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Flying Above and Swimming Under the Deep Blue Sea

Humpback whale fluke at sunset West Maui

Getting back to nature is best experienced in the tropical seas surrounding the Hawaiian Islands, especially in the aquamarine waters around the islands of Maui County … Molokai, Maui, Lana‘i and Kaho‘olawe. The clear, calm ‘Au‘au Channel flowing between Maui and Lana‘i can be a magical mystery tour of marine life delights.

One of the first unusual tropical fish encounters I had was the helicopter rotor whirl of the malolo, or flying fish.  When you’re plying the waves in a windswept catamaran out in the channel, you may get a fleeting glimpse of these remarkable fish that launch out of the wave crests, whir in the air, and submerge again. It’s very cool to see several of them in motion.   Malolo flying fish off West Maui

Another acrobat of the sea is the graceful spinner dolphin. One evening close to sunset, I was dipping my canoe paddle in the waves as part of a six-person outrigger canoe paddling team when I noticed that a school of spinner dolphins was taking a joy ride with us. The beautiful leaps and bounds of their sleek bodies kept time with the motion of the humans’ paddling, and they stayed alongside our Spinner dolphin off Mauicanoe for several minutes. It was one of those magical moments I’m not likely to forget.

The underwater world of the tropics also offers amazing encounters with marine life. When snorkeling in West Maui, you can almost always meet up with the Hawaiian Green Sea turtle. These unassuming gentle giants cruise among the reefs and pop their heads above the waves along the shoreline to feed on limu (algae) between the rocks. They are protected as an endangered species, so swim along with them but please do not touch or feed them.

Green Sea Turtle off MauiIf you’re lucky enough to witness the extremely endangered ‘ilio, or Hawaiian monk seal, you should know to keep your distance and observe them from afar, about 50 yards away, whether you’re on a beach or in the ocean. Their sweet, puppy-like faces prompted the Hawaiians to name them “dog” (‘ilio) while their solitary behavior and bald look gave them their “monk” moniker. They’re known to dive deep in the sea but when at rest, they love to bask in the sun on a sandy beach.

Monk seals in Hawaii

Rays and reef sharks can also be spotted among the coral or on a sandy bottom when you’re snorkeling or diving in Maui’s protected waters. They’re pretty shy and usually flit away when they get close to a snorkeler or diver. If you keep still and watch, you’ll notice the natural beauty of the sting ray’s and manta ray’s wings flapping to dislodge sand and the zig-zag flow of the white tip reef shark swimming between corals.

Sting rays underwater in Hawaii

Of course, the biggest celebrity of the Pacific among the Hawaiian Islands is our loyal visitor, the humpback whale. Also an endangered species, the humpback population has prospered and grown from 4,000 who came to Hawai‘i in 1993 to approximately 12,000 wintering in Hawai‘i today. Not only can you get a personal encounter with these elegant leviathans from a kayak, raft or catamaran, but they’re easily seen from the shore. Look for a blow (water vapor spout) against the horizon or a splash of white water exploding from the sea. When driving along the coastline, be sure to look out for other vehicles and safely pull off the road to do whale watching (December – April).

Whether you’re watching from above or swimming under the deep blue, cherish your experience!  

Exotic Freshness at Farmers’ Markets Maui Style

One of the best ways to enjoy exotic fruits, farm-fresh veggies and locally sourced food products is to visit a farmers’ market. Not only do you get to try the freshest, healthiest produce available but you’ll often find extra surprises associated with these markets, and you can talk to the locals about their food culture. Check out these West Maui open-air markets this summer

Launiupoko Co-Op Farmers’ Market – on the frontage road at the stoplight intersection of Highway 30 and Kai Hele Ku Street – Open Saturdays from 8 am to 12 noon

Residents of the agricultural land subdivision across from Launiupoko Beach Park have banded together to host a small market of tented booths, featuring the fruits of their home laborsLauniupoko Farmers Market produce booth. Produce from these farms include herbs, squash, avocados, bananas, coconuts and papayas. You’ll also find farm-fresh eggs and baked goods. A different selection is offered each week, depending on the participants. Parking is available in the open-air lot off Kai Hele Ku Street or in the beach access lot across the highway.

Farmers Market Maui in Honokowai – 3636 L. Honoapi‘ilani Road across from Honokowai Beach Park – Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays between 7 and 11 am

The open-air, parking lot market was one of the first traditional farmers’ markets on the island, and has been going since the mid-1980s. Today, it is associated with the Farmers Market Maui & Deli health food store and deli-cafe in Honokowai Honokowai Farmers Market dips and saucesBeach Center. But three mornings a week you can still find tropical fruits and other produce freshly picked from Maui farms. Specialties include Maui onions, Maui Gold pineapples, island papayas and apple bananas, Kula corn and tomatoes, local lettuce and avocados. There’s also a wide variety of island made salsas, dips, jams and sauces along with baked goods. Inside, the deli’s prepared foods are strictly vegetarian and very yummy as are the fresh fruit smoothie drinks.

