Maui Whale Festivities

Aloha from the winter home of the Humpbacks!

Guests from Alaska recently told me that their home, Alaska, was considered the kitchen to the Humpback whales, and our home, Hawaii, was considered their bedroom. The gentle giants come to the Hawaiian islands to birth their young, feed them, and mate again before heading back up to Alaska to eat krill, plankton and small fish.

For thirty years, the Pacific Whale Foundation has sponsored the "Maui Whale Festival." This festival is considered the longest running and largest festival celebration on Maui. Whale Day this year was held on the 20th of Feb, with a record number of people attending. The event was held at Kalama Park in Kihei with environmental displays, live entertainment with some of the great local talent, and ono restaurant food booths.

The celebration continues into next weekend with the 2010 Great Whale Count. The count begins at 8 am on Feb 27th, and runs until noon. Many volunteers in Hawaii participate in this event, "all hands on deck" to count the whales. Please contact the Pacific Whale Foundation to find out how you can participate. Great Whale Count 2009 logged in with 1,010 sightings. There are an estimated 10,000-15,000 Humpback whales world wide.

I am posting a couple of shots of the Whale Festival, some keiki (kid) fun, (what's a party without a blow up castle with a whale on top?). My friend, Mike Eilers, took these shots of the whales while diving in Tahiti. The calf and mother (below) is especially endearing. It is magical to watch the mother teaching her "baby" all the humpback antics. The mother and calf have a long lasting bond, with a calf nursing up to 100 lbs of mother's milk daily. This will fortify them for their long trip back to Alaska.

No matter how many times I see the whales splash, slap and breach, and how many times I hear their haunting melodies underwater, I'm still as excited as the first time around.

Come out, volunteer, count whales. You'll always remember the experience!

Volunteer on Vacation while in Hawaii

Maui Hawaii coastal wetlands

Aloha Folks,

Today my new web site was launched, and I am excited to share it with everyone. is part of my latest effort in preservation of our special environment here in Hawaii.

After meeting great visitors out on the trail or up in the mountains, I was inspired to create this new site with added incentive on booking accommodations at Hale Ho'okipa Inn for those who volunteer (get a 5% discount on your stay, with another 5% donated to the organization for which you volunteer) This new site will continue to grow. Right now, the focus is mainly environmental restoration and preservation through eradication of invasive species and replanting the native forest and coastal dunes.

picking Naupaka plant seeds on MauiThe last service day I had was with the Maui Coastal Land Trust. We gathered Naupaka seeds from the native Naupaka plant. This shrub grows in the mountains and by the ocean. There are several species of this plant, the most remarkable thing is the flower appears to be torn in half, with petals missing.

There are a few legends that are spurned by this half flower...with the theme being two lovers who cannot be together, resulting in one living in the mountains, and the other by the ocean...hence the half flower.

The seeds when ripe are white and round. When we picked them,, we had to squeeze the seed out of the pulpy white outer layer. Mehana, my granddaughter and I , ended up picking a couple of hundred seeds. Nice to know these are now growing into new plants.

Digging holes for the Naupaka shrub plantings on MauiIt's a little bit sticky to pick the seeds, my grandson Aukai was not too impressed with this job. He really perked up when it was time to plant the Naupaka plants in the afternoon. He liked digging the holes with the shovel. I had to protect the plants so they would not end up chopped in half by his enthusiatic shovel swinging.

The Diaz family, 7 of them from Texas ,also worked with us. Their 13 year old, John, enjoyed the experience with his family. They were a fun group, and it was great to pick and plant along side this family on the wonderful Maui Coastal Land Trust sand dunes.

Hawaiian StiltThis area is some of the only sand dunes remaining on Maui. A small inland pond in the ancient fish pond , is where the Hawaiian Stilt birds nest .

Please visit the new site. Anyone interested in sponsorship of the site to help , please contact me. I am happy to add your link to the site.

Volunteering on vacation, or in your home area, is a great way to meet great folks, share your skills and learn new ones, and feel good about your efforts.

Dig in, help out, lend a hand. You'll be glad you did.

Much Aloha and Mahalo to all who make a difference!!!


Haleakala planting and restoration

Haleakala Maui Hawaii dry land forest restorationAloha,

The slopes of Haleakala are the backbone of our beautiful island. This majestic mountain is my anchor. I stop many times a day to gaze up the slopes to the crater. Sometimes shrouded in mist, often in full glory "The House of the Sun" rises up to the brilliant blue sky.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to give back to the mountain I love. Since 2000, the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership has planted over 52,000 native plants in the dry-land forests of Haleakala.

Volunteers on Maui HawaiiUnder the guidance of Art Mederios over 2,700 volunteers and the dedicated staff of LHWRP are making a difference. The first Auwahi exclosure is now a functional native ecosystem.

