Friday, 7 March 2014

Aloha Oahu!

So I have a bit of a confession to make...I've been incredibly lazy over the last few weeks and even though I've been home for a while (almost three weeks actually) I haven't got around to finishing off my tales of the USA and Caribbean. Since I got home I've been catching up with friends and starting to hunt for a job now I'm back in the UK permanently, but it's really no excuse!

Where I left off, all those weeks ago, we had just left San Francisco and were heading to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to visit Hawaii. We arrived late at night into the most-populated island, Oa'hu where we rented a house about 10 minutes away from Honolulu in an area called Diamond Head. We had the most beautiful view of the city from our vantage point on a steep hill

We were pretty unlucky with the weather- I always picture bright blue skies and glorious sunshine when I think of Hawaii, but in fact it has a tropical climate which means it's humid or raining a lot of the time! When it rains, it really rains hard! Only two of our days on the island were sunny but we still managed to see a lot!! 

Some of the highlights included:

1) A whale watching tour around Diamond Head

Every year thousands of Humpback Whales migrate from Alaska to the waters surrounding Hawaii for winter. We took a boat ride out from the coast and got some beautiful views of the island. 

We then went in search of whales with a nature expert providing information about the creatures. It was really interesting and we were lucky enough to spot two of the elusive creatures- a mother and her calf. They spouted water from their blowholes, they breeched (arched out of the water) and dove down displaying their enormous tails. It was really fascinating to see them in their natural environment.

2) Seeing turtles (and not just once...)

Hawaii is famous for its turtles and after mine and Rob's experiences in Malaysia, I was keen to see turtles again while here. Hawaii does so much to protect the species- it's actually state law that you can't go closer than 5 feet to a wild turtle nor can you pester, touch or harass it in any way! We were lucky and we actually randomly spotted a turtle swimming in the shallow area near Waikiki beach and we observed it for a while from the ledge above the ocean.

A few days later we hit lucky again and saw a ginormous turtle basking on a beach at North Shore.

The area of the beach where he was sitting was barred off and apparently the same turtle comes to this beach almost every day to bask in the sunlight!! The volunteers who work within turtle conservation have named him Brutus and he's a bad-ass! He's missing part of a flipper from a fight he got into with a tiger shark.

3) Visiting the North Shore

North Shore for me summed up everything that Hawaii is famous for- the surfers, the crab shacks, the rugged coastline, the breathtaking scenery... Driving up for the day felt like stepping back into a 1970s film and it was definitely my favourite part on the island.

4) Watching the sunset on Waikiki Beach

Perhaps one of the world's most famous beaches, Waikiki isn't the nicest beach on Hawaii by any means, but we got to see an absolutely spectacular sunset there and for that reason alone, it deserves a mention.

5) Snorkelling at Hanauma Bay

The quality of marine life of Hawaii is sensational and Hanauma Bay is one of the best spots to go. In a completely sheltered crescent the waters are calm and crystal clear and there's a huge bed of living coral. You have to pay $7 entry and watch a video about conservation before you can swim but this is such a great idea to encourage people to think about how to treat the sea.

6) Heading to the various lookouts

Hawaii is so beautiful, it's possible to spend a full day just driving round the coast seeking the best viewpoints from which to capture that beauty. I think I'll just let my photos do the talking here...

Oahu isn't even meant to be the prettiest island which makes me want to go back and explore the others!!

7) Learning about Polynesian Culture and Tradition

While Hawaii is a state of the USA, it has such a distinct culture going back thousands of years complete with its own language and customs. We visited a few of the cultural monuments still in tact including the ruins of an ancient temple called Pu'u o Mahuka Heiau which is at the top of a hill butis nearly  down to its foundations now.

People still go today to leave offerings although the ancient Hawaiin religion isn't widely practiced. 
We also visited the Polynesian Cultural Centre which is focused around the various different Polynesian islands including Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand, Tonga and of course Hawaii. This was a really interesting opportunity to learn about ways of life in regions which aren't easily visited. Everyone who worked there was from Polynesia as well.

8) The Food

Hawaii obviously produces a huge amount of fish and there is a huge number of Asian immigrants. The food really reflects that particularly their national dish which is called poke (pronounced poke-ay). This is chopped raw tuna mixed with soy sauce, spring onions, sesame oil etc. It's absolutely delicious and just one of many Hawaiin delicacies.

We also went to Nobu one night which is a famous Japanese restaurant and could possibly be the best meal I have ever had in my entire life!!

One other thing Hawaii is famous for is pineapples so we checked out the Dole Pineapple Plantation. It was cheesy but fun and they do the best pineapple ice cream in their gift shop.

We had a great week overall despite the weather and I would definitely go back. We then moved onto our last leg of the trip- a 2 week cruise of the Caribbean which I will definitely write about soon!!