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Archive for the ‘Sea Turtles’ Category

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Brutus rests after surfing Hawaii’s North Shore. Photo/copyright: Lori Knowles

Sigh. My Surf Bus story has just appeared in the Toronto Sun’s Travel section. I’m now genuinely missing Oahu’s North Shore.

See story:

http://www.torontosun.com/2013/05/02/surfing-on-oahus-north-shore

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Aloha. I have discovered for myself yet another Hawaiian treasure: Kona. Not the coffee, though that is good too… but the island. Also known as Hawaii, The Big Island.

I am in awe at how different this island is from the others — Oahu, Kauai, Maui etc. True, they’re all different. But Kona is very different — it’s black, bare and big, with pockets of paradise scattered about. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to experience it.

The photo above is of our first Kona hotel: Hilton Waikoloa Village. Its location about 30 minutes north of the Kona airport is along the Queen’s highway, which ribbons through a blackened wasteland of ancient lava rock–remnants of Hawaii’s working volcano.

The black, desert-like atmosphere of the road is broken only by patches of white coral along the roadside — words written by travellers with the white coral stones lying by the roadside. Messages like “Jenny Loves Fred” or “Burt Was Here in 2012.” I’ll upload a pic when I get a chance.

This Hilton is huge. Indeed, it’s the state of Hawaii’s largest resort… so large, you can take a train or boat between the lobby, the pools, the restaurants and your room. Odd but fun, especially for kids. Here’s a photo:

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There are two pools at Waikoloa. Two gigantic pools with water slides and water falls, and rivers and streams. There’s a dolphin pool in which you can swim with the dolphins… more on that later. And there’s a spectacular trail that snakes for miles along the edge of the ocean with some of the prettiest views on the island.

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The resort also has a massive lagoon that’s full of tropical fish, eels and sea turtles. This lagoon is not stocked… it’s naturally fed by the sea. The sea life chooses to live there. You can rent paddle boards, kayaks, sea bikes and snorkel gear from the beachside lagoon shop. My son and I spent hours mostly snorkelling the lagoon, visiting the sea turtles. We counted nine… they are unafraid and friendly.

Our day was improved further still with a trip to nearby Hapuna Beach. It’s a massive state park with a broad, white-sand beach… rare here on Kona. The experience was unforgettable. We rented boogie boards from the resort and used them to body surf the waves. All afternoon. We were so wiped by the end of it, we went to bed at 7 pm!

I love Hawaii.

Lori Knowles is the Family Fare travel columnist for the Toronto Sun. You can read her stories at www.LoriKnowles.com and follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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Aloha once again from Waikiki, where I’ve just hopped off The Surf Bus.

The Surf Bus?

Sounds fabulous, right? The Surf Bus is a daily tour that transports travellers from highrise-happy Honolulu, to the roughness and wildness of Oahu’s North Shore, home of the big surf. Iconic surf spots–Pipeline, Sunset Beach–they’re all there, on the North Shore, along with the pretty little surf town of Haleiwa (pronounced Hally-EVA).

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The Surf Bus picked us up in the bus port of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Sam, our driver, said “Aloha” and invited us aboard. Sam is a descendent of generations of Hawaiians–his great great grandmother arrived from New Zealand ages ago on a whaling ship. Sam’s family has been here ever since.

Filled with passengers from Australia, South America, the US, the UK and fellow Canucks from Brandon, Manitoba, our enthusiastic little bus plunged onto the Honolulu freeway–a surprisingly busy, multi-lane system. According to Sam, Honolulu has the greatest number of highrises in NA after New York and Chicago. The city has 2.5 million cars–enough that if they lined up, they’d wrap eight times around the island of Oahu.

Despite the density and congestion, it takes us only 40 minutes to reach Oahu’s North Shore. Once past Pearl Harbor, the pineapple fields and the Dole factory, the freeway turns to an inland country road.

The Surf Bus passes through Haleiwa first before it drops us at our first point: The North Shore Surf Shop across the road from Shark Cove. There are surfers everywhere–on bikes, on mopeds, in trucks, on foot. They carry their boards under one arm and steer with the other.

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As part of the tour, we’re given bicycles of our own and pedal along a beachside bike path that snakes past several of the world’s most famous surf breaks.

