Monday, January 30, 2012

Hiking the Crater in Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii

The following blog was written by Kay, a friend of ours who just spent 3 weeks on Maui. 

There are two trails entering the wilderness area of Haleakala National Park from the summit area. My brother, Andy, and I chose the lower trail, Halemaumau, which begins at 7990 feet. We set out just before 9:00 AM on Sunday January 22. It was 60 degrees. The cool air felt refreshing and perfect for hiking.

With over 30 miles of hiking trails we felt we picked the most picturesque trail. The vistas were spectacular. Here we could see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the crater on the other. The Halemaumau Trail winds down 1000 feet into the crater.

The barren landscape in the crater illustrates the diversity of Haleakala.. Few plant species establish seedlings in this harsh environment. We did admire the silversword (ahinahina), one of the hardy shrubs growing here.

Andy and I hiked past Holua where there is a cabin with bunks and a wood burning stove. There is also a primitive campsite. We spoke to some backpackers who stayed there the previous night. The stars were incredible, they told us. We continued on past the silversword loop for approximately another mile before turning around.

We saw a family of Nene (Hawaiian goose) near the cabin at Holua. They are a native species here. Inspite of the sign we had to wonder why these wild birds were hanging out around the cabin.

The family of Nene included a baby, hidden here in the grasses.

Just after this signpost we began our hike back up to the trailhead. We gained a little over 1000 feet to the parking lot at the trailhead. Near the end I was feeling the altitude change. I was glad that we decided to return the way we came rather than exiting via the Sliding Sands Trail. Andy had hiked there on a previous visit. Apparently it is tough slogging through the sand, not to mention another elevation gain to 9740 feet!

We hiked over 10 miles taking about 5 hours to do so.

Haleakala is one of the best of many hikes I have experienced throughout the world.

Many mahalos to Kay for a great post.  You may also like to read Day Trip to Haleakala

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Trilogy II - Discover Molokini Snorkeling Tour

Kay and I waiting to board Trilogy II
Kay and I were up bright and early to catch the Trilogy II Discover Molokini Snorkeling Tour which was leaving Maalaea Harbor at 8:00 AM. Clear blue skies and calm waters were a welcoming sight as we pulled into the harbor at Buzz's Wharf and parked as close as we could to slip 62.
While we waited to board we met Eve, a woman from Tracy, California, who told us that it was not only her first trip to Maui, but that it also would be her first time snorkeling.
Captain Chris checked us in and we knew right away by his friendly and fun repartee, that this was to be an adventure to remember. Crew members Cynthia, Frank, Rebecca and second Captain Brett greeted us warmly as we boarded Trilogy II, a 55' sloop rigged Sailing Catamaran, custom built in 2010, especially for Molokini Tours.
A warm welcome from Marine Biologist Cynthia Matzke
After the captain had given us a short safety briefing, interrupted by friendly bantering between him and Brett, we left the harbor and our Molokini Snorkel Tour had begun.
The seating on the catamaran, was very thoughtfully designed so that everyone could face the water and experience the day's events in comfort. No sooner had Kay, Eve and I settled on a bench, when Brett offered us yummy warm home made cinnamon buns, followed closely behind by Rebecca, who offered us a wonderful assortment of tropical fruit. We were intermittently distracted from eating by many excited calls that whales had been sighted close by.

Captain Chris would stop the ship, the required 100 yards away, and we were treated with displays of breaching, fin slapping and awesome flukes disappearing below the surface of the water. Dec to April is the season for whale watching in Maui, because the humpbacks have made the 1500 mile journey down from Alaska to mate and have their babies.
Captain Chris at the helm
As we were to discover, Marine biologist Cynthia Matzke was unbelievably knowledgeable about every aspect of marine life native to the Hawaiian islands, and began by telling us fascinating information about the humpback whales. For example did you know that the design on the underside of a whale's flute is unique to each individual, kind of like our finger prints? This feature allows marine biologists to track them on their long journey back and forth to Alaska as well as helping them do an accurate count of the whale population, among other things. An astounding 8000 to 10,000 whales visit waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands each year. Another interesting fact we learned about the humpbacks is that they literally starve for the 5 or so months they are in Maui waters because there is no food for them here. Miraculously, the krill and small fish from their Alaska feeding grounds, converts into enough blubber, which allows them to survive the return trip, as well as mating and giving birth in the warm tropical waters of Hawaii.
A whale breaching
On one occasion the captain stopped the ship for another reason, which was to pick up garbage that was floating on the surface of the ocean. We found out that Trilogy is dedicated to cleaning up Maui's reefs and oceans and play a leading role in the Blue'aina Reef Clean up Campaign.

