We spent a week on the island of Hawaii and were lucky enough to stay with our friends at their condo in Kona. If you are planning on taking a trip to the big island, Kailua Kona is definitely worth considering to use as your home base.
In this article, I lay out our itinerary and each place we visited in detail.
Magic Sand Beach
Magic was our go-to beach and we spent most of our beach time here. This is a great place if you want to snorkel and body board. We consistently saw sea turtles here too.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
Kahalu’u provides calm, crystal clear water for snorkeling, making it easy to float on the surface and watch as the colorful fish go about their day. This was also the best place we found to experience sea turtles up close. However, I recommend that you arrive to this beach early as this is when the water is at it’s clearest.
Kua was another of our favorite beaches. It’s a white sand beach that’s about a half hour north of Kona. This beach also has a permanent food truck and public rest rooms making it perfectly suited for a day trip.
Kamanu Charters Manta Ray Night Dive
The manta ray night snorkel was the highlight of our trip. We checked in at 5:00 p.m. to meet with the charter crew and to put on our half wet suits. Our crew was made up of the captain, Jay, and crew members Bobby and Megan. The ocean in Hawaii is warm, but half wet suits were recommended because the total in-water time lasts around 45 min.
It was about a 6 mile ride north along the coast to reach what locals call “Manta Heaven”, a half mile off the coast from the airport.
Once at Manta Heaven, crew member Bobby told us about the Manta Rays. The most important thing to understand is that manta rays are harmless. They have no teeth, stingers, or sharp protrusions of any kind. This is supported by the fact that they are filter feeders, trapping planktonic copepods in special gill filaments called gill rakers. As a side note, he explained that there is high demand in the Chinese market for manta gills. The Chinese believe these organs filter impurities from the body, but there is evidence proving that this is not an effective practice and that there are plenty of modern alternatives. Mantas could face extinction if something isn’t done to stop this practice.
Bobby explained that mantas weigh between 50-100 lbs per foot and eat around 13% of their body weight each week. There are two manta species: Manta birostris & Manta Alfredi. The largest and most rarely seen is Manta birostris with an average wingspan of 22 ft.
We used surfboards modified with UV lights placed underneath to attract the manta ray’s primary food source: planktonic copepods.
The boards were also equipped with PCV handles that we held so we didn’t drift apart from the group as we floated on the water’s surface. All we needed to do was hold on and float while breathing through the snorkel.
Once the copepods reached a high enough concentration around the UV lights, the mantas began getting closer and closer until they almost brushed up against us. We were advised not to touch the rays as it would result in removing the mucous layer that protects their skin from the environment. They fed by doing back flips in order to catch as much food as possible.
Ventral side of a manta during a back flip
Sunset on the catamaran
Crew on the catamaran
To ‘Akaka Falls and Waipio Valley
The drive from Kona to ‘Akaka Falls took us about 2.5 hours, but felt half that because of how interesting the landscape was to watch as we drove through.
The ‘Akaka Falls trail is paved and only a half mile long. The falls make a great sight seeing pit stop. This is also a great place to see anole lizards and gold dust day geckos.
The trek to Waipio beach from the parking lot is not for the faint of heart. The road down is extremely steep with a 45 degree incline. However, the view is spectacular and there are apparently wild horses that roam the area.
The hike back uphill from the beach was exhausting. With the combination of heat and humidity, I don’t think I’ve ever sweated as much as I did then in my entire life.
On the last day of our trip, while shopping for souvenirs, Teddy and I decided to have a light lunch because we knew there would be a great deal of food later that evening at the luau. We settled for a small bar-style restaurant called Chill’n on the Bay and ordered two fish tacos each. It was a relaxing afternoon as we watched the day geckos scurry about and approach our drink glasses every so often to lick off the condensation.
