presents: a beautiful heart necklace, bathing bombs, scarf and fuzzy socks. Then the biggest surprise came: I was surprised by Fabian, Hannah and Melanie greeting me, I never expected them to be here today too! I brought all of them a flower chain of Hawaii haha. Then we all had Raclette and fondue together, drank Klopfer and champagne and played activity until midnight. After exchanging lucky charms (Melanie have me a sparkling candle while burning it I had to make a Wish) we all shot some fireworks and danced the Viennese Danube Walse. After the night faded away mum and I went home because we were already really tired. I really enjoyed this day, celebrating New Year’s Eve with all my friends and coming back home again.

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