On board was a microphone system that was playing back the whales' songs from the ocean around us. Cynthia told us researchers have discovered that each song goes on for about 20 minutes, and the male singer is always close by to a mother and calf. The amazing thing is that whales do not have vocal chords so it is still a mystery as to just how they produce their plaintiff melodies.
On the way out to Molokini, Frank invited anyone who wanted to try "snuba" to go to the aft of the ship for a lesson. The crew made sure that everyone had snorkels, masks, fins and wet suits and before long we were approaching Molokini, our first snorkel site.
Rebecca handing out wet suits

Approaching Molokini
After Captain Chris had stopped the ship and lines had been secured, he gave a snorkel lesson to people who either had never snorkeled before, or needed a refresher course. I was impressed that snorkel equipment and wet suit jackets were supplied to everyone on board, and the staff were right there helping you if needed. By this time everyone felt special because the crew already knew each of us by name. I loved it that only 34 to 40 people could go on this tour because it was so much more personal than other larger vessels I have been on in the past.  Captain Chris told me that he has been with Trilogy since he was 16 years old, some 34 years ago, and that the first of the fleet, named Trilogy was built by two brothers from Alaska and christened in 1971. Are we ever glad that they settled in Maui. You can read more about this interesting history on the Trilogy website .  They now boast the largest fleet of catamarans in the Hawaiian Islands.
Captain Chris demonstrates how to put on your mask

Kay and Eve set to snorkel
The snorkeling at Molokini was excellent. To quote Eve: "I loved the contained crystal clear waters, pretty coral and the abundant variety of fish. I also appreciated the extra attention the staff gave me both in the water and out, as a first time snorkeler." As we swam over the reef we saw people doing snuba, and both agreed that next time we would give it a try. Snuba is a shallow water diving system which doesn't require certification, as does scuba. In snuba you breathe through a simple to use regulator while your air supply floats on a raft at the surface of the water.

Cynthia gives us a talk about the marine life we were seeing
 Kay and I both felt a little chilly after the snorkel, and no sooner had we sat down when Rebecca came by and offered us hot chocolate, the perfect remedy for our shivers.
We were soon underway again to the second snorkeling site which was at Turtle Town just off from Makena Beach on Maui's south side.

Turtle Town - Our second snorkeling site
Here Kay and I snorkeled with a large turtle until it was time to go back to the ship. Honu, the hawaiian name for turtle means luck and we both were feeling very fortunate that we had chosen Trilogy II for our snorkeling adventure.
While we were swimming with the turtles, Captain Chris had been busy preparing BBQ'd teriyaki chicken for our lunch. It was served with rice, salad and a bun, along with a varity of choices of soft drinks, and juice, followed by delicious icecream and topping.

Captain Chris preparing lunch

Service with a smile from Captain Brett
On the way back to Maalaea harbor, the captain stopped the boat so that they could hoist the sails.

Hoisting the sails
Winds were perfect for the peaceful sail home and we were treated to the sight of some large sea turtles off the bow of the ship. What a lucky day this had been! Captain Chris even let me have a go at steering.

Me at the wheel
We also saw more whales and babies breaching off the Maui coast as we approached the harbor.
Back in Maalaea Harbor

It was a perfect Maui experience and we recommend the Trilogy II, Discover Molokini Tour for the following reasons.

1.  The staff was fun, friendly and extremely knowledgeable.
2.  Because numbers are limited we received personal attention both in the water and out.
3.  A delicious breakfast and lunch was served to us by the staff.
4.  The catamaran was comfortable and the seating gave everyone a great view of the ocean.
5.  The snorkeling was amazing, and the two sites offered a variety of marine life.
6.  A portion of your ticket goes to non profit programs such as the Blue Aina Reef Cleanup Program.
7.   It was a whale watch, sailing and snorkeling trip rolled into one.

Many Mahalos to the captain and crew of Trilogy II for giving us an unforttable Maui memory!!!!! Visit the website of Trilogy for more information on Maui Snorkeling Tours
We found out that Trilogy has a fleet of 8 catamarans offering many different tours that leave from both Maalaea Harbor, and the beach at Kaanapali.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Years Eve with Joyce and Gord at Mulligans on the Blue - Wailea, Maui

New Years Eve at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea was a treat for us because our favourite musicians Joyce and Gord provided the background music for the evening.
We decided to have the early bird special and watch the sunset. We weren't disappointed.  In fact the last sunset of 2011 was a brilliant ending to the year with promise of better things to come in 2012.

Shortly after being seated we were presented with leis, party hats and noise makers so we had all the props for a steller New Year's celebration.

We have been fans of Gord and Joyce now for 4 years, since we met them at the former Gian Don's restaurant. They both have so much talent it is hard to believe.  While Joyce masterfully accompanies her lovely voice on keyboard, Gord interchangeably plays a smooth sax, mean clarinet and mellow double bass. Read more about them here.

Their repertoire is huge as they take us on a jazz feel musical journey through the decades. No wonder so many local dancers have also become great followers of this husband and wife duo.
The menu for the evening was a three course meal with choices.  I chose seafood chowder as a starter followed by wonderful ribs that melted in your mouth.  For dessert I enjoyed a satisfying chocolate mousse to strains of "New York New York". Who could ask for more?
Even families got into the act and danced with their little kids. Our group of six were all sad when Joyce and Gord played Auld Lang Syne to wrap up the evening. We could have listened to them all night!
A good thing is that we know they will be at Mulligans on the Blue in Wailea every Monday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 at least until the end of April when they head back to their home in Canada.  We'll be there!!!