Hawaii’s Big Island

Welcome to the penultimate part in my series about the differing characters of the five Hawaiian islands I was lucky enough to visit this time last year. So far I’ve dealt with the tropical lushness of Kauai, the Garden Island, the rural peacefulness of Molokai, the Friendly Island, and the diversity of Maui, the Valley Island.

Today it’s the turn of Hawai’i itself, the Big Island. From the moment you land at Kona Airport, with its runway carved from a black lava flow, everything about Hawai’i screams VOLCANO!

Landing at Kona airport

Landing at Kona airport

In the centre of the Big Island are the twin monsters of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, which both rise to over 13,600 feet above sea level. In fact, by mass and volume Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth. And if you were to measure Mauna Kea from its base on the ocean floor, it would be more than twice as tall as Mount Everest.

Mauna Kea poking above the clouds

Mauna Kea poking above the clouds

Rainbow over Mauna Kea

Rainbow over Mauna Kea

Between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea runs the scenic Saddle Road. Many guide books and websites still describe this as a partially unpaved and potentially hazardous route. But take it from me, nothing could be further from the truth these days, and the Saddle Road is worth the drive for its own sake.

Early morning mist streams over one of the volcanic cones along the Saddle Road

Early morning mist streams over one of the volcanic cones along the Saddle Road

During our week on the Big Island, we quite literally explored it from its northernmost tip to its southernmost point. And still left behind so many things to do on our next visit. 🙂

Looking down on the Wiapi'o Valley near the northern end of the Big Island

Looking down on the Wiapi’o Valley near the northern end of the Big Island

Staring south from the Southernmost Point on Hawaii, and in the USA as a whole

Staring south from the Southernmost Point on Hawaii, and in the USA as a whole

Hawai’i is rich in cultural history. The island is dotted with ancient heiaus (native Hawaiian temples). And during our time there, we got to see no fewer than three different sets of petroglyphs.

Heiau at Koloko-Honakohau Historical Park

Heiau at Koloko-Honakohau Historical Park

Puako Petroglyphs

Puako Petroglyphs

Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, off Chain of Craters Road

Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, off Chain of Craters Road

I’ve always wanted to swim with dolphins, but I decided several years ago that I didn’t want to do it in a glorified swimming pool. On the Big Island my dream came true, when I got to swim with completely wild Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins in Kailua Bay.

Wild dolphins everywhere!

Wild dolphins everywhere!

Sue making friends

Sue making friends

To make the occasion even more special, later that day, when darkness fell, I had the opportunity to also swim with wild manta rays, my favourite fish ever!

A manta ray appears out of the darkness

A manta ray appears out of the darkness

A close fly-by!

A close fly-by!

My experiences with the dolphins and manta rays alone would have made the trip to Hawai’i worthwhile. But like I already said, the island itself is all about the volcanoes, something I’m luckily utterly fascinated with. You can’t move on the Big Island without encountering a lava flow. Many of them looked like they formed just yesterday. Some of them really did form yesterday!

Out hiking (and geocaching) a lava flow near our hotel

Out hiking (and geocaching) a lava flow near our hotel

Sunset over a lava flow (this photo reminds me of my home in the Serengeti)

Sunset over a lava flow (this photo reminds me of my home in the Serengeti)

And I still can’t believe I got the chance to see a lava flow forming before my very eyes… from a helicopter… with no doors! We got so close I could feel the heat from the molten rock and smell the burning trees. (Read more in my post, Hot Helicopters Over Hawai’i.) And although our visit frustratingly coincided with a brief lull in volcanic activity (there was no lava flowing into the sea when we were there), it was still totally incredible.

Lava devouring trees

Lava devouring trees

Oozing lava

Oozing lava

Red hot shakka!

Red hot shakka!

I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but my personal impression was that the further south you go on the Big Island, the bleaker it gets, as you get closer to one of the most volcanically active areas on the entire planet. At the heart of Volcanoes National Park is the immense caldera of Kilauea, which reminded me of a crater on the Moon (even though they result from very different processes).

Kilauea caldera

Kilauea caldera

Halema’uma’u crater within Kilauea caldera

Halema’uma’u Crater within Kilauea Caldera

Following Chain of Craters Road down the flanks of Kilauea, past one volcanic vent after another, across any number of lava flows that formed within living memory, was indescribable.

The Devil's Throat pit crater, along Chain of Craters Road

The Devil’s Throat pit crater, along Chain of Craters Road

Lava flows seen from Chain of Craters Road

Lava flows seen from Chain of Craters Road

And witnessing lava sitting atop asphalt at the truncated End of the Road was simply surreal.

Lava on asphalt

Lava on asphalt

No kidding?! (this sign was actually placed here before lava engulfed it)

No kidding?! (this sign was actually placed here before lava engulfed it)

Although seeing the Halema’uma’u Crater, in the centre of Kilauea’s caldera, glowing orange at sunset from the magma within was even more mind-blowing!

Sunset over Halema’uma’u Crater

Sunset over Halema’uma’u Crater

A peek into the Underworld!

A peek into the Underworld!

While you’re wide-eyed about the fiery wonders of the Big Island of Hawai’i, why not sign up and follow my continuing Journeys here at Jaspa’s Journal (on WordPress or Bloglovin’), or through my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr?

And if that’s not enough for you, there are now three Jaspa’s Journey novels to enjoy as ebooks! Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
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7 Responses to Hawaii’s Big Island

  1. Amy says:

    What a fascinating and beautiful Hawaii big island! Thank you for the wonderful information and gorgeous photos, Jaspa. Enjoyed the tour here. Can’t wait to see the place in two weeks. 🙂

  2. jpeggytaylor says:

    Absolutely amazing! It is incredible to see the live volcanoes glowing red and the lava literally flowing across the land. It’s like a live replay of how the land was formed! The ‘road closed’ sign was marvelous … though I wondered if roads must often be engulfed by lava, looking at how closely the lava flow is approaching the Chain of Craters road! Fascinating post – I really enjoyed it 🙂

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