Hawaii 2007:
Day 3 - Kahului, Maui


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Hawaii 2007: [Day 1 - Honolulu, Oahu] [Day 2 - Hilo, Big Island] [Day 3 - Kahului, Maui] [Day 4 - Kahului, Maui] [Day 5 - Kona, Big Island] [Day 6 - Nawiliwili, Kauai] [Day 7 - Nawiliwili, Kauai] [Day 8 - Honolulu] [Day 9 - Honolulu]

Monday, July 30: We woke up on the island of Maui to a sea of more Matson containers, just like the ones we had seen the day before.
We were up, dressed, fed, and on our way as soon as the ship got into port. Once again, we were welcomed with a musical dance performance.
Maersk!
After a swift, uneventful rental car pickup from Dollar Rent-a-Car, we headed through the misty rain to Iao Valley.
Although one of our afternoon helicopter tours was scheduled to see the Iao Needle, it's a good thing we saw it on foot since heavy clouds prevented helicopters from getting to it.
We would have loved to stay and explore the beautiful grounds of the Iao Valley State Park, but we foolishly weren't prepared for rain so we retreated to the safety of the car.
Crossing the main valley of Maui, the weather abruptly changed. We admired this hilltop full of large windmills along the way.
We arrived in Kihei much too early for our Molokini snorkeling trip, so we found a nice beach and enjoyed the sunny day. That's West Maui in the distance.
Glancing to our left, there's the island of Kahoolawe. Along with Niihau, it is one of the Hawaiian islands not accessible to tourists.
Jill was anxious to get a good start on her sunburn.
We headed to the Kihei boat ramp for our Molokini Express tour with Blue Water Rafting, which we booked directly by calling them. Most Molokini tours leave from Lahaina in the early morning or afternoon, but this tour left at 11:30 from Kihei. This had two advantages -- almost no other tour boats were scheduled to be at Molokini and we had a much shorter distance to travel since Kihei is much closer to Molokini.
Our tour was on a Zodiac raft. Once our able captain took us out of the marina, he throttled the engine and we were off!
The trip to Molokini crater took only 15 - 20 minutes.
Once we arrived, our captain gave us a short safety briefing. We couldn't wait to get in the water, because this was the first trip to Molokini for all three of us.
Jill was the first one in. She immediately popped her head out of the water to tell us how amazing the view was underwater. She was absolutely right. There were fish teeming everywhere and the visibility was unbelievable.
Passing the underwater camera back and forth, we set off to get closeups of the fish. Here are some black durgons.
The fish aren't the only attraction -- the coral reef was spectacular.
We used our new rash guards (thin Lycra shirts that protect against sunburn, jellyfish, and other hazards) but passed on using our flotation vests in favor of the yellow flotation belts onboard. Here's Tom in his new snorkel gear and purchased-in-Hawaii jams. We were very grateful that we had packed all of our snorkel gear in a separate suitcase that didn't get left behind at home!
Here's a handsome fellow.
These rainbow beauties (Christmas wrasse) were hard to capture on film, but we did our best.
Now, we'll stop narrating and let you enjoy the fish.
Fish.
Fish.
Jill.
Fish.
Fish.
Fish.
Jill again. Who knew that she'd turn out to be such a fan of skin diving? She was just as comfortable in the water as the fish.
This is a huge school of fish near the crater wall where the surf churned against the rocks.
Above water, Molokini is a bird sanctuary. We saw dozens of birds and their nests perched on the crater wall.
We spotted our favorite type of bird, magnificent frigatebirds (fregata magnificens), which we first fell in love with on a trip to Rio de Janeiro in 2005.
However, you're looking at the most amazing sight of our trip -- the entire Molokini crater without any other boats in sight. We had the whole crater to ourselves for the entire visit and we felt very spoiled indeed.
We got back onboard and went around to the back side of the crater where the winds and sea are rougher.
Conditions were excellent for snorkeling, so we headed to the water in front of this crack in the crater wall. This is a popular scuba diving spot, but we were told that our tour company is the only one that offers snorkeling at this location. Lucky us, because this turned out to be an amazing experience!
