Uncruise/Safari Explorer 7 days from Moloka'i to the Island of Hawaii (Big Island)
This is the same operator and boat we traveled with to Alaska a few years ago. 36 guests, quite comfortable cabins, amazing chef and pastry chef in a small boat galley, knowledgeable adventure guides, and a good staff that deals effortlessly with table service, pouring wines, tidying rooms, yoga class, and managing the the skiffs, kayaks, etc as if there were no swells bobbing everything everywhere.
For this trip we were only 24 passengers, including Linda/Denny Trostle with whom we traveled in Alaska, and our good buddy Sue from Denver. Here's a fun comparison. Uh, kids, 3 years and you still don't have that nsync thing going with the oars :)
Linda and Denny Trostle
Sue's lovin' the water.
Unforgettable Cultural Experiences
We met up on Moloka'I.
Our first activity as a group, en route to the boat, was a stop at Moloka'i Plumerias – the largest plumeria farm in Hawaii. In addition to a tour of the farm, we each had our hand at making a lei. It takes roughly 50 flowers to make a lei. It took me about 5 minutes to gently string on 4. It takes the trained staff less than a minute to complete one lei without losing one single flower.
Plumeria Trees as far as the eye can see, all maintained to the same moderately low height so all the flowers can be hand picked without ladders.
Here's half of our group who went to lei-making class while the rest of us toured the farm - sitting there looking so smug, like they actually each made their lei, right? Ha - they'd all still be there trying. But it was pretty funny to come around the bend and see them sitting there like this.
After our first night on the boat, we had one more day on Moloka'I. A long, winding van ride took us to the remote Halawa Valley for a hike and cultural visit with Anakala Pilipo Solatorie and his son Greg. Here is the description they have in their literature – sort, sweet and very impressive, so no need to edit this. It was, indeed, an honor to spend time at their Hale and learn of their culture and deeply felt commitment to continuing their cultural practices.
ANAKALA PILIPO SOLATORIO
Pilipo is the last living Hawaiian descendent to be born and raised in Halawa who still resides there. He was chosen at the age of five to study and become the cultural practitioner for his family. This honor meant he was given responsibility of carrying on their traditions and cultural practices. Pilipo is one of the few witnesses of the April 1, 1946 tsunami still living.
GREGORY KAWAIMAKA SOLATORIO
Greg is one of Anakala Pilipo's six children and is the only son currently residing in Halawa Valley. Like his father, he too has been chosen to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture. Greg grew up hunting, fishing, and working in Halawa Valley before leaving Moloka'i for Oahu to start a family. He has recently returned to the valley to manage the family farm and follow in his father's footsteps
This is a photo of Greg sounding the shell to announce our arrival onto the property. In prior times, Greg explained, no one would come onto your land without announcing themselves this way, and waiting for a reply.
A wonderful lesson we might all keep in mind today: Look for Similars rather than Differences.
Greg told us a story of one of his first experiences as a young boy when his dad left him at the beach and said he could come home when he found something similar. He said he sat there for the better part of the day having no idea what his dad intended him to see. And then he noticed that the Ti leaf is the shape of a heart (like I have, he thought); the Taro Root from the Ti Leaf feeds us and gives us life. We give it life, it gives us life. Sharing Similars.
Here is Greg making poi for us from his farm's Ti leaf and Taro Root, using a generations-old bowl and his personal stones for grinding.
A closer look at the "mise en place."
For those who enjoy history, the Halawa Valley is home to the first Moloka'I residents. (Halawavalley.com), settled during the 7th century by settlers from the Marquesas Islands in southern Polynesia. For over 1200 years the valley was a center of taro lo’i (patches), heiau (spiritual temples) and a thriving population. In 1836, one of the first missionaries on Molokai reported a population of about 500 Hawaiians farming more than a thousand lo’i and other types of produce in the valley. However, in 1946 and again in 1957, tsunamis with waves as tall as 45 feet swept up the valley and destroyed nearly all the homes, the taro lo’i and devastated the area.
It is stunning territory.
Our final experience on Moloka'I was to visit the Moloka'i Museum for a pa'ina (party) where they served an amazing luau (feast) of traditional dishes - and of course, hulu dancing and outstanding local music with cultural instruments. There is also an extensive display of photographs from the days when Moloka'i was a leper colony.
Whale of a Tale
One of the reasons we took this specific trip is because our adventure guide on the Alaska trip (Jill) said we really should close the loop of our experience following the humpback whales. When we saw them in Alaska, early August, they were calorie loading and getting ready for their long journey to Hawaii. By early February, they would be getting ready to start their journey back to Alaska, now with their calves.
This is likely more detail than most of you want but, for those interested, here's the condensed version of the Humpback Whale Migration.
(SOURCE: WILDHAWAII.ORG) Humpback Whale Migration North Pacific Humpback Whales leave the icy waters around Alaska during the fall, swimming practically non-stop for nearly 6 to 8 weeks before reaching their Hawaiian winter home, where they mate, give birth, and nurture their calves. Their annual migration of about 6,000 miles is one of the longest of any mammal. Like most northern hemisphere baleen whales, humpbacks feed during the summer in sub-arctic regions and migrate to sub-tropical waters in winter to breed. Today, there may be as many as 6,000 humpbacks found in the North Pacific, in three somewhat distinct populations.
