2.24.2011

Makapu'u Trail

Makapu`u Trail

On a weekend in winter or early spring, be sure to climb up the Makapu Ľu trail on Oahu’s east side. While this easy paved trail is scenic at all times of the year, it’s especially popular with hikers of all abilities from November through April, whale-watching season! The islands of Moloka`i and Lana`i may be seen across the Kaiwi Channel, and on a particularly clear day, Maui is also visible.

The hike is a little less than 2 miles to the top, and the huge expanse of open ocean offers a panorama like no other. You won’t even notice the effort it takes to climb it because you’ll be distracted by the turquoise blue of the shallower waters in close on out to the dark navy of the expanse of ocean to the horizon. It’s absolutely breathtaking. And you won’t want to miss the thrill of possibly seeing a humpback jump high out of the water.

Known as the Kaiwi Coast, this wild and wonderful area is protected from development and offers us city folks a chance to get back to nature. It’s spectacularly picturesque at all times of the year, but it’s even more special during whale watching season. Today it’s a little on the voggy side, and the tradewinds are nonexistent so it’s a little sticky, but no matter, press onward and upward! Your neighbors are up here too, along with their aunties, uncles, keiki, and of course, the attendant pooches. Everyone has an eagle eye pointing oceanward to note the spouts and splashes that can only hint at the huge whales’ underwater size.

Humpbacks breed, calve and nurse here in these warm waters prior to their return to polar areas to feed. At 45 feet long and weighing 40 tons, the adult whales are terrifically acrobatic. You might see a tail slap, a pec slap, or the most miraculous of all, the breach, where the entire body rises out of the water. And the babies learn by mimicking their parents—equally phenomenal activities, although with slightly less splash. And it’s kind of unbelievable that the parents don’t eat the whole time they’re here!

Makapu Ľu Point is located about a mile east of Waimanalo Beach on Kalanianaole Highway (or, if you’re coming from the other direction, about a mile past the Hawaii Kai Golf Course). It’s the easternmost tip of O`ahu and is the location of Makapu`u Point Lighthouse. The 46-foot-tall US Coast Guard lighthouse is inaccessible to hikers, and although unmanned, it is still active. The steamship Manchuria ran aground on the reef off Waimanalo in 1906, which prompted the construction of the lighthouse, completed in 1909. The lighthouse was automated in 1974, and contains a 12-foot-tall hyper-radial lens, the largest in use in the U.S. The lens can magnify and intensify the illumination of a single electrical 1,000-watt, 120-volt light bulb. It was once damaged by a bullet, but remains in service.

The beauty and wildlife of this protected area, along with its history, are interesting facets of our home in the islands. Take a couple of hours to explore and check out Makapu`u--you’ll be glad you did.

2.17.2011

Magical Butterflies

Magical Butterflies


Looking out over my sunny Honolulu yard and seeing several beautiful Monarch butterflies flitting from flower to flower makes my heart take flight with them. Trying to catch up to photograph them with my digital camera is a losing proposition, however, although I did manage to get a couple of shots.



These magical creatures, pulelehua in Hawaiian, are declining in our islands. The main reason is man’s intrusion into their environment: Concrete, pavement, and overbuilding are not favorable butterfly environment. Our use of pesticides damages their immune systems so they are unable to reproduce. Also, many species of birds have decided that the baby Monarch caterpillars are very tasty. Predator lizards, ants and wasps devour their eggs.


There are several butterfly preservation missions in Hawaii, whose purpose is to educate us on the importance of butterflies. They also encourage the creation of butterfly gardens in the midst of our urban areas. Creating a butterfly haven, even if only on your lanai in a crowded city, may help preserve the remaining butterflies. Let’s learn a little about this wonderful being, the butterfly.


Butterfly Life Cycle


Butterflies have four stages of life: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult.


After mating, the adult female lays eggs on leaves and stems on a plant the caterpillars will eat (a host plant). The eggs are tiny, and can be round, oval, or cylindrical. The eggs usually hatch within a few days, and tiny caterpillars emerge. Their job now is to eat and grow. Caterpillars are often colorful with interesting stripes or patterns. They will shed their skins at least four times to enclose a rapidly growing body.


Children love to look at and play with the curious looking caterpillars. Generally speaking, the majority of caterpillars are not dangerous to handle, but don’t eat them!