The back wall of Molokini continues straight down in a sheer dropoff. The visibility is incredible so you can really feel how deep the water is here.
Coral and sea anemones decorate the sides. This area is nicknamed "The Elevator" because the waves move you up and then move you back down again. It's a very cool feeling but makes it hard to get a great shot of the incredible colors of the reef.
Here's a beautiful rainbow-colored fish ...
... and here is one of his large blue friends. Care for a closeup?
There you go.
The real reason for our visit was this amazing sight -- the large schools of pennantfish. These are delicate, magical fish, and seeing so many of them together was breathtaking.
Peeking our heads above water, we saw that one of the rainstorms headed our way had passed on toward Maui.
The storm joined the clouds already perched on top of Mount Haleakala. We reboarded the Zodiac and were back on shore in no time. We paused to admire a green sea turtle near shore, not pictured here. (Be patient! You will see turtles. Wait a few days.)
We dashed back across the great valley from Kihei to Kahului, where we were scheduled to take back-to-back helicopter tours with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters once again.
A computer calculates where each passenger will sit, taking into account passenger weight. This was the only flight where families were radically split up, but Tom and Debbie got to sit next to each other in the back right. This model was an Eco-Star, which is described as holding six passengers, but a seventh seat was crammed into the front row. We didn't think the Eco-Star was better than the A-Star, especially with seven passengers, but we had already paid the extra price for the Eco-Star.
Jill was lucky enough to have a front row seat again, this time seated next to Pilot Dan.
Off we go!
Our first tour was "Hana/Haleakala." We had selected it because it was the only way we could fit in a trip to Haleakala with the other things we wanted to do during our 36 hours on Maui (snorkel Molokini and visit Lanai). Sadly, the weather prevented us from visiting Haleakala.
The rest of the tour was lovely.
We followed the East Maui coastline. This sprawling estate belongs to a champion windsurfer, we were told.
It was sunny along the coast, but the clouds weren't far away inland.
Check out that blue water!
By helicopter, we covered the distance to Hana in 25 minutes rather than 3+ hours by car on the winding Road to Hana, visible in this photo. Talk all you want about it being a leisurely journey, but if you've ever been in a car with Debbie helping Tom drive, you'll know that this was the best choice for us.
There were waterfalls everywhere. We photographed every one of them, but we'll just share our favorite shot with you.
Voila! This is Hana.
But, we kept on going, just because we can.
This was one of dozens of locations that we were told throughout our week-long cruise was used as a location for the Jurassic Park movies.
Here's a closeup of the waterfall in the previous shot that was used in one of the films.
More waterfalls.
Here's a funky lava field coming from Mount Haleakala. At this point, it might have been nice for the pilot to let us know that we wouldn't be visiting Haleakala, but we eventually figured it out when we landed without a glimpse of the crater.
However, we did get a nice tour of the entire perimeter of East Maui. The landscape ranges from lush to volcanic and back again.
Sometimes both in the same shot.
Looking back toward the mountain, it's a solid wall of clouds obscuring the peak.
Goats live on the mountainside, and we were able to glimpse a few from a distance.
Here are a couple of volcanic outcroppings.
Kahoolawe was visible to our left.
And tiny Molokini was too. Looking at the back of Molokini, you can see the small divet along the back wall where we were snorkeling just a couple of hours earlier.
Hey! A rainbow! That's just crazy.
We flew over the resorts of Kihei ...
... and over the Kihei boat launch and beach we had visited earlier ...
... and back over the valley that had taken us 30 minutes to drive earlier ...
... arriving back at the heliport 60 minutes after we departed.
We turned right around and boarded a second Eco-Star, this time with seats for six, as it should be. This time, Debbie got the front seat next to the pilot ...