Wet shaving with a straight razor or safety razor was extremely popular until the first Bic disposable razor appeared in the 1970’s. I’ve used all forms of shaving tools from disposable razors, straight razors, safety razors, and electric shavers. Out of all of them, I would have to say that wet shaving with a safety razor is my favorite for the following reasons:
Why We Like Traditional Wet Shaving
Traditional wet shaving feels much better and is an overall better experience.
Using a single sharp metal blade can cause irritation, but not if you lubricate your skin first. We recommend using a pre-shave oil to make sure that the razor has a smooth surface to glide across. The next step is to add the saving cream using a shave brush.
Below, I created a list of the traditional wet shaving products that I have come to enjoy using as well as their prices and usage lifetimes.
It produces far less waste and is better for the environment.
Traditional wet shaving products were made to last and often come with less packaging.
Traditional Wet Shaving with Safety Razor
Below is a list of the wet shaving tools I have come to enjoy using. The prices and lifetimes of each will vary depending upon products, but will amount to roughly the same cost per year:
Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Safety Razor Price: $39.99
Shave Brush. Price: $22.00+
Lifetime: About 20 years
Taylor of Old Bond Street Shaving Soap in Bowl Price: $35.99
Gorillas live in one of the most violent places on earth and are essentially sitting ducks. The two gorilla species live within and around the Congo River basin. This is an area roughly half the size of the United States and is largely unexplored due to inaccessibility and hostile groups and poachers. Each species has lowland and upland subspecies. Norwegian Refugee Council’s DR Congo director, Ulrika Blom, has stated that, “It’s a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen and Iraq.” According to the BBC, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has estimated that an average of 5,500 people fled their homes every day during 2017 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
General Gorilla Facts
There are two gorilla species: Eastern and Western. Each has two subspecies. Eastern gorillas are made up of the Cross River gorilla and Western Lowland gorilla subspecies. Western gorillas include the Mountain gorilla and Eastern Lowland gorilla. This makes a total of four distinct subspecies of gorilla.
In the wild, gorillas live approximately 30-40 years. They typically form groups compromised of as little as 5-10 individuals, but groups as large as several dozen including extended family have been documented. Groups are lead by the silverback, an adult male that has reached sexual maturity; signified by silver fur on his back. Groups can be made up of blackbacks (adult males that have not yet become sexually mature), adult females, juveniles (4-8 years of age), and infants. It has been documented that a silverback, after acquiring a group after battle, will kill the infants sired from the previous leader in order to ensure that the next generation are his own.
Never stare at a silverback. Staring is a challenge and he may charge.
A blackback will eventually leave his natal group and become solitary until he forms a group of his own. However, some solitary males are never able to win a fight against a dominant silverback or attract females of his own. A solitary male can form a group by attracting a female that has left her group or take control of a group through defeating the dominant silverback in battle.
If a silverback charges:
Go down on your knees.
Bow your head.
Put a leaf in your mouth; it’s a sign that you come in peace.
Physical Differences Between Eastern vs. Western Gorillas
The Eastern silverback has a more defined patch on his back, while the lighter hair on a Western silverback spreads to his thighs.
Eastern gorillas, especially Mountain gorillas, have long, black hair that helps to protect them in the cold and wet mountain conditions. Western gorillas have shorter, more bristly hair that is slightly brown to grey.
Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei)
1. Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei)
Mountain gorillas live at elevations from 8,000 – 13,000 ft. According to Gorilla Doctors, there are currently around 880 individuals. About 480 of them live in the Virunga Volcanoes Massif, an area of land that includes Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, DRC’s Virunga National Park, and Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park. The other 400 gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
Paul Rafaele, author of Among the Great Apes, explains that the mountain gorilla enjoys a leisurely lifestyle. The silverback begins his day with waking his family at 5 a.m. by beating his chest and charging them. A single family forages over 500 yards each day and activities include “playing alot and taking mid-morning and mid-afternoon naps.” At around 6 p.m., the silverback chooses a place for his family to sleep for the night.
