Monthly Archives: December 2012

Hawaii: TURTLES!

I love animals – usually fuzzy ones …. but thought it would be cool to see aquatic ones on this vacation. The first turtle I saw was actually while I was snorkeling for the first time and saw it in the water, at a reef, feeding on the rocks and it was amazing! Here was an animal so different than anything else I had ever seen; so close that I had to work NOT to touch it and completely not caring that I was right there.  Despite the ungainliness of the turtle on land and let’s face it, this animal is not known for agility and grace, but it is very agile and graceful in the water.

To photograph the turtle in the water…well, I have no idea what to tell you. The  underwater cameras that we tried are too slow and the turtles tend to come to feed later in the afternoon when the tide is coming in and the water is not calm. Additionally, the water tended to be murkier at these times and then you throw in all the sand that people were kicking up watching the turtles and the amateur cameras could not handle the low light. So, if anyone knows of some underwater photography tips in less than ideal conditions, let me know! What I did is take a lot of pictures out of the water.

Out of Water experience #1

What I did notice is that in the rougher water, when the waves got big enough to BE a wave at the shore and not just rough water, the front of the wave creates a looking glass effect and if the turtle is there, you can get a shot from out of the water. I showed one such shot in this post and here’s another one. (I absolutely promise you that there is a turtle there and not something else)

Through the looking glassOut of Water of experience #2:

Photo tip #5: know your animal. Turtles need to breathe air and so they pop up every once and awhile and you can see their little heads above the water. Sounds easy, right? Well, even though turtles need to breathe, they don’t need to breathe as much as we do so you may be waiting a loooonnnggg time and then SNAP! be ready to take the photo quickly. If you can do that, you end up with cute periscope photos.

It's a nose!Periscope!


Out of Water experience #3

OR, you could just take the easy way out and catch ’em on the beach!! Please respect the rules though – stay well away from the animals (they may not look upset, but they may be just hiding their ninja personalities, remember?) and be mindful about letting them do what they do (even if they are just sunbathing, that’s their relaxation time, no?)

Different angle Yup, definitely done. Ahhhh, sunshine Wave chasing turtle ok, I think this one is done!

oh, and it looks like my uncle did capture ONE photo underwater!  (trust me it really is just one out of hundreds and hundreds!)

One of a thousand shots

Christmas E-card

There’s nothing like getting a card or letter in the mail, slicing open the envelope and devouring every word that comes from a faraway place. However, when I have to resort to e-cards, I figure they should either be super pretty, awesome animation or just plain entertaining. Here’s my shot at the entertaining. (and for the record, certain lines in the poem are exaggerated or just plain not true – I had to find something that rhymed with vacation and diarrhea!)

Twas the month before Christmas
And all my shopping was done
All I had left to do
Was send cards to everyone

I made my list
Thought I couldn’t fail
So why did you only get
This lousy email?

It could have been the mice
Who ate all my paper
Or the burglar
Who stabbed me with a saber

Or perhaps it was my horse
Who had diarrhea
Or maybe my work
That shipped me off to Korea

But what about my pens
That all ran out of ink
Or even my laundry
That turned out all pink

There was the sunburn
That laid me up while on vacation
Or the time I lost
Putting down an alien invasion

But never fear
Despite this silly verse
I hope you get all good things
Not just a couple links of bratwurst

My wish for you this Christmas season
Is: love and warm feelings
A lovely something under the tree
And choirs of angels singing

(not real angels, just metaphorical ones, because if they were real, you’d be dead and I don’t want that)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Kukio where have you been all my life beach?

Picture your perfect beach. Does it include fine white sand (but not so powdery that it gets everywhere)? Is the water clear and calm so you’re not fighting the surf? Are there trees for shade? Is there only a handful of people on it? Are there showers and toilets? Welcome to Kukio.


This beach is actually in the resort attached to the Four Seasons hotel, but it is technically, a public beach. You have to ask for a parking pass at the guard house and there are only a few parking spaces (looked like less than 30). There is then a loooonggg walk through piles of volcanic rock with tantalizing glimpses of water to the actual beach.


Oh, but it’s worth it. I’m not a beach person. This was the first time I went on a vacation specifically to sit on a beach (and my idea of sitting is 30 minutes, an hour tops). But this beach had your postcard palm trees, slender and curving up to the sky. A gentle slope to the water that was dead calm due to a large breaker just offshore. And to make things interesting, there was also a patch of grass (!) and volcanic rocks for contrast.

The 3 terrain beach

The swimming was literally like a swimming pool, it was so calm, but with little fishies. For those looking for something more strenuous, you could swim/snorkel out to an outcropping of rock and swim around it and get a bit of surge. In the morning, it was clearer and the snorkelling wasn’t bad (got really cloudy later though). Off to the side was an even shallower, calmer pool where we found loads of baby fish!

