On a recent, sunny afternoon, a friend and I enjoyed a “whale walk” along The Path heading north from Kealia Beach. Within 10 minutes she spotted the first spout toward the horizon. Then, a half mile from shore, we watched the emerging curve of a humpback whale as it breached.
We could imagine ourselves closer, feeling the great slap as tons of cavorting male whale hit the water and displaced it, a mini-tsunami, in all directions. You don’t have to be a female whale to feel, see, hear and/or imagine the exciting whoosh, the giant rolling eye, the booming percussion of blubber and bone and flukes slapping back to ocean surface.
We perched on vines and grasses growing along The Path’s edge to scan the inky blue Pacific off Kauai’s Eastside shores. Bike riders pedaled by us and serious joggers on a fast track. Families strolled along, chatting. Take-it-easy walkers, such as ourselves, passed intermittently. Almost everyone was watching for signs of winter’s returning whales. When rewarded with the sight of a spout or two here, then there, ours weren’t the only “oohs” and “aahs” to be heard.
The whale play continued in spurts up and down the coast, from Anahola past Wailua toward Ahukini Bay. I attributed the good fortune of the afternoon to my friend’s ability to attract and connect with the sea and its creatures. With a laugh and a toss of her curls, she deflected my praise.
The down-to-sea facts are that it’s Makahiki time in Hawaii, the time when whales who have left their chilling environment to travel south for some R&R, leviathan style, have arrived. Any self-respecting whale over the age of seven (who isn’t a new, lactating mother) comes to our tropical waters to relax and take a break from serious eating to concentrate on mating. With good fortune, the next pod of calves will be born back in our warm, tropical waters after the 11-and-a-half-month gestation cycle within their migrating mothers.
My friend and I have walked that same area, Kealia to Donkey Beach and beyond, many times. Back when it was a rutted, plantation road, we were several times almost muscled over the edge by equipment drivers who seemed to take pleasure in careening at maximum speed and bullying anyone who decided to chance the walk for the views. Before the advent of The Path and the seaside cleanup that accompanied it, some coves immediately north of Kealia were strewn with rusting metal I thought was dumped farm or army equipment. Now, the junk has been removed (mahalo!) and the view is devoid of such eyesores.
After we parted, I thought, how lucky we are — first of all “to live Kauai” and secondly, to have The Path as it is presently developed.
My husband and I, when we travel, explore all manner of public paths besides lakes and oceans. With the ongoing development of our island’s seaside path, and because of some public dissension within our community, we’ve particularly noticed details as we photographed, from Colorado to Croatia, Venice to Queenstown.
These popular waterside ways give residents and visitors of all ages a chance to refresh and renew while exercising in earnest, strolling with a sweetheart or a babe, sipping a coffee or vin at a modest stand set back from the view, or just muddling along, breathing in the fresh wind and humidity, enjoying every detail of the view as the way unfolds. You cannot put a dollar value on such experiences.
We humans, it seems, are drawn to water and its amazing creatures. Returning home to Kauai and seeing its natural beauty anew each time, we offer our gratitude to all the miracles of life and all the opportunities afforded us, such as on my most recent whale walk.
• Dawn Fraser Kawahara has been a Kauai writer and promoter for 30 years. Born in British India, brought up in Australia and California, she found her home and heart on Kauai in 1984 when the fourth of her children was almost raised. A former writer and department editor for The Garden Island, she launched and continues to run her TropicBird Press and TropicBird Weddings & Celebrations–Kauai as part of DAWN Enterprises.