Join us on a road trip on the Hawaiian islands
In April this year I was lucky enough to visit Hawaii for a few weeks, and was completely bowled over by its beauty and wildlife. We stayed for a couple of weeks on the Big Island, spending the first week at a scientific conference in Kona, followed by a few days on the other side of the island at the coast near Hilo.
Kona is a really lovely town, very relaxed as you would expect from Hawaii. We stayed at the Sheraton, which is famous for its bar where you can sit and enjoy a Mai Tai while watching wild Manta Rays swim in the sea below the hotel. We had a fantastic experience swimming with the Mantas at night - they really are the most incredible creatures, so elegant and almost ghostly as they somersault in the water while feeding on the plankton attracted by the lights on the boat. It was quite extraordinary to be so close to these gentle giants. The waters around Hawaii are home to an amazing variety of animals, and the snorkelling was the best I have ever seen. The sea is full of brightly coloured, friendly fish, and large green turtles or Honu - swimming with them is probably the best thing I have ever done! We swam at the cove where Captain Cook was killed - it is now an incredibly beautiful, peaceful place, but it is easy to imagine the battle here as the cliffs are damaged by cannon fire from Cook's ship. The coral here is stunning and the fish are glorious.
The Big Island is of course famous for its active volcano, which has been erupting continuously since 1983, and is adding land to the island all the time as lava hits the sea. We stayed near Pahoa, right in the middle of the lava flow. In fact the most recent lava flow stopped just meters away from the market place and damaged property, but the small town's residents are staying put for now. It's a great area, we stayed right on the coast by the tidal pools which fill with water and pretty fish every high tide, in an apartment on stilts surrounded by chirping frogs and singing birds - it was perfect, sharing breakfast with the jewel like green lizards on the deck in the morning and paddling through the high tide in the evening. We crossed a couple of trips off our bucket list when we walked across the crater of the active volcano, and then visited the observatories at Mauna Kea.
It was sad to leave the beautiful Big Island but we headed to Maui for a few days, staying in a gorgeous little town on the coast near the start of the famously beautiful road to Hana. The road meanders through incredibly beautiful rainforest and waterfalls, hugging the rugged coastline - there are 637 bends in the 20 mile drive, so it is a slow but wonderful drive. On Maui we were lucky to catch the very end of the whale season. Humpback whales spend the winter in Hawaii to breed, before swimming all the way back to Alaska to feed in the summer. We hadn't expected to see any whales as they are usually all gone around the end of April, but we took a boat trip and saw a family of humpbacks right off the coast near Lahaina, which was a real treat.
We spent the last few days of the trip on Kaua'i, the tiny garden island, which was my favourite. Kaua'i is famous as the setting for many movies including Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Descendents. It is stunning - the oldest of the chain of Islands, the volcanic peak has eroded to create a garden of Eden, fertile and lush with rainforest, taro fields and some of the world's best coffee. I enjoyed my first ever helicopter ride, even though it made me unbelievably motion sick- the view was really breathtaking. In fact we loved it so much we went for a boat trip the following day along the famous Na Pali Coast, with playful spinner dolphins, lots of Honu and another family of humpback whales late to leave for the season.