Wild Hawai'i 2016 Trip Report

By Stuart Westmorland on Mar 08, 2016

I first organized a “Wild Hawai’i” trip to the Big Island for Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris back in 2003.  In February I had the pleasure of leading another group on a whirlwind 7-day tour exploring the entire island from balmy sand beaches at sea level to the high-altitude summit of Mauna Kea. 
Here are a few of the highlights of our action-packed 2016 trip:
  • We photographed the remote, wild and rocky Hamakua Coast at dawn with views of lush tropical forests, black sand beaches and large crashing waves.
  • We explored Hakalau Wildlife Preserve—not open to the public—to photograph endemic plants, trees and birds.
  • We chartered two helicopters—with doors removed for photography—and were in the air at sunrise—normal flights do not leave until 9 AM—to photograph the active lava flows around the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō vent and the waterfalls near Hilo. 
  • We photographed the Kilauea Lava Lake with starry skies from several vantage points on consecutive nights and mornings—allowing fabulous time-lapse sequences of dusk and dawn with one of the world’s most active volcano.
  • On an exclusive whale watching charter with experts at finding humpback whales, we photographed behavioral activities such as breaching, tail slapping, and pectoral fin slapping around the uncrowded areas of the North Kohala Coast.
  • On an exclusive boat charter for snorkeling and for observing spinner dolphins, we photographed the dolphins as they swam, fed and leapt with acrobatic ease around Honokohau and the Kailua-Kona waterfront.
  • At the 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea, we photographed up close some of the world’s largest astronomical observatories with telescopes operated by 11 countries.  We were at the summit from late afternoon until just after sunset.  Then, after photographing a spectacular sunset from the summit, we returned to the visitor center at 9,200 feet to view the clear night stars through telescopes set up by the park’s astronomer volunteers.  
For the February 2017 Wild Hawai’i trip we have made some exciting additions, including a private (covered) boat and longer sessions of whale watching.  We have also added an exclusive boat charter out of the Hilo area to photograph numerous waterfalls streaming into the ocean from steep cliffs with lush tropical foliage all around them.  As we make our way to and from the waterfalls there are very good chances of encountering sea turtles swimming on the surface, dolphins, and humpback whales.  Photographed against the backdrop of the wild Hamakua coastline, these marine species can result in some very unusual and unique images!