A Rough Voyage to Ni’ihau and Lehua

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.

Kauai sunrise at sea

Kaua'i sunrise at sea

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.

The Forbidden Island of Niihau

The Forbidden Island of Ni'ihau touched by 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.

Na Pali cliffs, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali cliffs in the early morning light.

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.

Brown Booby, Kauai, Hawaii

Brown Booby

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:

Na Pali coastline, Kauai, Hawaii

Na Pali, Kauai, Hawaii,

Na Pali, Kauai, Hawaii,

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.

Green Sea Turtle, Honu, Na Pali, Kauai,

Green Sea Turtle (Honu)

Spinner Dolphins swam along with the boat from time to time.

Spinner Dolphins, Na Pali, Kauai

Spinner Dolphins

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:

Brown Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

Brown Booby

Brown Boobies, Lehua, Hawaii

Brown Boobies roosting on the Lehua cliffs

Red-footed Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

Red-footed Booby

Great Frigatebird, Lehua, Hawaii

Great Frigatebird

(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.

Coral, Lehua, Hawaii

Coral on the ocean floor

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.

Coral and fish, Lehua, Hawaii

Coral and fish where the ocean floor drops down.

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.

Monk Seal, Lehua, Hawaii

Monk Seal

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.

Brown Booby, Lehua, Hawaii

One last Brown Booby photo

Eric and I had a wonderful time on the seven-hour cruise. I could feel the boat pitching for the remainder of the day.

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Filed under Hawaii bird photography, Hawaii photography, Kaua'i Birds, Kaua'i Sea Mammals

18 responses to “A Rough Voyage to Ni’ihau and Lehua

  1. Sounds like you had a great day, despite the conditions. And you managed to get some great photographs too!

  2. What a great adventure, Linda. BTW, I honored you with a nomination for the Versatile Blogger award. Maybe you already have it, but you are very deserving. 🙂

  3. cindy

    Beautiful hues of blue..love the Island in the stream..Booby over the cliffs..just all of it! Made me seasick just reading tho’ could never have done it..Brave lady w/ sea legs..Thanks for showing us the sights!

    • It is such a beautiful place. I’m very fortunate that I don’t get seasick as the seas were pretty rough. The sights are definitely worth the trip!! Happy you enjoyed the post! xoxox

  4. Linda, so glad you went! Amazing beauty with the colors and waterfall. Can not believe how far you can view under the water. Wonderful birds–just glad you brought your camera:)

  5. Looks like a lovely way to spend the day. Wonderful images Linda.

  6. BirdGalAlcatraz

    What a fantastic post, Linda! All of the images are really wonderful and what a great variety. What fun!

  7. Terrific post and photos, Linda. What a gift to have the sea turtle swim up beside you. And to see whales. And dolphins. It’s great that you took an underwater camera too. Nice job getting BIF photos from a pitching boat, too!

    • Thanks for your very kind comments Scott. The Honu are one of the wonderful things about Kaua’i. This trip was my first try with the underwater camera, and it was more difficult than I thought it would be. I was moving with the water, and the fish were moving. The BIF photos were easy compared to that!

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