The native 'A'ali'i ,being a fast growing understory species, is planted first to shade out the African Kikuyu grass. This sturdy seedling grows fast and strong, dropping it's leaves to help produce the appropriate soil climate for the other natives to fill in.

I had the honor of planting the Kauila tree, a rare native Hawaiian tree found in the dry-land forests. The Kauila tree was an important tree to the Hawaiians. The dense native wood sinks in water and was formerly valued by the early Hawaiians for spears and tapa beaters. Because Auwahi is surrounded by a high fence, I know this seedling will grow big and strong, protected from the cattle, deer, horses and boar of the high slopes.

The reforestation projects attracts a variety of people including the Maui youth from Americorps. Art is a wealth of information, and he feels it is important to pass his knowledge on to the youth of our islands. Voluntourism in Hawaii - volunteer on vacationThese hard working young adults were a delight to listen to as they were being quizzed by Art throughout the day about the properties and Latin names of the trees we were planting. Their desire to perpetuate the Hawaiian culture through their efforts was evident.

We drove through "na ulu" the low clouds of the forest to 3800' elevation with magnificent views of the ocean below. It was a wild and bumpy ride up the slopes of Ulupalakua ranch.

Orange Lichen on Mount Haleakala, Maui, HawaiiThe beautiful orange lichen growing on a low branch is one type of the approximately 110 species of lichen. The dry-land forest is one of the richest spots for lichen in the world. Rare native spiders live inside the safe haven of the lichen.

This month's O magazine features four hotels in the world that promote voluntourism. My voluntourism program caught their eye, and I had the good fortune to be chosen for their magazine article. I was pretty excited to spread the word in Oprah's magazine. Offering our visitors the opportunity to participate in some really amazing experiences is very rewarding.

Volunteer tourists help restore native Hawaiian species to Mount Haleakala, Maui, HawaiiSteffan, and his godson from Germany, joined the group for the planting on Saturday. This was his second time planting with LHWRP, he came back for more! To thank all those visitors who come and give their time and effort to our aina, and to encourage more to do so, I am offering a 10% discount on their stay at Hale Ho'okipa.

So, here's to volunteering, and enjoying all the wonderful fruits of our labor.

Malama Maui, and mahalo to all who do so....


National Trail Day

The Maui trail clearing crew ready to go to work!
Aloha Trail Blazers!

The thrill and satisfaction from clearing an overgrown ancient fisherman's trail on National Trails Day is something I want to share today. Even though I have been off the beaten path most of my life, this was my favorite trail clearing experience.

On Saturday, four lucky Maui residents and one really lucky visitor, arrived at the trail head with our clippers, machetes and work gloves. Most of us are members of PATH, Public Access Trails Hawaii. The mission statement for PATH is to promote public access to historical, cultural and other trails in Hawaii through research, education and advocacy. Go to to find out more.

Volunteer tourists and residents lend a hand clearing a trail on Maui, HawaiiMonica is really putting energy into this organization on Maui, and I am happy to lend a hand. I am all for restoring and recovering lost public trails.

Lucienne de Naie was leading the hike along the north shore and she had not been on that trail for a few years. From the looks of it, nobody had. After locating the overgrown trail, we hacked, clipped and cut our way down to the cliff's edge. We had a little break in the dry creek bed, at which point, CJ, the man with the machete, our hero throughout the day, scrambled up a steep hillside and found some trail remnants.

Hawaii voluntourist takes a break from trail clearing.Hardworking Lin Robbins from the great Northwest told us that this experience was the highlight of her visit to Maui. (Good on ya, Lin. It was a blast to share the day with you.)

We have many volunteer opportunities on Maui, please check my voluntourism page for more information.

We made it down to the beach after some hand over hand rope gripping, sliding on the slippery lauhala leaves. What a relief to sit on the beach in the shade watching the waves, scratched up, sweaty and content.

Hawaii vacation volunteers take a break by a swimming hole on the Maui shore.Lucienne honored us with a story about a fishing ohana who had lived in the valley we had just passed through. They had a very special bond with a shark that inhabited the bay. When I listen and look with my heart, my experiences are so rich. The entire day had many rewards.

We boulder-hopped our way down the beach to a spot where the waves gently spilled into a very large pool. It was a primordial sort of experience to crawl and float along the sides of cliffs until we reached the deeper water. We all rested and talked story in the water. Refreshed, we were ready to tackle the cliff and work our way back up towards the trail head.

Maui Hawaii volunteer tourist LynnThe picture of Lin smiling and sitting on the clean and cleared steps that we could not even find on the way down, sums it up.

Here's to volunteering while on vacation, or where you live.

Mahalo with Aloha,