Thursday, March 14, 2013

On to the Big Island and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Rob writes: After saying goodbye to Maui with a wonderful dinner at Mama's Fish House (you have to go here when you visit Maui), we headed for the Big Island. We landed in Hilo and after grabbing some shave ice (another must when you are in Hawaii) we headed for our hotel in Volcano Village. Volcano Village is a tiny town on the slopes of the Kilauea Volcano. The town sits on one of the most easily accessible active volcanoes in the world!

By the time we arrived on the first day, I did not have much time to do anything other than bird a little bit around the lodge where we were staying. Luckily, the Volcano Village Lodge has beautiful grounds that make you feel like you are in the middle of the rain forest and there are birds everywhere. Since it was raining pretty had I was unable to get any photos but it was still nice to walk around looking at tons of 'Apapane as well as some of the exotic species that occur in the area.

The next morning we arrived at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park early and went to the Visitor's Center to learn more about the best places to explore. I am always a little hesitant to do this at National Parks as I have found that many times the rangers really don't know as much about the parks as they should but this was not the case here! The rangers in the Visitor Center were the most knowledgeable about both the park and even more shockingly the birds that I have ever run into.

Even though I am typically most concerned with finding birds, even I agreed that our first stop should be at the Halema Ľuma Ľu Crater where you can see the fumes and ash raising from the crater. On our drive over to the Jagger Muesum, where you can view the crater from, I got to see my first Nene! They were on the lawn at the Kilauea Military Camp. This made taking photos of them extremely easy!

My first Nene!
This Pacific Golden-Plover was hanging out with the Nene.
The sight of an active crater spewing fumes and ash into the air is something that I really cannot even begin to describe. We all stood at the over look for a long time just staring into the crater. While that was amazing, it is even better at night when you can see the glow of the lava that is flowing about 100 feet below the opening of the crater but I will talk more about that in another post.It was about at this time when it started to rain. We knew we were in a rain forest and would likely get rained on some while we were here but we had no idea what we were really in store for. Over the next 5 days, there would only be several hours without rain!

The view from the Jagger Museum.
We all decided we would make the best of the situation so we got our rain jackets on and headed out to hike the Pu'u Huluhulu trail which the rangers had recommended to us. The hike was absolutely beautiful and the scenery that you can observe here is different from anything that I have ever seen! The birding was pretty good too! I had both Hawaii 'Amakihi and 'Apapane in the parking lot, Nene in the old lava fields, and many more 'Apapane in a Kipuka (a patch of trees that was surrounded by a lava flow but not run over by it) along the trail.

Some new growth in a crevice in the lava.
By the time we got back to the car we were all thoroughly soaked through and freezing cold. We headed for lunch and then the hotel to warm up and to change into some dry clothes.

In the afternoon, we took a drive down the Chain of Craters Road. While there is not much in the way of birds on this drive, there is nothing quite like driving though old lava flows. The vast amount of nothing but lava is impressive and scary all at the same time. To think about how much land the flows have covered up over the years is really quite impressive. At the end of the road there is a really cool sea arch and if you walk just a little bit down the trail, you can see where a recent lava flow completely buried the road!

The sea arch at the end of Chain of Craters Road.
Our day ended at the Kilauea Lodge talking about all of the amazing things we had seen and eating a wonderful dinner. If you are staying in Volcano, Kilauea Lodge is one of very few restaurants and is by far the best!

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