Manta rays during a night dive (this isn't my photo but since we didn't take any underwater is one I found online from the trip and a great representation of what it was like to be down there with the mantas).
An overlook of Waimea Canyon - 'Grand Canyon of the Pacific'.
Word of warning - these photos are in no particular order - since there are so many of them I'll just ramble about each in the order they uploaded.
Volcanic black sand beach on the Big Island.
Very patient sea turtle. This turtle was sleeping on the beach and little kids kept trying to bother it. The turtle ignored them completely until one little boy threw a clump of sand at its face. After getting showered, the turtle cracked open one eye a slit to glare balefully at the boy, closed it, and went back to sleep. I was amazed how many turtles were hanging out on this rather busy beach!
Bonsai at Fuku Bonsai (and shrimp) farm. :)
Incredible hike in Koke’e state park.
Red-crested cardinals were everywhere!
Feral chickens were also everywhere on Kauai - they were so much fun to watch.
Noble chickens with incredible views.
Flightseeing over Kauai was absolutely amazing! (Napali coast)
Mahaulepu beach area rocks.
Coastline by plane.
Life is tough when you're a young hen.
The day geckos absolutely delighted me. This baby crawled all over my face. :)
Zebra dove at Hindu monastery.
Terraced fields near Princeville.
Old wooden canoe detailing.
Obligatory tourist-with-turtle photo.
Obligatory standing-on-lava-rocks photo.
David Fukumoto teaching us bonsai principles.
Semi-tame Kalij pheasants all over!
Kilauea crater at night.
Gorgeous lichen on the Alaka’I swamp trail.
Amazing mantas at night (not my photo but from that dive).
Endangered Nene Goose.
Orchids at Akatsuka orchid farm. Agh the orchid farm - I came home with so many and they are all amazing! One smells like chocolate.
Puuhonua-o-honaunau national park.
A photo of Roman and I underwater, newly certified scuba divers!
Holding a seahorse at Ocean Rider farm.
Seriously cool sea horse domestication project :)
Sea turtle grazing underwater on one of our dives.
The whole island was unreal in its beauty and views.
Another sleepy sea turtle.
Sugar cane at a coffee plantation on Kauai.
Kilauea crater and caldera. Part of the world's most active volcano (Big Island, Hawaii).
A quick rundown of our trip:
We spent a week on Kauai, the Garden Island. They filmed a lot of Jurassic Park there, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. and I can see why! The whole island was incredible - from lush, steamy jungles to canyons to beautiful beaches and vistas that looked like you were on Mars. I'm really glad we decided to go to Kauai - neither Mbala nor I are 'beach people' and wanted to hike, dive, and explore. Kauai is tiny - about 20 miles across - and a week gave us time to really explore nooks and crannies and step off the beaten path. :)
We were surprised when we picked up our rental car - they gave us a Ford Mustang convertible - which was too much fun to drive around everywhere. Parts of Kauai are the world's rainiest spots so this meant we got wet a lot since we couldn't resist keeping the roof down and cruising around. :)
We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast in the rainforest with a chorus of geckos, birds, and 2am roosters keeping us company. There were feral chickens EVERYWHERE on Kauai. You went to Walmart and there were chickens in the parking lot, shading themselves in the shadows of cars, cleaning the lot, and trying to enjoy some air conditioning from the constantly opening and closing front doors. When you ate lunch chickens perched next to you on outdoor tables. They shared the beaches and historical sites. Shopkeepers swept them out of shops. There were also tons of mynah birds as well as interesting natives (we got to see some of the incredible honeycreepers!), wild parakeets, and birds birds birds. Loved it!
Hawaii had an incredible feel to it - a much slower, more laid back pace of life. Almost everyone there stopped to talk to you - sometimes for hours, shared fresh fruit and meandered about with a somewhat dreamy look on their faces, even when working. It felt a bit like stepping back in time or into another world. Year-round beautiful weather, bountiful food, and a unique culture seem to produce this amazing 'aloha' spirit.
Hiking was beautiful and many places we were completely alone or nearly so. Part of it was time of year and the places we chose to visit, but part of it was just that Kauai is less visited and more wild. Wild orchids, sensitive plants, incredible views - hiking through the highest altitude swamp in the world (which awesomely was too high altitude for many typical swamp insects) - really an outdoor lovers dreamland!
We managed to get our Scuba certification on Kauai! We celebrated by flying over the Big Island to do a night dive with manta rays. It was a surreal, incredible, life-changing experience. Almost in slow motion mantas appear from the darkness and swoop right over you, turning in circles in an underwater ballet. I was bonked in the head by one - it felt a bit like being hit by a 2000lb rubber ball covered in sandpaper - very gently. I can't even begin to describe the experience - being underwater literally is being in another world, incredibly alien - and makes you appreciate every breath you take, everything you can see and feel and challenges all of your senses.
On the big island we stayed with a delightful woman we found through the Couchsurfing website - she moved out to Hawaii from Seattle and built herself an incredible little sustainable energy cabin in the rainforest. She was wonderful to hang out with and learn more about Hawaiian culture. We went to the farmer's market in Hilo and ate fresh lychees and picked mangoes off trees. Also were pelted with ripe falling mangoes from giant trees. The abundance of everything edible and tropical constantly amazed me. :)
We visited Volcanoes national park. We didn't get to see actual flowing lava - a big chunk of the road was wiped out with recent active lava flow which meant the only way to get to flow overland would have meant a 15 hour hike over black lava rock which we didn't have time for. While we were out there two tourists died attempting just that - and not realizing how quickly you can get dehydrated in a lava desert with searing heat and incredibly disorienting landscape stretching as far as you can see in all directions. Lava rock is incredibly sharp and unforgiving, making hiking really hard! We did get to see the glow of lava at night, though - and the most amazing stars which stretch all the way to the horizon (with no light pollution for thousands of miles). I have been many amazing, remote places for seeing stars - but Hawaii had the most awe-inspiring skies I've ever seen.
One day on the big island we had planned to go hiking but took a detour to visit a bonsai farm I knew about from online forums and ended up spending seven hours chatting with the owner, adopting a few new bonsai for the house, and coming home with a tank of Opa'e Ula shrimp (which I've wanted forever). This about exemplifies the whole trip and the people we met. :) I love passionate people and Hawaii had those in droves.
We also visited Ocean Rider seahorse farm which has a huge collection of many of the world's species of seahorses - including the only breeding trio of leafy seadragons in captivity (those you see at aquariums and zoos around the world are all wild caught) - they do amazing research, conservation, and breeding projects there. They have been working to domesticate a strain of the American seahorse to be suitable for the aquarium hobby and done an amazing job of it! They have many colors of seahorses now - ones that will eat frozen foods and thrive in a properly kept saltwater tank. A far cry from the $20 mail order seahorses you could get when I was a kid who all suffered and starved despite well meaning keepers. Again, I love people who are passionate and devoted to what they do no matter what it is! I liked seahorses before but visiting the farm enriched my passion for them a lot. They were amazingly endearing to watch and learn more about!
I know I'm forgetting many things - it was a wonderful trip and I'm really glad we went. The tank of hawaiian lava shrimp who are doing somersaults on my desk at the moment are a constant reminder of it (and always making me smile) - I've been a shrimp keeper for many years but these guys are incredibly active and so much fun to watch!