And so we spend our morning, pedalling, pausing, snapping photos. It’s November, the month of The North Shore’s biggest surf; pro surfing competitions are underway. It’s US Election Day–the surfers are taking a break. But they’re practicing on the breaks–massive wave after thundering wave.

Back at The North Shore Surf Shop, we’re fitted with snorkelling gear–also part of the tour. We cross the road to a natural tide pool next to Shark Cove. The pool is protected (mostly) from the gigantic waves crashing against its rocks. The snorkelling is a mix of rough and wonderful–we skim over jagged black rock, spotting prickly sea urchins and yellow-striped fish.

Then it was back on The Surf Bus for a short trip to Haleiwa. On the way we stop to visit Brutus, one of the sea turtles that hangs out on a North Shore Beach:

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The pretty little town of Haleiwa is inland from the surf. A river runs through it. The Surf Bus kits us out with stand-up paddle boards and we paddle the quiet, jungle-like waterway, skimming over giant sea turtles.

We don’t have much time to tour the town. Too bad. Every store is shop- and photo-worthy. We pause quickly to watch kids slurping shave ice:

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And we grab spectacularly delicious shrimp-and-rice takeout from this blue food truck:

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Then its back to Honolulu. We say so long to Sam. My son and I really liked The Surf Bus.

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Sun rising over Waikiki. Photo: Lori Knowles

Hello again from Hawaii, where Day 1 on Waikiki was near perfect.

Our day began with breakfast with Jimmy Buffet. I should say, at Jimmy Buffet’s. His restaurant inside the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber houses the Honolulu Surf Museum, our first stop of the day. And our first stop in an family adventure focused on surfing… finding that iconic Hawaiiain wave.

Curator Mark Fragale offered up a tour… something you can book yourself by contacting the restaurant (see website). Grab a beer from the bar and take a walk with Mark. He’ll track Hawaii’s surfing culture from waaay back, when Hawaii’s royals rode long boards carved out of single trees, Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swim champ, popularized Hawaiian surfing, and Gidget did her bubbly best to make every teen in North America want to ‘hang ten.’

The museum is the baby of Jimmy Buffet, who began simply by needing a place to display one of his favourite gifts: the surf board that appeared in that ’70s iconic flick, Apocalypse Now. Here’s a pic of the board, signed by Robert Duvall, and hanging now above Jimmy Buffet’s bar:

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Let’s Go Surfing Now

Next came our first family foray into surfing. We signed up for a group surfing lesson at Waikiki’s Hilton Hawaiian Village.

We were met casually by the hotel’s ‘surf stand’ by a laid back team of surfing pros in bright green shirts. Our motley crew included: a Japanese family speaking little English; a Brazilian woman with a broad, happy grin; my nine-year-old, goggle-wearing son; and me… keen, but definitely feeling forty-something.

Kudos to that team for making it all work.

Elijah, our lead pro, taught us how to lie on the board, paddle, pop up on our knees, stand up Ninja-style sideways on the board. It all seemed pretty easy on sand. I was doubtful about how all this ‘ease’ would translate on the Pacific.

But you know what? It did.

Our entire motely little crew stood up on our first wave. Amazing. Those Japanese kids, that Brazilian woman, my goggle-wearing son, even me, the forty-something. We rode those breaks — as small as they were — just like we were Gidget. Golden.

I’d offer a photo, but it was just too wet to take any. I’ll buy some from the pro photographer we took Kelly-Slater-style along with us (!), and post them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, I’ll sign off with this… My reason the day, as I said at the top, was only “near” perfect:

On my first Hawaiian surfing lesson, I got seasick.

There, I said it. I GOT SEASICK! Evidently, I forgot to keep an eye on the horzion.

But don’t let my admission stop you folks. Every person should try to hang ten at least once in their lives… even if they get seasick. And even if they’re forty-somthing.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Hello Hawaii!

We’ve moved into our superior digs at Honolulu’s Hilton Hawaiian Village. Like our view?

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We arrived, my 9-year-old son and I, mid-afternoon Saturday. Emerging from a 12-hour flight from Toronto into the sun and soft wind of Waikiki felt a little surreal. A swim in the Pacific and a bite to eat set us nearly right… but sleep was really what we needed.

Now it’s (very early) Sunday morning and we’re set for our Hawaiian family surf adventure. First stop: The Honolulu Surf Museum at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber.

