Published November 25, 2013 in the “Ocean Watch” column, Honolulu Star-Advertiser ©2013 Susan Scott
Last week I hikedto Kaena Point, a daylong excursion (about a one-hour drive from Honolulu, and a 5-mile round-trip hike). A few days later I got a text from a friend: “Hiking to Kaena Point. Wanna come?”
Leaving Oahu’s mass of buildings and lines of vehicles and walking into that world-class wildlife sanctuary had been like stepping through a magic wardrobe. Could I turn down another such journey? Of course not. I accepted instantly.
In the 1980s the state banned motorized vehicles from the 59-acre space to allow the plants and animals of this rare dune ecosystem (one of the last in the main Hawaiian Islands) to recover. And that they did, especially after the 2011 installation of a cat/rat/mongoose-resistant fence.
During my visits, Laysan albatrosses worked the wind, soaring as only albatrosses can. Other albatross parents had already hunkered down on newly laid eggs, and a few were singing and dancing in their search for mates. About 400 of these native seabirds spend the nesting season at Kaena Point, and the numbers continue to grow.
Wedge-tailed shearwaters (the “wedgies” I wrote about two weeks ago) also nest here. Full grown but still downy, chicks are emerging from their underground burrows, blinking in the bright sun. The youngsters are gearing up for the big leap, their first flight to the sea.
Kaena Point is also an ideal place to watch humpback whales and winter waves. Besides the beauty of big surf, the 20-foot-tall waves pounding the shore during my first visit caused four Hawaiian monk seals to choose a sleeping place exceptionally high on the beach. Several residents and visitors, a monk seal expert and 91 Punahou students admired the seals from a respectful distance. (To read about Kaena Point’s seals, and others spotted around the islands, see monksealmania.blogspot.com.)
This westernmost corner of Oahu gets our youngsters out hiking and, at the same time, teaches in the best way: by showing rather than telling. A troop of Kamehameha students arrived as we left.
A sparkling diamond on the pinkie finger of Oahu, Kaena Point proves that given protection from vehicles and introduced predators, wildlife and humans can, even on a crowded island, coexist.
This special state preserve is a good place to visit any time, but especially so this week of Thanksgiving. If anything on this island makes me feel thankful to be alive, healthy and living on Oahu, it’s the precious point we call Kaena.
I’m already planning my next trip.
Marine biologist Susan Scott writes the newspaper column, “Ocean
Watch”, for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, www.staradvertiser.com
©2013 Susan Scott