The central stock summers in southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska and winters in the waters around Hawai'i. Beginning in mid to late November, mother whales nursing their calves usually arrive first in Hawai'i. Then juveniles and newly weaned yearlings come. The adult males arrive next, double the number of adult females who follow. Finally, the pregnant females arrive, after feeding up to the last minute in Alaska. The waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands are one of the most important humpback whale habitats. Humpbacks prefer two major areas in Hawai'i: the four-island region of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kaho'olawe, and the Penguin Band, a tongue of shallow water extending 25 miles southwest of western Molokai.
AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHERE WE WERE!!
So now, let's move onto something photogenic.
The waters are a little rough, so no kayaking or snorkeling. But, Kent (adventure leader) said – let's at least head out on the skiffs and see if we can spot a whale. Kent drops a microphone into the water and we can hear the whales singing. We were having a chat about whale acoustics when -- the whales spotted us!
Mom and calf started at one skiff, just about sticking their heads up onto the pontoons for a better look at the folks inside. Then they came over to our skiff. We were all holding our collective breadth that this was a friendly visit. The baby rolled on its back right at our skiff (you could see the light aqua belly); mom rolled over and gently tail-flapped. The bowsmen decided to tie the skiffs together as a safer position (they are not allowed to turn the engines on with the whales this close). Mitch – one of our adventure guides – stuck his camera underwater and got the amazing shot right at the whales head. Carlo got some amazing videos with his GoPro that we are all hoping he will share. LInda and Steven each got some good shots shared here. This went on for a quite awhile – and then, -- they just swam away.
And then, -- we all remembered to breath.
Photographer: Linda Trostle
On The Water
We had a few good days for snorkeling, which is better than no days but not as many as we had hoped. Our first water adventure was pretty unique though – snorkeling in the Molokini Volcanic Crater. This is one of only 3 volcanic calderas in the world.
Of course I didn't take this photo, but I like that it gives you an idea of what this caldera looks like.
When we got back to the boat we continued our on-water activities with high board jumping (some, not me), swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding . Or, in my case, stand up sit down stand up get on your knees before you fall paddle boarding.
For our second on-water opportunity, we transferred from our skiffs onto Captain Zodiacs speed boats (very cool) and in addition to taking us into the cove to snorkel, we had a great tour of the cliffs, coves, and sighting of the trifecta of the ocean – whales, dolphins, sharks.
Our second snorkel was in Kealakekua Bay, Big Island – otherwise known as Captain Cook's Cove. This is the very cove where Captain Cook had an argument with the King and was, in turn, killed by the Hawaiians. It's quite a good story about bad timing and misunderstandings. If it interests you to learn more, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/captain-cook-killed-in-hawaii.
This trip was my first try at water photography and it took me close to an hour to figure it out. I think Carlo made the better choice with a GoPro on a Stick, but stuck with my choice, here's what I learned. If you stay on top of the choppy, swirling water it is nearly impossible to steady a small camera. But, if you go down just a bit and chase the fish, it is calmer and you are heading in the same direction – and you can get some shots.
So -- here are several shots of these various water activities.
pink tail trigger fish
yellow tang, black urchin on coral
a beautiful view
The snorkel of all snorkels though was the Night Manta Ray experience. Oh my goodness, when one of those gigantic rays flows up from the ocean floor to right underneath you it is nothing short of other-worldly. Most of us literally gasped and giggled right into our snorkels. One of our team got this shot -- my little camera was useless in all the turbulence and dark.
Here's what a manta ray looks like when it's not a dark outline shadow (stock photo). Imagine that being up to 15 ft across.
We kayaked only one day, and even that was plenty rough and choppy. We were able to paddle fairly close to a 400 ft. high cliff and see the water caves, but it was too rough to get any closer. Kent said the trip was about 2 miles, and I think we were all truly delighted to sight our boat and know that the kayak trip was about done.
Off we go--
Anyone want to go in there ?
With Kent up ahead setting the boundary, Carlo and Carrie sneaked up on this cave.
Seemed a good idea when we started -- where's that darn boat of ours?
We'll just have to come back and hope for calmer seas.
On Shore Events
We had 3 town opportunities.We didn't take too many shots in the towns, so, just a few for flavor.
1.94 acres of Banyon Tree - the largest in the United States
Lahana'i has some outstanding art galleries, but this was my personal favorite - the old jailhouse cells, now galleries.
Ok, Buffet fans, here ya go.
Lanai City (Lanai) used to be home to Dole Pineapple plantations. Now it is 98% owned by Larry Ellison, with 2 Four Season Resorts.
Kona (Big Island)
Indeed - a tree runs through it.
Rambutan in the Farmer's Market
Me playing tourist
and one without the spider
New coconut tree starting
Safari Explorer skiffs tied to the back of the boat. Plenty choppy out there.
View out of our cabin door one afternoon
Big Island - water power
View from Molokai Hotel
hui hou kākou