Next, we’ll attempt to surf ourselves in our first lesson at 11 a.m.

Stay tuned… I’ll keep you posted.

A note about LoriExploring: Lori Knowles is the Family Fare columnist for the travel section of the Toronto Sun. Follow Lori on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Fossil Hunting with Dinosaur Pat.

Our day took an unexpected turn here in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. What we thought might be a run-of-the-mill visit to a local museum turned out to be a rather spectacular search for dinosaur fossils… hammers, chisels and all.

The Courtenay & District Museum & Palaeontology Centre–a mouthful for most adults and way too many words for children–sits in a rather imposing brick building on a busy city corner of Courtenay, BC, which is in the midst of the pretty, very green Comox Valley. It’s not a place we expected to find dinosaur bones… or any other bones for that matter. But there they were, just inside the door.┬áBest part, they were discovered in the local Puntledge River.

Back in 1988 the 80-million-year-old skeleton of an Elasmosaur was found about four km from the museum by a local man and his kids who were out fossil hunting. (Hunting for fossils is a popular pastime here in this Valley. Vancouver Island was once at the bottom of the sea, and before it rose up again as a huge hulk of dry land and mountain, a whole bunch of neat prehistoric creatures scoured its depths… among them: the Elasmosaur.)

Looking a little like a crocodile, this Elasmosaur ate fish while there were alive and whole. Whole! Lacking sufficient teeth to grind them, it also swallowed rocks on a regular basis to help churn the fish up in its tummy. My kids found this, plus the museum’s other palaeontological displays fascinating. But what was really cool was what came next… a real life dig.

Dinosaur Pat (a.k.a. Pat Trask), the centre’s assistant curator–and who’s twin brother was the guy who originally stumbled on the local elasmosaur–leads fossil-digging tours around the outskirts of the museum. We followed him by car to the dig site along the local Trent River. With pails and hammers and chisels and goggles in hand, we scoured the bottom of the cool river bed hunting for fossils.

In short… my kids loved it.

Tours run daily during the summer.

Did we find any? Sure. Lots of concretion fossils… lobsters, shrimp, clams, all around 80 million years old and most enscased in mud balls–mysterious golf-ball looking things where fossils lurk.

Our tour was all part of Pat’s daily tasks at the Courtenay Museum. You can sign up for one, too… if you’re touring Vancouver Island. Especially if you have dinosaur-crazed kids… I highly recommend it.

For more information: www.courtenaymuseum.ca or www.HelloBC.com

Lori Knowles is the family travel writer for the Toronto Sun. You can read more of her work in this blog (www.loriexploring.wordpress.com) or on her website: www.loriknowles.com. Follow Lori’s adventures on Twitter @LoriExploring

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Mountain view at Parksville Beach

There are reasons The Globe and Mail, Better Homes and Gardens, even Conde Nast has listed Parksville, BC at the top of their lists for Best In Family Travel. Here are only a few of them:

Parksville Beach is part of British Columbia’s Oceanside region, which is also known as Canada’s Riviera.

Besides being long and extremely wide, Parksville Beach has loads of tidepools kids love to play in. Top on the list of activities are crab hunting, sand castle building, and sand dollar collecting.

Parksville Beach is home to a fantabulous community playground adjacent to the beach, which includes swings, climbing structures, slides, even a zipline, plus a waterpark, beach volleyball courts and an ice cream stand. (Parksville Community Lions Club Venture Land)

Parksville is easy access from Nanaimo, BC (about 40 minutes drive), and fun ferry ride from the pretty Horseshoe Bay terminal of BC Ferries. Tip: MAKE A RESERVATION! (www.bcferries.com)

Accommodations are family-friendly and plenty along Resort Drive on the outskirts of Parksville, including the Oceanside Village Resort: a series of newly crafted cottages, exceptionally equipped, surrounded by cedars. There’s an indoor pool, some shops, two mini-putt courses (Riptide Mini Golf), all at www.oceansidevillageresort.com

For more information on Parksville: www.VisitParksvilleQualicumBeach.com

Lori Knowles is the family travel writer for the Toronto Sun. You can read more of her work in this blog (www.LoriExploring.Wordpress.com), on her website (www.loriknowles.com) and on Twitter @LoriExploring.

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