HONOLULU -- If their clients can take the heat -- literally --
agents can arrange to have them brought to within a few feet of a
fiery lava flow.
Hawaii Forest & Trail's (HF&T) Kilauea Volcano Adventure
goes to the brink of one of the most active volcanoes in the
Kilauea has been erupting on the Big Island since Jan. 3, 1983.
It's the longest recorded rift activity in Hawaiian history, and
scientists say there's no indication of when it will end.
Every minute, 55,000 gallons of molten lava gush from cracks on
the volcano's flanks, enough to cover Washington (63 square miles)
in two weeks.
The 2,000-degree lava often makes its way to the sea, creating
"massive, roiling clouds of steam," said Rob Pacheco, HF&T's
president. "There is a surreal majesty to the violence of the lava
hitting the ocean."
Although he has witnessed it dozens of times, he said, the
spectacle never ceases to amaze him.
"Just think," Pacheco said, "the lava has come from deep in the
earth and now is making new land, and these islands rose from the
middle of the ocean, formed from one lava flow after another. The
heat, the sounds and the smells of the flow stay with you a long
Pacheco grew up in a farming community in northern California.
When he moved to Hawaii in 1990, he discovered "what an incredible
natural laboratory the islands are."
"Their isolation and spectacular extremes of geography provided
plants and animals with opportunities for change found nowhere else
in the world," he said. "If Darwin had stopped here instead of the
Galapagos, he probably would never have left."
In 1993, Pacheco founded HF&T, which has earned recognition
as one of the top outfitters in the state.
"I think where we excel is our emphasis and commitment to the
interpretive experience," Pacheco said. "Our guides' job is to form
a connection between themselves and their guests, and then help
guests connect with the environment they're in.
"This isn't just a matter of giving information, it's a process
that communicates values, ideas and universal themes. When this
happens, people view a place much differently and connect with it
at an emotional, intellectual and, hopefully, spiritual level."
The Kilauea Volcano Adventure is a prime example of HF&T's
goal to educate as well as entertain.
Most of the trip to and from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
traverses the slopes of Mauna Loa, the largest single mountain mass
on Earth. The drive winds through coffee and macadamia nut
orchards, native dryland, rain forests and expansive
In the park, participants view amazing diversity in the
landscape, from smoldering steam vents and massive craters to ebony
fields of smooth pahoehoe lava and lava tubes draped with veils of
mist and lush ferns.
Binoculars poised, sharp-eyed bird-watchers can spot a variety
of native species, including the apapane, a red-and-black colored
Hawaiian honeycreeper; the yellow-and-green amakihi, which nests in
crater walls and flies out to sea to feed on fish; and the omao, a
shy thrush with a distinctive call.
HF&T's guides share intriguing tales of Pele, the
tempestuous volcano goddess, and her stormy relationship with her
suitor, Kamapuaa, a god who was able to transform himself into an
They also point out the ohelo berries that Pele supposedly
fancied and ohia trees ablaze with crimson lehua, her favorite
blossom and the official flower of the Big Island.
Despite the five-hour drive from Kona and the six hours spent in
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Pacheco claims the Kilauea Volcano
Adventure is one of his firm's best trips for families.
"It's a wonderful way for kids to learn about volcanoes," he
said. "It's also great for visitors who don't just want to sightsee
but really want to understand the landscape."
Pacheco added, "If your clients are curious and have a love for
Hawaii and nature, there's no better place to visit than Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park. It is truly a powerful and inspiring
Outfitter: Hawaii Forest & Trail
Phone: (808) 331-8505 on the Big Island; (800) 464-1993
from the mainland.
When: Check in at Hawaii Forest & Trail
headquarters by 6:50 a.m. The daily tour departs at 7 a.m.
Approximate return is 7 p.m.
Where: 74-5035B Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Clients
can arrange for free pick-up at select resorts from Kailua Kona to
the Kohala Coast.
How much: $145 for adults, $115 for children age
12 and under. Includes continental breakfast, deli lunch, bottled
water, rain gear and use of daypacks and walking sticks.
Note: Guests must be able to hike on uneven or
rocky terrain. Nature walks range from a half-mile to 1.5 miles.
Wear closed-toe shoes.
Commission: 10%. Brochures describing HF&T's
nine Big Island tours will be mailed upon request.