Napili Farmers’ Market – at the stoplight intersection of Highway 30 and Napilihau Street on the mountain side, below Maui Preparatory Academy – Open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 to 11 am

This small co-op market packs a big punch. Local farm sourcer, Steve, presents a vast array of organic produce from farms around the island. Shop for colorful carrots, beets and sweet potatoes; check out yellow beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes and herbs. You’ll Napili Farmers Market displaysee zucchini, eggplant and broccoli at times, too. Tropical fruits include Maui Gold pineapples, mangoes and papayas. You can eat a rainbow of goodness here. Maui food purveyors sell muffins, scones and breads. There’s also a  juice bar with kombucha on tap.

If you’re lucky, you may be treated to a serenade by a local singer-guitarist fresh off the beach or just down from the mountain.

It’s all about being in the right place, Maui style!

Maui’s Night Sky at 20.5 Degrees in the Tropics

The Hawaiian Islands are situated between the latitudes of 19° N and 22°N, with its midpoint at 20.5° N, which is where Launiupoko in West Maui is located.  Within the Tropic of Cancer, Hawai‘i has a vantage point of stars appearing not only north of the equator but at certain times of year from the southern sky as they rise above the horizon.

The night sky in Launiupoko where ambient light is minimal can be dazzling. Constellations and planets illuminate the darkness like a cache of diamonds glittering against a backdrop of black velvet.  One of my favorite times of year for stargazing is late fall to early winter …

Makali‘i (little eyes) or Pleiades, rises between mountain peaks in Launiupoko Valley and follows Orion like a litter of puppies across the sky. The Little Dipper is easy to spot with Hokupa‘a (Polaris) at the top of its handle. It’s flanked by ‘Iwakeli‘i (Cassiopeia) rotating southeast and Na Hiku (The Big Dipper) rotating northwest. The Milky Way arcs over the ocean like a broad brushstroke. When the alignment is right, Venus or Mars often make an appearance as the brightest sphere in the west. In the early morning hours, the Southern Cross appears upright low in the horizon to the south.

A moonbow can often be seen when the full moon rises over Mauna Kahalawai and illuminates clouds covering the island of Lana‘i across the ocean. On a full moon night in the tropics, don’t be surprised if you see moonshadows dancing to the caress of balmy tradewinds …

Sights & Sounds to Soothe the Soul

Living in your own private island retreat can be a feast for the senses. Imagine being immersed daily in the sights and sounds of wildlife thriving on your property’s natural landscape …

Each morning, the bell tone calls of gray francolins float across the yard as sweet melodies of bright red Northern cardinals serenade from the trees. Soon, staccato chirps of red-crested Brazilian cardinals blend in harmony with the warbles of Java sparrows and finches added to the soothing coos of doves. Snowy egrets land gracefully on the green as an elusive black francolin scurries across wild grasses and tiny, white-eyed mejiros flit among shrubbery. None are so entertaining as the rascally mynas with their cheeps, tweets and silly antics, or the mimicking calls and songs of the mockingbirds.

Red crested Cardinal Norfolk pine
Red-crested Cardinal
Black francolin in Hawaii
Black Francolin

Occasionally, a clear whistle can be heard from the kolea (Pacific golden plover) while searching for insects on the lawn. Kolea feed in the islands from late summer to late spring before making their annual trek to Alaska for nesting. When honking is heard from a distance, you soon see overhead the distinctive formation of a flock of endangered nene geese flying between valleys. This rare Hawaiian goose was introduced to the West Maui mountains a decade ago. These geese are thriving and have grown larger in size than those populating the high mountain slopes of Haleakala. As the sun is setting and night falls, the shy pueo (short-eared Hawaiian owl) can be seen soaring low over ravines while searching for food or if you’re lucky, you can find him perched on a branch, head swiveling, as he scopes out the terrain.

Nene geese pair West Maui
Nene (Hawaiian Geese)
Pueo short-eared owl Maui
Pueo (Hawaiian Owl)

A spectrum of green abounds:  from dark evergreen boughs of Norfolk pines to the intricate fronds of kiawe and leafy branches of monkeypod trees. Bright green waves of heart-shaped kalo (taro) leaves and long blades of mai (banana) leaves wave in the breeze. Soft, silvery greens of endemic ‘ilima and pohinahina shrubs contrast with olive green tones of woody ‘a‘ali‘i and mamane bushes. From the dark green paddle-shaped leaves of kamani to bright green teardrop kou leaves and from the silvery green maple leaf structure of kukui leaves to the bold green hand-like leaves of ‘ulu (breadfruit), the groves of trees offer cooling shade as well as natural beauty.

Floral blossoms range from dark red to hot pink and bright yellow on plumeria trees and bougainvillea vines. Yellow is nature’s color of choice for native plant blossoms on ‘ilima, contrasting with multi-hued red in the blooms of ‘a‘ali‘i, both of which are scattered across this tropical oasis.

yellow 'ilima blossom
‘Ilima
red a'ali'i flower
‘A‘ali‘i

No matter where you look, nature is by your side to soothe the restless soul.

Sharing my vision of Earth … inspired by The Daily Post.