... while Tom and Jill were in the two seats behind the pilot. This tour was "West Maui and Molokai" and would provide us with our first up-close view of Molokai.
We flew out along the ocean, watching the windsurfers off the coast of Kahului.
We admired a bit of the coastline before turning into the valleys for a closer look.
Since visiting New Zealand, the Norfolk Pine is Debbie's favorite tree, and stands of Norfolk Pines turned up in unexpected places, such as along this ridge.
We headed into a wet, rainy valley for a look, but dared not go beyond it due to cloud cover.
Fortunately, rainy valleys contain lots of pretty waterfalls to look at.
After good closeups of the waterfalls, we turned around and went back out the way we came in.
Next, we followed the coastline toward Molokai.
There it is, mysterious and beautiful.
But first, let's take another moment to admire the gorgeous Maui shoreline.
This is looking back toward West Maui, with East Maui on the horizon.
The approach to Molokai seemed to take forever because we were so excited, but was probably no more than a couple of minutes to cross the divide.
We would see this same sight the very next day, except from our cabin balcony.
Our first sight on Molokai was a large private ranch ...
... featuring lush gardens and several buildings.
Just beyond that is a pretty little valley where a tsunami wiped out an entire village many years ago.
Coming to the back side of Molokai, we got our first view of the famed and forbidding Molokai cliffs.
They stretch off into the distance and are magnificent. If you're thinking of taking this tour, try one earlier in the day (than 4:00 when we went) so the glare of the sun doesn't hurt your photos. The bright sun made for stunning sights, but lousy photos.
We turned around before getting any closer to the low flatlands where Father Damien worked at the leper colony. Barely visible is the large white monument to him at the end of the peninsula in this shot.
Here we are looking back along the north side of Molokai.
Next, we cut over the mountains to return to the other side.
From here, we toured the front (south) side of the island.
The landscape is dramatic.
The views were spectacular on both the ocean side and the mountain side, and Pilot Marty made sure passengers on both sides got to see everything.
We saw the remains of an ancient Hawaiian temple -- visible here as a pattern of rocks on the grassy area closest to us.
We traveled a little further along the coast. That's Lanai barely visible on the left side of the horizon in this photo.
Finally, we turned to head back to West Maui.
The water in front of Molokai is extremely shallow, and our sharp-eyed pilot spotted these giant manta rays in the waters below us. We were hundreds of feet in the air, so these things must have been huge.
We enjoyed the rays for a few minutes, then headed back toward Maui.
We passed Kaanapali Beach, with its rock outcropping on the left and string of resorts to the right.
Our fellow passengers were staying at the Hyatt Regency so we took a moment to see it up close. Little did our pilot know that Tom and Debbie had also stayed there in 1999 and were enjoying the view as well.
We flew over Lahaina, where we'd be visiting the next morning.
We'd be taking the Expeditions Lahaina-Lanai Ferry, docked at the far left in the harbor in this photo.
There were many fun water activities taking place in the water beyond Lahaina, but we were in a helicopter, and it doesn't get much more fun than that.
Hey! Another rainbow!
We flew toward the mountains and our pilot decided that it was too risky to fly into the valley beyond due to the cloud cover.
Instead, we stayed along the mountain and got a nice closeup view of the windmills we'd seen earlier.
No, seriously, we got a closeup view.
Our pilot Marty was terrific.

After our tours were over, Jill was tired of being photographed in front of a helicopter, but Tom and Debbie weren't. We bought the two DVDs of our tour and returned to the ship. Jill headed off to meet up with her friends and we had dinner in the Lazy J Steakhouse onboard.

Day 4 >


Hawaii 2007: [Day 1 - Honolulu, Oahu] [Day 2 - Hilo, Big Island] [Day 3 - Kahului, Maui] [Day 4 - Kahului, Maui] [Day 5 - Kona, Big Island] [Day 6 - Nawiliwili, Kauai] [Day 7 - Nawiliwili, Kauai] [Day 8 - Honolulu] [Day 9 - Honolulu]

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