24 October 2016
Beaches come in a variety of colors. Sand is basically teeny tiny bits of shell, coral, glass, and various minerals from the soil at higher elevations.
So on an island that was once a couple of volcanoes and is covered with igneous rock, it makes sense that some of the beaches would be comprised of lava rock. Teeny tiny fragments of black lava. Making these black sand beaches.
Black sand retains the heat from the sun, so on a sunny day you can really burn your feet while walking on the dark sand.
But sea turtles like black sand beaches for their nests, to incubate those turtle eggs. And the same sea turtles like to relax on the black sand and warm up a bit after swimming around in the chilly ocean all day.
Punalu’u beach (poo-nah-LOO-oo) is the most famous black sand beach on Hawaii, and is known as Black Sand Beach. It’s a fairly long beach for this island, though there are the usual headlands of volcanic rock at both ends of the beach, and half-buried boulders littering the shoreline.
And green sea turtles (honu, in Hawaiian) sleeping in the sun, absorbing the warmth of the sand, even when it isn’t turtle nesting season.
There was a high surf advisory today, so the waves were pretty high and rough. Punalu’u isn’t a great place to swim, having really strong currents since this is just barely on the southeast corner of the island. But the turtles were out, and it was a wonderful place to visit. In fact, we spent so much time hanging out with the turtles, we never made it to the Kilauea crater!
One area of was smooth and had a shallow entry to/from the water, and this was where most of the turtles were napping. There were four, in a little space that was bordered with black rocks. I’m not sure if the park service people created this space to protect the turtles, so that people didn’t enter the area, or if this was to keep the turtles from climbing higher up on the beach.
But the people all crowded around and marveled at these huge creatures just basking in the weak sunshine. (It was a fairly grey and overcast kind of day.)
I walked the length of the beach, and there was another turtle hanging out way at the far end, away from the turtles and their human groupies.
I think this was the Greta Garbo of turtles. “I vant to be alone.”
On my way back, I stopped to look at the gang of turtles hanging out in their magic circle. The tide was coming in, and one turtle decided it was time to head back out to sea. It took her (him?) forever to move the eight or ten feet to the water (maybe three meters). Plus there was another turtle sleeping in the middle of the route the first turtle was taking – Turtle 1 slightly bumped Turtle 2, who stretched out its neck and nipped Turtle 1 on the shell! Twice! Big turtle fight!!!
Turtle 1 would haul forward on the front fins while pushing with the back fins. Two steps, then rest. Another two steps, then rest. Over and over again, and maybe ten minutes later the turtle was finally at the water’s edge.
Then several more steps in the shallow water, with waves rolling in and increasing the water depth. Some turtle navigation around the rocks and boulders in the shallows, with all of us gathered around cheering on or giving directions. Finally, FINALLY, the turtle was in enough water to swim – but still needed to push past the huge waves rolling in. We saw the occasional fin or back sticking up as the turtle was rolled by a wave, and sometimes the head reaching up for a breath of air – but eventually the turtle was headed back out to sea, to do whatever it is that turtles do with the rest of their day.
Lots of turtle photos to share, plus a map. Our hotel is located at star #1, at Keauhou Bay. The closest town, where we’ve spent some time, is Kailua-Kona, star #2. And today, we drove along Highway 11 (the red line), to star #3, Punalu’u Beach.
Tomorrow's plan is to get to Kilauea Crater, so that'll be a separate blog.