Hawaii -- When it comes to guides for ecotours, travelers used to
be content with having anyone who knew more than they did about
nature lead them on a stroll through the woods.
Today thats a
spend more time than any other type of traveler researching a
destination to ensure the most exciting and educational activity
available to them and making certain that they hire an expert tour
& Trail (HF&T), located on the Big Island, is one-stop
shopping for this type of traveler.
owner, founder and company president, said visitors to the Kohala
area know more and more every year as they return for repeat
They know exactly
what they want to do, and they are rather vocal about telling us
what they want to see, Pacheco said. They ask very intelligent
questions. Most of them have already read the guide books on the
tour company offers eight tours, all in the vicinity of the Kohala
include birding excursions with Pacheco, whos also an
ornithologist, as well as excursions called the Valley Waterfall
Adventure, the Kohala Country Waterfall Adventures, the Kilauea
Volcano Adventure, the Hualalai Volcano Adventure, Muana Kea Summit
& Stars Adventure and the Hakalau Forest Wildlife Refuge
Birdwatching Adventure. A mule trail adventure is also
and custom charters are available.
transportation to and from hotels, picnic lunches (or dinner, as is
the case on the Mauna Kea Summit tour) and all equipment. Trips
range in length from six to 12 hours.
Ecotourists might be interested in
this additional aspect of the operation: Hawaii Forest & Trail
pays fees to land owners in order to take adventurers to private
and often sacred lands. This, according to the outfitters
spokesman, also gives the landowners funds to maintain their
It opens a
channel of support for private enterprises that focus on the
cultural and environmental preservation of the island, he said. It
is the best possible use of the land.
employs 13 guides, all of whom are trained in road safety, CPR and
first aid. Each has a specialty. For
example, the guide who assists visitors on the Mauna Kea Sky tours
is an astronomer who knows the stars as well as the history behind
the volcano and its worldwide role in celestial research.
The roster also includes master divers,
geologists, geography teachers, nature historians, triathletes and
a doctor of biology.
began the company in 1993, he was its sole guide. A knowledgeable
birder, he took local children out on weekly excursions.
kids told their parents and word-of-mouth took over. After setting
up tours for both parents and children, word spread to those
visiting the islands that his operation was a good option for those
who wanted to learn while giving back to the island.
So when it came
time to hire additional guides, Pacheco had his
I didnt want the
quality to suffer. So I train every guide that works for me. They
know everything that I do -- well, almost, he said.
In addition to
the daily excursions offered by HF&T, Pacheco occasionally
hosts multiday, multi-island itineraries with specific
On one such trip,
Pacheco takes enthusiasts on an eight-day birding tour that touches
down on three islands. Birds tell the evolutionary story of the
islands, he said.
is located across the street from the entrance to Kona Harbor.
There is an outfitting store in the office that sells various types
of outdoor gear. The company picks up and returns all travelers to
their individual resorts.
New activities on
the horizon for the operation include a helicopter tour that will
fly guests to a remote area on the Hamakua Coast and leave them to
hike in the jungle. Pacheco is in talks
with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters on the Big Island and Maui regarding
a working relationship between the two companies.
created a program that calls for a helicopter to fly guests to a
remote area on the Hamakua coast. HF&T is working on a camping option, as well, which
might be combined with the future helicopter-hiking
CEO of Blue Hawaiian helicopter tours, acknowledged he is talking
with Pacheco about setting up tours but added that recently he has
seen a boon in private charters for similar kinds of
can partake in the HF&T experience, they can see glimpses of
the awaiting adventures on the Travel Channel program, Vacation
Challenge, which will be aired this fall.
production company wrapped up the filming of a show with the guides
that will be seen on prime-time television down under.
This is well-timed, according to the HF&T
representative, who notes that it will be around the time when
Hawaiian Airlines launches its nonstop Sydney-to-Honolulu
tourism marketing group JTB has also sent film crews, who have been
working with the outfitter to film promotional spots (two of
Pachecos 13 guides speak Japanese).
Prices for daily
adventures range from $93 to $155 for adults and $75 to $155 for
kids. For more information, call (800) 464-1993 or visit www.hawaii-forest.com.
reporter Brian Berusch, send e-mail to [email protected].