HAWAII. The place needs no introduction. Probably this was the first state of the US that I had heard of in my childhood while I was back in India. Never thought a day would come when I would actually be traveling here !
There are 6 small islands that make up Hawaii - Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Hawaii (also known as the Big Island). Lots of tourists rush to Oahu and the big island. I personally am a crowd hater so I prefer going to the less crowded places. So we chose Maui and Kauai. While Maui also is a big tourist-draw, Kauai was very secluded and calm and quiet. It takes quite a long flight journey to reach there. Even though it is part of the united states, it felt like an international travel due to the duration of flight!
Our first stop was Maui. It was humpback whale season when we went there, (March 2014). Humpback whales migrate to Hawaii from Alaska during the months of Oct/Nov till the end of March for breeding season. And then migrate back to Alaska for feeding season . Quite some life they lead, eh? :) Just a few minutes before landing, we caught a glimpse of why it is called Paradise. Amazing turquoise blue waters, crystal clear and tiny islands here and there.. I was already getting impatient to be out of the flight! And while flying almost near the shore, we saw 2 humpback whales from the flight! That was SO cool!
THE GENTLE GIANTS - HUMPBACK WHALES
I am a big fan of whales, any kind ! As it was humpback season, it made sense to book a whale watching tour of course!! We got to see a lot of whales from the shores itself. While on the tour, our tour guides explained that since it was the mating season, the male whales try to show off their prowess to win a female :-) Their showing off doesn’t include physical fights like other animals, one of the main reasons they are called as ‘Gentle Giants’. On the tour, we did see a group where 2 males were constantly trying to breach (jump out of the water) in order to impress the female who was watching from a distance. We also saw another mom-baby group which was escorted by an ‘Escort’ whale, who is a male and whose duty is to always be by mom’s side and protect mom and baby. So cute , right ? The adult whales are as long as about 16 meters, weigh almost 45000 Kgs!! Seeing them just fly out of the water and throw themselves back in, is one of Nature’s most amazing sights! The water splashes all around with a crazy roar . Our boat was quite close to them when they breached and was wobbling like crazy. I could not even stand still, let alone take a decent pic! I did try to capture them as best as I could but you can never anticipate when and where they will breach and even that lasts hardly for a couple of seconds. I truly had a ‘whale’ of a time :-) Needless to say they have become my most favorite kind of whales and I have been in love with them ever since ! :-)
ROAD TO HANA-
Road to Hana is apparently one of the most scenic drives in the world. Sadly the day we went, it was all very rainy so we missed the beautiful colors of the ocean. Loved the wet monsoon feel in the forests though, reminded me of those beautiful Indian country sides :-) We did some hikes through bamboo forests, saw lots of waterfalls , walked in the pouring rain - experiencing the tropical island perfectly !
There is a place on Maui called Haleakala which is spectacular for sunrise. It has a very ‘Martian’ landscape and once you are at the top, the clouds are beneath you and the sun rises from beneath this clouds which calls for spectacular photo opportunities. Sadly we could not make it there as planned.
G'BYE MAUI, HELLO KAUAI!
Our 4 day stay at Maui finally came to an end. Our flight to Kauai was connecting via Honoloulu. So saw a little bit of that island too. The water looked even more gorgeous than Maui. No wonder the crowds throng there.. We also saw the island of Molokai while flying. The flight was a very small , low flying plane so got sights of everything around. Molokai looked pretty! Eventually reached Kauai. Kauai turned out to be my favorite. It has just what I love - mountains, coconut trees, lots of waterfalls and beautiful beaches and less crowded in general.
We did a private chopper tour of the most amazing place in Kauai - Napali coast. It is a rugged coast line stretching upto 16 miles and the mountains rising upto 1200m above sea level. Napali coast is not connected by roads. The only way to see it is via boats or a long strenuous 11 mile hike. However no view is going to compare to seeing it so up, close and personal from the air. We were in a private, ‘doors-off’ helicopter tour and within a few minutes of starting, I was amazed at the number of waterfalls that flow left right and center of the island! The most jaw dropping waterfall was however the Jurassic Falls. Anyone that has seen the movie Jurassic Falls 1st part might remember that this is where the helicopter landed in the beginning of the movie :-) There was a helipad built in front of it for the movie but it got destroyed due to a storm very soon after the shooting was over. Check out a couple of the waterfalls that adorn this beautiful island. After this we crossed a stretch of Waimea canyons which is also known as the Grand Canyons of the Pacific because of its similarity to the Grand Canyons of Arizona.
And after this, my most awaited section - the Napali Coast started to appear in view. The pilot turned on some beautiful music on the headphones to set the mood of the canyons and it was just perfect! We flew in from behind the mountains towards the coast and as soon as we got a glimpse of the coast, it was breath taking. Huge mountains with beautiful ridges, Crashing waves and lots and lots of waterfalls from the mountains falling right into these crashing waves, and many caves at the base of the mountain! It was all my favorite things in one place - mountains, the crashing waves, waterfalls - pure, serene and divine.. It was Nature in all her glory ! I mean I could only have dreamt that such a place exists and to actually witness it is something beyond explanation. There were a lot of crevices in the cliffs and our pilot maneuvered the chopper thru all these small crevices to give us an experience of a lifetime!! He swerved low, high, right, left, and sometimes right over the wild crashing waves… It looked scary as hell but totally loved it. It felt like I was in a movie myself :-D !!