2. Eastern Lowland or Grauer’s gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)
MAP OF PROBABILITY OF GRAUER’S GORILLA OCCURRENCE IN EASTERN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO (WITH GREEN INDICATING HIGHER OCCURRENCE). CREDIT: COURTESY OF WCS.
The Eastern Lowland or Grauers gorilla is the largest of the four gorilla species. These gorillas inhabit the lowland forests of eastern DRC and the Albertine Rift. Until the 1990s, populations were estimated to be around 17,000 individuals, but recent surveys estimate far lower numbers at only 4,000 individuals.
Current data indicates that these gorillas only occupy about 13% of their former range. Surveys from both the WCS and FFI document that the Grauer’s gorillas has declined at least 77% in the last 20 years.
Western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla)
1. Western Lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
The Western Lowland gorilla live in the dense rain forests of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Rio Muni (Equatorial Guinea), Gabon, Angola, and the DRC. They currently inhabit the largest geographic range and has the largest population of the four gorilla species. The total population is estimated to be as many as 100,000 individuals, but accurate counts are not easily attained due to the forest density and remoteness. They have been recorded at densities as high as 10 individuals per square kilometer.
2. Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
The Cross River gorilla can only be found within highland forests on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria. This is currently the world’s rarest ape. Their population is currently estimated to be around 250-300 individuals divided into several sub-populations as illustrated in the above distribution map.
Over the past decade, the largest drivers of deforestation have been clearing for charcoal and fuelwood, small-scale subsistence farming, mining, and urban sprawl. Industrial logging has opened up vast areas of the Congo to commercial hunting, leading to a poaching epidemic.
The charcoal traders have already destroyed about a quarter of the hardwood old-growth forests in the southern section of the Virunga National Park.
Congo is one of the planet’s largest producers of copper, gold, zinc, tin, diamonds, and other metals like coltan. The problem with mining in Congo is that armed groups are most often in control and benefit directly from mining activity.
The southern copper belt is one of the world’s richest sources of copper. Congo has recently emerged as the world’s leading cobalt producer, a by-product of the copper smelting process and an important component of electric cars.
Congo is also responsible for 80% of the world’s coltan. Coltan is the common name for columbite-tantilite, the mineral used to extract Tantilum, a metal widely used in cell phones and other electronics to coat capacitors for energy storage. Tantilum holds an electric charge better than any other material.
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted between both animals and humans. Gorillas are at constant risk of contracting such zoonotic diseases from humans. Human transmitted diseases include polio, malaria, measles, strep throat, tuberculosis, herpes, and Ebola. Animal transmitted diseases include salmonella, rabies.
For example, in 1985, a gorilla contracted measles from human visitors. Veterinarians reacted by vaccinating 65 gorillas with a dart gun to keep the disease from spreading. All survived.
How can you help?
Use electronics for as long as possible. Think twice before casting your perfectly good phone away for the newest model.
Recycle electronics when no longer useful.
Purchase only sustainable wood.
Purchase from companies that use conflict free minerals. Intel explains that “Conflict free” and “conflict-free” as defined by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, refers to “products that do not contain conflict minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and/or gold) that directly or indirectly finance or benefit armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or adjoining countries”.
Donate to gorilla conservation organizations.
Visit the gorillas. Conservation is dependent upon a future of global tourism.
Honey begins as nectar, a sugary liquid secreted by flowers. Worker bees use their tongue-like labellum to lap (not suck) up the nectar and then store it in what’s called the honey stomach or crop. This is different from the stomach used for normal digestion, the ventriculus. Bees use the honey stomach as a chamber to break down the nectar in a process called inversion. During inversion, an enzyme called invertase breaks sucrose down to its simple sugars: glucose and fructose. Another enzyme called glucose oxidase breaks down the glucose and slightly increases the honey’s pH. Back at the hive, the product is regurgitated from the honey stomach into the mouth of a house bee to continue the refining process. It is possible for this honey to be regurgitated by multiple bees and takes place over a twenty minute period. To speed up the evaporation process, the bees begin to fan the honey when it becomes about 20% water. After the water concentration is reduced to 17-18%, they finally move it to cells and cap them with wax for long-term storage. A single bee will only produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
Beeswax is produced from small glands on the underside of a bee’s abdomen. These glands form white flakes that bees soften by chewing before use for construction.
