BY FOOT [makapu’u lighthouse + whale watching]

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


As we were descending the Pillboxes trail, a fellow hiker pointed out a whale spouting in the distance.  I was skeptical, but we stood and watched and sure enough puffs popped up on the horizon.  It was difficult to see until I knew what I was looking for and the spouts were few and far between.  So strange to be so high up and yet be able to see whale spouts a mile out in the ocean.  The whales were just beyond where the waves were breaking in the image below.


Friends told me that the whales were migrating and could be seen from the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail.  The trail is within the Ka Iwi State Scenic Shoreline.  I headed there after we finished breakfast.  The trailhead was easy to find and so was parking, even on a Saturday afternoon.


The trail is paved and winds up to the ridgeline then switches back and continues until you reach the lighthouse.  The views are stunning the entire way (approximately two miles roundtrip).  During the first half of the hike you can see Koko Head and Koko Crater, as well as a gorgeous piece of the island’s southeastern shoreline.  Once you reach the top, the view of the windward coast is breathtaking.




The coastline views were stunning, but what I was most mesmerized by was the color of the water.  The richness and depth of color and the contrast with the whitewater hitting the cliffs made me stop and take notice.  I plopped down on a rock and sat there for more than an hour.  The wind was brisk and salty.  I watched the waves and sea birds and passersby.  I was quiet; I listened and thought and looked.



A couple stood close by and pointed out several whales far off in the distance to the right.  The spouts were small, but steady.  Puffs every few minutes.  Slowly, surely the pod of whales swam right along the cliffs, their spouts punctuating their route like little underwater locamotives.  It was charming.  Frantic tourists looking for whales came and went, missing the spouts in their rush to get to the top of the trail.  I continued to sit and watch.  I’m not sure how long it took the whales to move across my plane of sight.  Several minutes at least.  As they got to their closest point, their spouts became more distinct and even audible.  One whale breached — straight up, white belly towards me and then flopped over.  The whale’s body hitting the water made a sound like that of a distant firework.  A few seconds later, a second whale breached just a few feet away.  It was spectacular.


In the picture above, there are two small white dots in the middle of the photograph where the whales had breached.  I wasn’t quick with my iPhone so the areas where the splash had occurred are very faint.  Not that the iPhone was very well suited for this sort of picture taking in the first case.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  I sat and I watched and the stillness revealed a beautiful sight.  I’m willing to trade that experience for a telephoto lens and a great photograph.


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