Fish nursery

Conditions were perfect and photography here was easy. And as a terrific bonus, around a bend, closer to the resort, there were turtles!!!  We saw a big one (about a metre, but still a juvenile) and the only way I could take a photo was when the wave came in and it was like a looking glass into the water (otherwise it was too cloudy from the surf). Smaller ones came up onto the beach to sun themselves (unfortunately, their angle to the sun was all wrong! how could they!)

I swear to you that's a turtle

He chose this angle deliberately!

Punalu’u – the Black (as pitch) beach

Travel suggestion #1: keep your guide books even if they are heavy, out of date and you think you will never need them again. Because if I kept mine, I’d be sure that I got the right name of this beach!! I’ve seen black sand beaches before. I’ve even taken some of the sand home (this was way before tourism was rife and we thought about preservation). But I’ve never seen sand that was so black it seemed to suck in the light (sorry about the rain drop on the lens). This sand was truly black and the contrast was incredible.

Green and black

The only thing that saved the pictures was that it was an overcast day (hence the raindrop) and there wasn’t super bright sunlight out. However, the cameras had a really hard time coping with the range of exposures needed. In the images below, one is with the camera’s automatic settings (first photo below) and then I had to underexpose to try and get the true blackness (second photo below)Even with my tan2

Even with my tan


However, we really came for the turtles. They often like to sun themselves on this beach plus the beach itself is just off the road – the most accessible one ever and just 5 minutes from the well known Punalu’u bakery!  Alas! no turtles on this cloudy day, but plenty of the stuff they like to eat:

Turtle food!  To be honest, the beach itself is very beautiful even without turtles and the surf made for great photos! Here comes the wave!

Papakolea – It’s a beach silly (beaches second post)

I can almost guarantee this will be one of the most surreal sites you will ever see. A beach is not supposed to be green! Grass, apples and kermit the frog are suppOlivine crystals in lava rockosed to be green. This wasn’t the first beach we visited (see the list here), but it was one of the most unique. There are actually two – the further one that’s more olive than green and a very tiny patch of sand that is more green than olive. They both owe their distinctive colour to olivine crystals (see good posts here, here and wiki of course)

The larger of the two beaches is a perfect beach shape – gently rounded in a crescent moon shape. But as you approach (everyone pretty much approaches it the same way from the west) you can see the tall cliffs (remnants of the volcano) that have a mix of regular dark rock and I swore I could see that dark rock washing down the side of the cliff onto the beach. That accounts for the much darker olive colour of the sand now as opposed to 10 years ago.

Approach from the west

I suspect that in a very short time, the beach will no longer be green (go now!!!!). The locals are very aware of this and have posted a sign.


There is in fact, another green sand beach around the shoreline in the other direction that our driver said is accessible by boat. (His cousin will be arranging these trips in the near future.)

The beach itself is quite rough and there are no facilities whatsoever here except for some large rocks and a ladder. Travel tip #1 ALWAYS carry kleenex or toilet paper with you – more valuable than duct tape sometimes. Most people come here just to see the beach, not to swim and there is great access for taking photos of waves crashing into rocks


Wait, ladder, did you say? What would you need a ladder for? Well, the thing about this beach and why you often have it all to yourself is that it’s not the easiest place to get to. Until a few years ago, the only way to access it is to walk about 2 miles in…..over sandy, dusty terrain… the sun…with no signage. I’m allergic to sun and sand. So, when strange men approached as we parked, I was the one who was open to asking how much for the jeep ride to the beach (really, I would have walked it if there was no other way, but I wouldn’t have been happy about it). Right now, it’s a steal – totally worth it (about $10/person in and out) – go before they raise the prices! Although to be fair, I think most people realise the bargain after they’ve walked it in and don’t want to walk it back out! The walk does not look pleasant on a windy day. The terrain is old cattle grazing pasture and heavily rutted (honest. I consider ruts over 2 feet to be heavy duty ruts) and sandy with no shade or protection from the wind. Travel tip #423 Carry a bandana with you too. It’s multipurpose and fashionable. But James (our driver and guide) grew up there before the last people moved away and knew the land (and ruts) like the back of his hand. The jeep ride was like a roller coaster in slow motion and James was full of local knowledge. This ride showed me what real off-roading was like and why jeeps were jeeps. Travel tip #369 dress appropriately cuz you never know when you have to climb into a jeep.

Now that was just to get to the beach cliff. To get to the beach, you had to scale down the cliff (oh, didn’t I mention that part?) and THAT’s where the ladder comes in handy. Although, anytime someone tells me “that ladder, right there, see that rock, just beyond that” I get a wee bit nervous, but it was a very sturdy ladder (obviously this is civilised tourist country) that got you over the steepest part and the rest was just a bit of scrambling. (see below – not so bad!)


On the way back, James stopped at the small green beach which gave you an idea of what the bigger beach must have looked like glistening in the sun.


This is totally a gem(stone) of a place to visit and highly recommended. Bring lots of water, sturdy shoes and time. Take the jeep ride because that alone was worth the trip.