One of the activities that my son Eric and I enjoy when we travel to Kaua’i is a snorkel cruise along the Na Pali coast. This year we decided to book our trip with a different charter company than we have used in the past because they visit the area between the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau and Lehua Island State Bird Sanctuary. We were a bit concerned about taking a cruise this year because of unusually stormy seas on Kaua’i's south coast this December, but we decided to go forward with our plan. This particular cruise required us to be at the dock in Port Allen at 6:00 am. It was dark and a bit windy, but warm. We set off, and eventually the sun began to rise behind the catamaran.
As the windy, cloudy day began to lighten, we could see the Forbidden Island of Ni’ihau, which lies about 18 miles west of Kaua’i, touched by the dawn colors.
Ni’ihau is one of the smaller main islands in the archipelago. It has been owned by the same Caucasian family since they bought it from King Kamehameha IV for $10,000 in the 1860′s. The population of about 200 are nearly all are of pure Hawai’ian descent, and the island is also the last spot on Earth where the Hawai’ian language is routinely spoken.
The imposing cliffs of Na Pali were difficult to photograph in the early morning light. You can see a Brown Booby flying over the cliffs.
Here is another Brown Booby as it flew past the boat. It was the first close look that we had of these birds that day, but it would not be the last look that we had.
The day was cloudy and misty, and the sea conditions were quite rough, all of which contributed to very difficult photo conditions. You can still see how lovely the coastline is. Here are a few photos of the Na Pali coast:
We pulled into a sheltered cove to get a brief respite from the rough conditions, and a Green Sea Turtle (Honu) swam alongside the catamaran.
Spinner Dolphins swam along with the boat from time to time.
We saw migrating Humpback Whales in the distance, but none came close enough to the boat for photos.
We crossed over to the crescent-shaped area between Ni’ihau and Lehua Island State Bird Sanctuary. The lack of running water on Lehua and Niihau keep the waters around Lehua very clear. As we approached Lehua, we began to see many seabirds:
(I will note for the record that I did not take my birding lens on this boat. Given the weather and the rough sea conditions, it was all I could do to handle one camera with a zoom lens.)
The weather in the crescent-shaped area near Lehua was clear and much calmer than the rough seas which we had experienced earlier in the day. We anchored near Lehua and got ready to go into the water for snorkeling. It would be my second attempt with my underwater camera.
The coral on the ocean floor was beautiful. The reef appeared to be very healthy. We were cautioned not to touch the living coral.
Our boat was anchored at the edge of a steep drop in the ocean floor. We could peer more than a hundred feet down into the depths.
After snorkeling and lunch, we started back to Port Allen. We saw a Monk Seal sleeping on the Lehua cliffs at the edge of the water.
We set off through very rough seas for the voyage back to Port Allen. I was happy that I am not susceptible to seasickness; others were less fortunate. I barely kept my footing on the pitching boat as I caught this last photo of a Brown Booby.
Eric and I had a wonderful time on the seven-hour cruise. I could feel the boat pitching for the remainder of the day.