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KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — If you've ever owned a tropical fish tank — or have ever dreamed of doing so — you'll understand the appeal of the King's Pond.
When the developers at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu on Hawaii's Big Island told David Chai, the resort's manager of natural resources, that they were planning to build a new plunge pool for hotel guests, he floated a different idea.
"I said, 'If you're going to do that, how about making it a swim-through aquarium?'"
The result, the King's Pond, is a 6.8-million-litre pool carved out of natural, black lava rock and stocked with over 3,500 tropical fish. Resort guests can borrow complimentary snorkelling equipment and swim alongside of creatures whose names are as exotic as their colouring: redlip parrotfish, yellow tangs, orangespine unicornfish and pearl wrasse, to name a few.
The pond, just a hop, skip and sandy jump from the ocean, is filled with a mixture of ocean and mountain water. Its depth ranges from one to almost five metres and the bottom is covered with white sand for easier viewing. In fact, the viewing is so easy — from the moment you put your face in the water, and even before, the fish are visible — that one guest described the experience as "not very sporting."
This may actually be the pond's big draw, as people who lack the confidence to snorkel in the open ocean can experience some of the thrill of swimming among tropical fish in a safe, contained environment.
Even non-swimmers can pull on a lifejacket, grab a float board with a window in it and loom over the fish, in the mini-glass-bottom-boat approach to viewing.
King's Pond is one of six swimming pools at this 13-hectare, AAA five-diamond property.
All of the pools are set amid crescents of low-rise, bungalow-style accommodations and surrounded by lush tropical flora, including the requisite swaying palms.
A lap pool services athletes, a sand-bottomed wading pool (with complimentary swimming diapers available) delights pint-sized guests, and a lagoon-shaped infinity pool, built so close to the beach that the water flowing over its edge seems to blend with the ocean, is a magnet for exuberant children.
Thankfully, an adults-only pool and, at most times of the day, the King's Pond are havens of peace and quiet.
The exceptions are when a gaggle of guests arrive to watch the daily feeding of the pond's spotted eagle ray or to participate in the Fish Circus.
The circus is a unique activity that engages guests to help "train" the King's Pond fish to swim through hoops, jump on trays and even play soccer (sort of). Basically the fish are following the food, but hey, it's entertaining stuff.
Once you have swum with the fishies you are likely to have worked up an appetite of your own and want to go looking for sustenance at one of the resort's restaurants.
Opt for the Pahu i'a dining room and admire its brilliant centerpiece: a soaring tropical fish aquarium. (Pahu i'a means aquarium in Hawaiian.)
For more information on the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu, visit the resort website at www.fourseasons.com/hualalai.
For information on travel to Hawaii's Big Island, visit the Hawaii Visitors and Convention website at gohawaii.com/bigisland.