Day 4 was a pretty incredible day on the island. Since less than 20% of Kauai is accessible by car the saying goes that "visiting Kauai and not seeing it by air is like going to the Sistine Chapel and not looking up." I used to work for the US Forest Service as a wildland firefighter helicopter rappeller. In the course of my job I was paid to fly over and rappel into places such as Mt Whitney, the southern Sierra Nevadas, and the Nevada high desert. Helicopter tours on Kauai are so incredible, that even with this background, I have gladly paid for helicopter tours both times I've been to Kauai.
We woke up early Sunday morning to once again head down to the south side of the island. Both times I've flown with Inter-Island Helicopters for a few reasons. The first time I flew with them they also served as the Fire Rescue contract helicopter for Kauai, making them pretty near and dear to my heart. They fly with the doors off, which for me is really the only way to fly. And they fly the fast MD500 Hughs helicopters. Think Magnum P.I. or the "Little Birds" from Blackhawk Down.
This time I paid a little more for a private tour and ended up on the smaller Robinson R44 helicopter. I was a little ambivalent on this one, because the MD is like the ferrari of helicopters - quick and just plain bad ass looking. The R44 looks like something out of a cute little anime cartoon. The woman at the counter assured me that she had her reservations about little ship when they first got it. Once she flew in it and realized that the windows were much bigger, making it better for pictures, she gained a new appreciation for it. And when it was in the air, it flew just the same as the bigger ship. It fast became her favorite helicopter.
We sat through a quick safety briefing, strapped our life jackets on and were led out to the awaiting helicopter, which was all spooled up and ready to go. Our pilot, Conrad, introduced himself, made sure we were all situated, then lifted up and banked around to the right as we took off into the air.
First we flew over Waimeia Canyon which we had just been visiting the day before.
Conrad was an extremely knowledgeable tour guide and an great pilot. We soon got the feeling that even for someone that does this day in and day out for a living, he was having as much fun up here as we were.
Next we flew along the North Shore making for the second of four ways we'd experience the Napali Coast this trip. The first of which, the Kalalau Lookout and Pihea Trail, were also mentioned in the Kauai Day 3 post.
We continued along the coast flying over Tunnels Beach which we visited the first day.
From here we flew into the interior of the island. Kauai is home to literally the wettest place on earth. The 5,142' Mount Waialeale literally meaning "ripling water" or "overflowing water averages over 452 inches of rain a year and received a record setting 683 inches of rain. According to Conrad it rains 350 days, yet somehow we managed to catch it on one of those five days when it was clear allowing us to fly right into the shield volcano.
Shield volcanos are usually built almost entirely of lava flows and are so named because their profiles resemble a warrior's shield.
As we zig zagged through the canyons I became won over by the R44's nimbleness and the expansive open views it offered.
I used a GoPro camera with a wrist housing for most of the pics and video on this ride. Overall it worked out really well, but a a lot of my pictures did come out a bit off kilter due to not being able to sight the camera very well with it mounted on the wrist. Another issue that came up was about half way through the ride I noticed condensation on the inside of the case, obscuring the lens. I know now that when using the GoPro to make sure that the lens and lens cover are free of all smudges and that the case is completely dry inside before sealing the camera inside.
We then re-enacted the "Welcome to Jurassic Park" scene as we flew over Jurassic Falls.
We wound around the island a bit more, but before we knew it, it was time to head back to the helibase. We hopped off the little ship with ear to ear grins. Check out Conrad in the background throwing out a shaka.
Now, this might seem like a full day's adventures, but we had barely started for the day. When we landed, it wasn't even 0930 yet. We departed the helibase in search of fuel for the rest of the day (aka breakfast). We drove around a bit and happened upon the Kauai Coffee Company.
There we thermoses with free samples of the coffees on a table in the patio. I'm generally not a big coffee drinker. I drink my coffee black and save it for those times when I really need it such as working 48 hours straight on the line of a wildland fire. The Kauai Blue Mountain blend didn't give me the jitters that normal coffee does and was so incredibly smooth that I could see myself going there every morning for cup to start off the day. We went inside to get a full cup of coffee. A cheerful retiree named Chuck sold us cups for $1.50 each and then rounded us up for a tour of the plantation.
The tour takes about 15 minutes, is pretty interesting and informative and well worth it. Fueled up and energized we drove down the shore to Poipu Beach to snorkel with tropical chickens, fish and sea turtles.
Kauai chickens have no natural predators so they have flourished and are found just about everywhere on the island. They have interbred with other tropical birds leading to some very colorful combinations. Imagine a rooster with a peacock tail.
We hopped into the water to be greeted by a bunch of fish of different colors and sizes darting past us.
For most of the time we were out there a pair of sea turtles we hanging out in the shallow surf. The lifeguards were very diligent making sure all of us gave the turtles a wide berth and let them go about their business.
We swam until the early evening and then headed back over to Port Allen to end the day by watching yet another incredible sunset.
1 day ago