What We Saw Where the Sea Meets the Land

We made it back to Kauai last night and today began with another early morning, as we had booked a tour of the Napali Coast by sea. We arrived at the office at 7:15, and at the beach before 8 am. It was already a lovely morning. The winds had shifted and the sun was hot. This wasn’t the chilly Kauai we have known for most of the last week. This was the warm, tropical Kauai we had been promised. 

There, our guides picked us up in a canoe and drove us out to the boat.

From there we started heading west. We had hardly started our 4-hour tour when the Skipper noticed a whale sharing the bay with us. Nope. Wait – there were two whales. Likely a mother and her calf. Seeing their backs breaking the surface of the water was just breathtaking.

 

We resumed our course, with the verdant mountains rising precariously above us to our left. Kauai isn’t growing anymore. Her volcanoes are extinct, with the last eruption having taking place 400,00 years ago. Consequently the battle of earth vs water has swung, and the former is losing badly, erosion cutting deep crevasses across the face of this island. The waterfalls everywhere reflect the ongoing victory, and it is an unavoidable fact that eventually this island will meet the fate of her predecessors to the northwest, and will be entirely swallowed by the Pacific.

 

As we move along the shore we see where the sea continues to gouge at her, with massive caves dotting the shoreline.

We see caves frequently. Some of them are mere indentations in the rock, whereas others open to the sky above. Some are small while others would be able to accommodate a boat. And they were all fascinating demonstrations of the powerful forces at play, with strata of volcanic stone being beaten by the relentless waves.

Somewhere along the coast we paused, to swim for a bit at one of the reefs. 

It’s just fun to swim in the sea, surrounded by so many fish in such a rainbow of colors.

 

There was even a turtle.

This reef isn’t nearly as vibrant as some I’ve visited over the years. I don’t know if this is the lifecycle of coral reefs, but this is what I suspect. Still it was a great swim.

We lunched on the boat and then returned to shore, passing lush valleys cut deep into the island.

Later that afternoon, we at long last returned to the end of the road at Kē’ē beach. Here, if you will recall, is a trailhead. Neither of us was equipped for a long hike, but a short hike could be accomplished. Even at the quarter-mile mark, we were told, views were stunning.

So we headed upward, accepting walking sticks from others finishing their hikes. The trails were marked by massive boulders and the hiking was challenging at times, but we found our way up and around, the path arcing left and right, and always upward.

At the first break in the trees, the view was nice. 

And then we saw a “poof” in the middle of the vast expanse in front of us. There were whales!

And we saw a fin!

Another hiker urged us forward. There was a better view. So we continued up to the quarter-mile mark, where we stood on a finger of mountain with an unobstructed view of the ocean stretched out below us. To the right we could see the beach we had left behind.

She was correct there were more whales. In fact there were whales everywhere. Gobs of them.

These majestic mammals were out there, mothers and calves (Hawaii is a calving ground), with poofs appearing in groups of two or more. The whales were very active, shooting spouts of water all around us and slapping the ocean. They were frolicking!

We stood, agape, as the day grew old and our shadows lengthened, until the hazards of the path beckoned us to finally depart. And so we headed back down to the beach and watched our last sunset of this trip, grinning ear to ear and speaking in reverential wonder about the whales we had seen. 

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