Hawai’i – Great Ocean Life and a lot of VOG (volcano fog)

Hawai’i – Great Ocean Life and a lot of VOG (volcano fog)

By Micha and Markus on Monday, May 18, 2020 - 04:16

We had chosen Hawai’i, the Big Island to get close to the Kilauea volcano, hike in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, maybe see the lava flow touching the ocean, and discover the ocean life around Kona. But mid-April the unforeseen happened, many fissures from the Kilauea crater opened, and a massive lava flow poured into the ocean causing large laze plum. Later the Kilauea crater lake collapsed followed by several eruptions up to the magnitude of 6.4 and frequent eruptions including ash explosions and ash fallout. So, we didn’t know what to expect as we arrived in Kona, a small open-air airport on the west coast. While we disembarked the plane, we got the first idea. The sky was covered in clouds, and we could somewhat see the mountains and elevations behind the coastline.

For the next afternoon, we scheduled Manta snorkeling trip and quickly booked a snorkeling and dolphin watching cruise in the morning to avoid the polluted air on land. We met our skipper Chase at the harbor. He dropped us right in front of the harbor exit into the water. We enjoyed more than an hour with up to 60 spinner dolphins in the water.

Micha even spotted a huge tiger shark. Later we learned from Chase that this shark is always around at this part of the coast. But this was not the end of the tour. Next, we stopped further south on a reef, but as the swell became too strong, we continued on the coastline to stop just in front of Paul Allen’s Villa (the one who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates). Here we found a massive group of baitfish, a view you only get from National Geographic footage.

In the afternoon we went out with another company to watch the manta rays close to the coastline at the golden eel cove. They become attracted by the plankton gathering around the lights positioned into the ocean. We all had to lay on the water holding a rail mounted on a surfboard. The mantas swam so close to us and circled that we always became frightened to become touched. But it never happened to us, and after more than an hour in the water, we were lucky and overwhelmed.

Fascinated by such a variety of ocean life we found Kona freedivers. They could arrange a place for us on one of their next SCUBA dive cruises. The only challenge was to find a certified freediver guide for our tour. Luckily, we got certified in Fiji. Otherwise, the trip would not be possible. The next morning, we had to wake up before 6 am and travel to the harbor again. Here we met Byron our guide for this day.

Later we learned that he is the owner of Kona Freedivers and Kona Hono Divers. Exchanging our experience with our website and discussing SEO topics shorted the time we traveled by boat to the dive spots. We had a good time in the water although some equalization problems challenged me. Maybe caused by the infection, I got on Fiji. Micha could practice going beyond 10 m, and I worked as photographer most of the time. On our last spot, we saw one of the rare monk seals close to the coast. Again, a very successful and impressive day.

The day after we decided to omit the water and drive up to Mauna Kea, the secret white volcano. The saddle road to reach the summit road was considered as one of the most dangerous roads in Hawaii with plenty of one-lane bridges and lousy pavement including many potholes. Rental car companies had not allowed the usage until in 2011 it was renewed and is now easy driveable. Near mile marker 28 at 2021m we took the Mauna Kea Summit road up to the visitor center. Here at around 2800 m, we found signs that traveling further would require a true 4x4 car. The weather was not perfect with a lot of clouds, and we decided not to try the climb with our SUV today. Instead, we changed our plan and went for a hike to the Emesine Cave, a lava tube in the 1881 lava flow. We started very late at the PuuOh trailhead, and it took us about 2 hours to get to the cave. Close to the cave, we had to navigate with our mapping app to find the entrance.

On our way back, the sky cleared up, and we had an excellent view of Mauna Kea and the sky after sunset.
The next day and we jumped into our car to try the visit the top of Mauna Kea again. This time we took the chance and drove up with our SUV. In general, it was not a big deal as long as you shift manually and stay in a low gear. The view from the top was spectacular, and a large number of telescopes from different countries in front of the blue sky was incredible. It was around 52°F, and after taking many pictures, we started our descent down.

On Big Island I got addicted to “Poke”, a raw fish salad typically served an appetizer and for me always the main course. Different seasonings were offered, and I tried many of them. In case Poke was sold out I just took an Ahi filet (raw yellowfin tuna) and ate it with pickled ginger and wasabi.

Vog again dominated the following day, and we were glad to leave Hawai’i for our last destination.