I just returned from the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park service project where we backpacked 8 miles losing 2700-feet to get to a remote beach at Halape where we set up camp for a week of making the beach a more friendly place for rare hawksbill turtles, a critically endangered sea turtle, to nest. We started the hike in a mist, hiking through rainbows over a lava flow from the 1970s, and descending to a beautiful sunny oasis on the southeast side of the Big Island of Hawaii.As this sign below describes, these sea turtles are very rare and face continuing threats. One threat not listed on the sign is the invasive plants taking over the beaches making it hard for the mother turtles to reach a safe sandy place to make a nest, and all but impossible for the tiny hatchling turtles to negotiate on their way to the ocean. The prime offender is haole koa, leucaena leucocephala which grows in large thickets over beach sand making it difficult not only for the sea turtles, but for everyone visiting the beaches. We spent the days sawing, lopping and pulling these trees, clearing the forward beach areas along Halape and Halape-iki. We also removed an invasive passiflora vine and many large rocks from these beach areas just above the high tide line where the turtles look for nesting spots.Camping on the beach was wonderful, with the incredible ocean vistas, the views up and down the coast line, the nearby swimming lagoon and a brackish water plunge in a nearby crack for washing off at the end of the day. One afternoon we hiked to the nearby Keahou Beach where there is a more protected lagoon and spent several hours snorkeling amid the brightly colored corals and fishes.
The picture above shows our group posed under a carved coconut trunk (there were many standing sentinels along the campsite trail). Michal, Ashely, Igor, Randy and Lee joined me for this wonderful experience under the volcano. We will all have dreams of the baby turtles growing strong and being able to make it to the ocean this summer and fall due to our efforts.Mahalo to the Park Service for their organization and support, and their continuing efforts to protect these special places!