Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Na Pali by boat, with whales, in winter

We've been snorkeling and swimming daily but yesterday we went on a big outing up the Na Pali Coast.   The Na Pali is a famous coastline in Kauai which is inaccessible by car.  Part of the coast can be seen by hiking the 11 mile Kalalau trail from the North of the island.  By all accounts it is an exposed and fairly hard hike with great climbs and descents and is not recommended in times of rain.  Many come in by helicopters which duck into the nearly sheer valleys facing the sea.

Mum and I spent a lot of time considering the various tour options.  According to the group we eventually chose, there are 12 operators who take groups into the Na Pali.  There are many variations in the offerings.  Some have larger boats, some go in rubber ducks, some start at the North, some at Port Allen and some at Waimea.  We chose Liko Kauai  Cruises because they allowed kids of 4 years of age and had good reviews elsewhere.

They did not disappoint.

Wetting our feet at the bow
We started off at Waimea at 8am for our check-in with Mary.  Then they sent us off to the small-boat harbor a short drive away.   Most guides say that while the Na Pali coast is calm in summer, it is often unsuitable for winter cruises because of high surf and dangerous conditions.  It was calm enough on Sunday but by Monday, a swell had come through raising surf heights on the NNW side of the island.  As we turned the corner from the leeward side of the island we faced a strong wind and swell.   I was not happy.

Frost and Wren were very excited as the catamaran rose up the faces of huge swells and then launched up to catch a bit of air at the front and fell dramatically.   This was very exciting for a child but for someone who gets seasick and has nightmares about large waves and sinking at sea, it was ... ahem.... alarming.

I was thankful for the Bonine (anti-emetic) I had taken the night before but concerned and worried enough that the staff on the boat asked me if I was okay.  I told them I dislike large waves.

Later, we pulled in close to the cliffs.  They are truly remarkable and I began to enjoy myself.  The swells were less intense close to shore, although the streaming breaking waves from behind gave me pause.  I was distracted by the turtles, the 1500 ft cliffs, the hidden valleys and the signs of the ancient Hawaiian pathways carved into the cliff so they could travel between valleys which were not joined in any way but through their opening to the sea.

Apparently, the verdant valleys were safe haven for these civilizations who lived in fear of invasion and attack.  The proximity of sea and fresh water (many waterfalls plunging straight into the ocean) was impressive.

View down the Napali Coast to the South

The shore break at the end of the Kalalau Trail. 

Narrow plunging valleys crowd to the coast. 

On the return journey we enjoyed sandwiches, chips and softdrinks.  Wren and Frost did very well on the 5 hour trip, neither having any motion sickness medication but not showing signs of illness.  I am pleased that they have Josh's genetic inheritance in this regard.   We pulled close to shore and saw 6 green sea turtles and then swung out to sea and saw many whales breaching, blowing and splashing their tails.  We also followed some spinner dolphins - and saw them jump and spin.  Closer to home we anchored off a reef and snorkeled (although there were very few fish).

I was glad to be on dry land again but it was an adventure and I would recommend this view of the Na Pali Coast - or a helicopter trip if you are that way inclined.  We saw many helicopters overhead while we were out on the water near the coast itself.

Boys watching spinner dolphins

Humpback whales

Me, being happy to realize we will not die at sea.


tamusana said...

wow, what a spectacular place. How absolutely fantastic.

(I didn't know you get seasick... I get car sick.)

Shannon said...

Only going up and down on waves but Bonine was superb!

It is a remarkable place. We would like to return and hike the Na Pali coast in summer.