How Bees Use Pollen
Honey provides energy, while pollen is a bee’s main source of nutrients. Ross Conrad claims that, “honey bees get all their vitamins, minerals, fats and protein from bee pollen”. Pollen is so vital for the health of larvae that bees store it in and around the brood nest. Fresh pollen has a high moisture content and excess must be stored in capped cells to prevent mold growth. This stored pollen is called bee bread. To prepare this pollen for storage, worker bees fill approximately three-quarters of a honey comb cell with pollen and then fill the rest with honey.
What is Royal Jelly?
In order to become a queen, a female larvae must be fed royal jelly exclusively. It is secreted by the hypopharyngeal gland of the young nurse bees and is made up of more than 50% water and contains proteins and sugars.
Propolis (Bee Glue)
Propolis is made from a resin-like coating found on the leaf buds and flowers of trees and other plants. The coating is used as a defensive barrier that protects those delicate plant parts from pathogens and insects. Honey bees simply scrape off the coating and carry it back to the hive just as they do with pollen. Actually, the propolis looks very similar to pollen when carried by a bee, except that it is usually chestnut brown in color and glistens in the sunlight.
Propolis is the glue that bees use as a cement for various purposes such as filling in holes or cracks, repairing combs, and making the hive entrance easier to defend. There have also been cases where bees have completely encased intruders like mice and snakes with propolis.
Honey Bee Life cycle and biology
There are three classes of bees in the hive:
The queen is the mother of all the bees in the colony. Queen bees develop faster and live much longer than worker bees. Queens develop in 15.5 days while worker bees require 21 days. Queens live for several years as compared to a worker bee’s few months. She has a stinger that, because it is not barbed, allows her to sting multiple times without dying. She only develops reproductive organs, while the worker bees develop organs to produce all of the various chemical substances previously mentioned. She lays 1000 to 2000 eggs per day. Each egg is deposited on the bottom of a cell and a brood temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit must be maintained. Eggs usually hatch in 4 days. Fertilized eggs become females, the workers. Unfertilized eggs become males, the drones. Worker bees can lay unfertilized eggs. The food a larval female is fed determines whether or not she becomes a queen or a worker (as previously discussed).
Workers are sterile females and all have stingers. Unlike the stinger of the queen, worker’s stingers are barbed. Worker bees only live about 6 weeks and change jobs as they age. The youngest bees clean the hive, feed larvae, build wax cells, and the make honey. House bees are typically between 12-18 days old. Bees responsible for foraging (nectar, pollen, water) are the oldest, around 2 – 6 weeks of age. By fanning their wings, workers also provide air conditioning and circulation for the hive to maintain correct conditions.
Drones are the males and are shorter, but heavier set than the queen. In my experience, the drones are easier to find in a hive than the queen. They do not have stingers and their only duty is to fertilize the queen and die in the act of mating. During a shortage of honey stores or at the end of a honey flow, drones are driven from the hive to starve. Drones are also the only bees that are allowed to enter any hive they wish without being attacked.
We spent a total of eight days and traveled over 400 miles along Costa Rica’s west coast with a group of talented highschool choir students. I summarize our trip by describing what we did in each town, what we saw, and the people we met.
“I looked out my window as our behemoth of a bus went over a bridge and realized that we were above a river overpopulated by crocodiles. We traveled along several cliffs allowing us to see many coves that dotted the shoreline. It was easy to imagine a pirate ship anchored in the distant bay.”