Wednesday, 5 October 2011

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The Turtles of Laniakea Beach

I promised my girls turtles.  The first time we went to Hawaii, all my girls wanted was a chance to see some turtles, so of course I told them I'd make it happen.  I think I might have had a slightly warped idea of what the turtle life in Hawaii consisted of though.  The movies make it seem like there should be a turtle and a pineapple on every corner, but apparently it doesn't quite work like that.  Despite staying at Turtle Bay resort (false advertising if I've ever heard it) and booking a boat ride to a "known turtle habitat" (Kind of makes them sound like felons doesn't it?) the closest we came to seeing a turtle was when somebody shouted "There! That's either a turtle or a fish!"  Not exactly the Kodak moment we were hoping for.

Feeling a little guilty, the second time we decided to hop over to Hawaii I did a little more research.  After reading everything I could find, almost everybody talked about Laniakea beach (aka Turtle Beach) on the North Shore of Hawaii, ironically just a little bit down the road from the turtle-less Turtle Bay resort.  All the guidebooks said that this was THE place to see turtles on Oahu, and that all you had to do was follow the main highway and there's no way you could miss it.  So off we went....and we missed it.

I love the directions.  What if the horses aren't in the field that day?
The instructions in the guide book said to drive the highway until you saw lots of cars pulled over on the side of the road and that would be Laniakea beach.  We actually stopped in the right place, but took a quick look around and decided that this beach couldn't be what we were searching for (ie. there were no turtles) so we went further up the highway looking.  These little beaches on the side of the road don't have signs to tell you which beach you're at, so you kind of have to match the curves of the road with the map to figure out where you are.  Eventually, after checking out a couple of other small beaches, we decided that we must have been in the right place the first time, so back we went, and this time there was a turtle.

I assume that this must have been a tourist turtle because he did exactly what every other tourist in Hawaii does and flopped himself on the beach to bake in the sun.  When a turtle comes ashore on Laniakea Beach, a group of volunteers go out and lay a yellow rope around him in approximately a 10ft radius.  You are not allowed to be within 10ft of a turtle on the beach or you're subject to a fine.  In fact, there are all sorts of rules and regulations to protect the turtles, and the state takes them very seriously.  If you are even considered to be bothering a sea turtle, you are subject to a $2000 fine and a year in jail.  What I wouldn't give to have the same protection as the sea turtles.  I could fund my travel habit for life with the ability to level a $2000 fine on anyone who bothers me, and the one year in jail threat might finally give me some leverage in this whole parenting thing.

Watching the turtles come up on the beach is cool, but the real fun here is going into the ocean.  There's usually quite a few turtles swimming around in the shore area at Laniakea, and although you're allowed to be in the water, you're still not allowed to be within 10 feet of a turtle, and it seems like the turtles know it.  They do exactly what I'd do if I knew that anybody who touched me was going to get fined $2000, and swim straight at you.  It's the ultimate mixed emotion situation as you feel inspired watching these beautiful creatures swim effortlessly through the water, until the second that they change direction.  Then you get to lose it laughing as everybody in the ocean scrambles over each other in an attempt to get out of the way.

Considering I'm not much of a sea creature person (or a beach person, or even an outdoors person really) I was surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting Laniakea beach.  It can get a little crowded right in by the sandy area where the turtles congregate, but there is plenty of room to spread out down the rocky part of the shoreline if you're looking for a little bit more of a solitary experience.  Either way, it's worth the 40 minute drive up to the North Shore.  Laniakea beach was everything I'd hoped for (except well marked) and let me fulfill my promise to my girls that we would see some sea turtles.  Now they want to see Koalas and Kangaroos, but before we can afford that, I'm going to have to collect on a few of these $2000 fines that I've been leveling against rush hour drivers here at home.


  1. I was born and raised in Hawaii. As a youngster who was at the beach every other day, I only came across a sea turtle once while bodyboarding at Sandy beach in Hawaii Kai.

    They seem to be increasing as of lately though.
    In addition to Lanikai, I have recently seen some while at both Waimea and Hanauma Bay.

    Even more difficult to come across are Hawaiian Monk Seals. I have still only seen one to this day. And that was at a deserted beach on Molokai.

  2. They certainly must be regaining numbers, as we saw them all over the place last time we were there, including Waikiki beach where I would have thought the sheer number of people would be enough to send them elsewhere.
    I've never seen a Hawaiian Monk Seal, but I'm willing to go scour deserted beaches on Molokai if it will help!