One of my best travel moments ever was when I was 12 years old, and my family was visiting Hawaii. We didn’t have plans for the entire day — we were just going to sit out at the beach and then get a nice dinner at night. I quickly got tired of making sandcastles — I was 12, for Christ’s sake — and tormenting my little sister, so I took out the mask, snorkel, and flippers my dad had bought me and walked out into the ocean.
Any other time I’d done this, I’d found nothing but sand floors and a fish or two — overall not quite exciting enough for me to spend much time on. But about 30 yards offshore, I came upon a coral reef; I spent hours hovering over it, watching colorful fish, turtles, and other bizarre creatures which, to this day, I don’t know the names for. When I came back in my back was sunburnt to a crisp, but I’d discovered what I’d be doing for the rest of the trip.
Here are some pictures from these incredible ecosystems.