To pupate, the caterpillar finds a sheltered spot and then sheds its skin one last time to reveal the pupa, or chrysalis. Inside the chrysalis, the structures of the caterpillar are broken down and dissolved, and the butterfly’s structures are formed. Then the imago (adult butterfly) emerges.


The adults then experience courtship, feeding, mating, and egg-laying, all within about a two-week period, their life span. Some butterflies can live longer than that, but it’s not typical.


Some interesting butterfly facts:



  • Adult butterflies and moths are attracted to certain nectar plants for their food

  • Butterflies are pollinators, that help flowering plants to reproduce and bear fruit

  • Monarch butterflies eat poisonous plants when they are caterpillars and are poisonous themselves as adult butterflies. If a bird should eat an adult butterfly, he finds that it tastes really bad, and he will become sick and vomit after eating one. No wonder he learns not to do it again!

  • The dust on butterfly and moth wings is called scales. The scales form the bright colors, sometimes with hidden ultraviolet patterns. They have several purposes:


  • They are signals to the other sex to attract mating

  • The colors warn birds or other predators not to eat them

  • Their patterns help the butterflies blend into their background and thus escape predators

  • Butterflies are cold-blooded. Dark colors formed by the scales can soak up warmth from the sun to allow their bodies to warm up to flight temperatures

  • When butterflies cannot keep their temperatures at activity levels, when it's cloudy, or at night, they become inactive. This resting is not the same as human sleep.

  • Butterflies always have their eyes open, since they don’t have eyelids, and they probably don’t dream.

These beautiful creatures are declining in our world, but perhaps we can help restore their population! Check with the preservation societies in your area on how you can help.


2.07.2011

Kayaking

Kayaking





Super popular in Hawaii, kayaking is a great way to get out and explore the ocean. There are several wonderful locations for paddling on Oahu, but Kailua and Lanikai are the most popular. With the Mokulua Islands nearby to explore, Kailua Bay welcomes you to an adventure that’s not to be missed. An offshore reef keeps the larger waves ‘at bay,’ so even the novice can feel comfortable while skimming along on the turquoise blue waters.

Ocean kayaks are usually made of brightly colored polyethylene, and are very stable. Kayaking is a little different from canoeing because of where the paddler sits and by having two blades on the paddle instead of one. Kayak designs can accommodate a wide range of usage. They come in many lengths, with shorter boats being more maneuverable, and longer boats, used by the more expert paddlers, usually travel straighter and faster.



Several kayak rental companies can help you find just the right type of boat and place to explore. Adventuring alone? There are single-seat kayaks available. Spending the day with your family? Rent several double-seater ocean kayaks (some even have backrests!) and everyone can help out with the paddling. Definitely get someone to take your picture sitting in your colorful boat, lifejacket on! Ready? Get paddling!



Three small, uninhabited islands in Kailua Bay are easily reachable in a short time, even by a beginner. On your way there, chances are really good that you’ll be thrilled by the sight of one of the large endangered sea turtles that populate the warm waters. They’re huge! And green! And wonderful! They’ll pop their heads out of the water to check you out on your way by.



At your destination, you can park your boat and enjoying sunning yourself in a secluded spot, or swim or snorkel along the shore. There are coral reefs nearby inhabited by many varieties of colorful tropical fish. Imagine your excitement at seeing these beauties in their natural habitat! One of the islands is a bird sanctuary, where you can see some wedge-tailed shearwaters and many other species.



A little afraid of the ocean? Its vastness and power definitely takes some getting used to. If you don’t feel comfortable venturing out on your own, guided kayak tours are the ticket. Your knowledgeable guide will point out highlights along the way—an occasional dolphin sighting, schools of fish passing by, the view of the majestic Koolau Mountains—as well as affording you the security of knowing you are in good hands.



Kailua is definitely not the only place to kayak. Other popular paddling spots around Oahu are Kaneohe Bay, Kualoa Beach Park, Maunalua Bay, and Waimanalo Beach Park. Pick any one! Find your own favorite!



Leave the hustle and bustle of your everyday life behind and paddle away your stress. The natural rhythms of paddling, gentle waves, and soft breezes will relax you and re-energize your soul. You’ll return to shore in a much better frame of mind!