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Obama family visits Hanauma Bay and release sea turtles

By Star-Advertiser staff and the Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:18 p.m. HST, Dec 27, 2011

President Barack Obama visited Hanauma Bay today and released four green sea turtles into the ocean.

At about 1:20 p.m., the presidential motorcade left Obama's rental in Kailua and drove for about 40 minutes to Hanauma Bay, a popular snorkeling spot.

The motorcade arrived at about 2 p.m. with sunny skies and faint breeze in the air. 

A White House official said the first family joined the president, however pool reporters could not see them. 

Hanauma Bay is closed every Tuesday for maintenance and beautification, so the first family and their entourage had the park to themselves. 

The first family released four green sea turtles. The turtles are all 18 months old and were all born June 26, 2010 at Sea Life Park, the only place in the U.S. that raises green sea turtles in captivity. 

All four of the turtles were identified with distinctive markings and have microchips in their rear flippers with a unique ID so they can scan them if they come up on the beach, according to Jeff Pawloski, curator for Sea Life Park. 

The president and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, enjoyed their turtle experience so much that they decided to make a stop at Sea Life Park later in the day. The president appeared briefly before cameras as he left the park, climbed into a waiting SUV and headed back to his vacation rental.

The president has stayed largely out of the spotlight since arriving Friday evening in Hawaii, the state where he was born and mostly raised. He spent a low-key holiday with his family, attended Christmas church services and visited service members stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, near Honolulu.

Obama also has hit the golf course, worked out at the gym on the Marine base and taken wife Michelle Obama out to dinner.

Behind the scenes, the president is being briefed by a small cadre of traveling staff on domestic and international developments, including his administration's debate over whether to allow Yemen's outgoing leader to come to the U.S. for medical treatment. Obama also announced two nominees to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on Tuesday.

Obama has no public events planned during his vacation, which is expected to last until shortly after New Year's Day.


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