Today would be a little bit different. We wouldn’t really be leaving Lanikai, but it could be considered one of our more adventurous days. First I would be canoeing in the morning and then swimming to the mokes in the afternoon.
I got up bright and early to head down to Lanikai beach. There, we would be meeting my aunts canoe group. The group would meet twice a week to paddle outrigger canoes around the island a couple mornings a week. It was such a great system, and we were so glad my aunt had a group of friends to do this with because it seemed like a real fun time.
I was put towards the middle of the canoe, and told to follow the person 2 spots in front of me. Each person has one paddle and they alternate sides. If you do the paddling perfectly, everyone on the left side should be paddling at the right time and everyone on the right side should be paddling at the right time. It’s a lot less complicated than it sounds and it’s really a lot of fun!
Once we got into a rhythm, I began to relax a bit and allow it to become a form of moving meditation. I would drift out of sync a tiny bit here and there, but eventually I would find my way back. As we picked up speed, I felt the wind on my face, and the occasional splash of the water. I started to notice a few seabirds flying overhead. It took me awhile to identify them, but eventually I got close enough to notice the beak and the feet. They were red footed boobies! I hadn’t seen these since my trip to the Galapagos and I didn’t even know they lived here. It was so cool to see these guys, and as soon as I spotted my first pair, I noticed them flying everywhere.
As we got further out, we began to turn a little bit and cruise down the coast. More and more of the island became exposed the more we paddled. It was still early, so the iconic Hawaiian mountains where still cloaked with a thick blanket of fog. We could see Bellows beach, property owned by the United States Air Force that was off limits to the public. If you really want to go to the beach, there is a private side called Waimanalo, but much of the beach is blocked off to anyone who isn’t military. We saw some of the fancier homes along the Lanikai strip, including a house that was reserved for celebrities and the Obama family during their yearly visit. My aunt said one morning she paddled by here and Michelle was out on the deck waving to everyone. So cool!
After awhile I began to break a sweat. Paddling was hard work, particularly in this heat. We stopped up ahead, and my aunt said we could take a quick swim if we wanted. I jumped in very carefully, trying to make sure not to rock the boat. The cool water felt so good on me. I didn’t have time to go for a dip that morning, so this was my first swim of the day. The deeper I swam, the more refreshing it was. I emerged onto the surface and looked out onto the horizon. The mountains still covered in their morning mist and the sun still rising in the sky. The island looked so beautiful and I felt this was the first time I really got to see it.
I climbed back into the canoe and we began to paddle back. We paddled about 100-200 feet away from the beach of the northern Moke, the place we would be swimming to later. This was a little frustrating because I wanted to go here the entire trip and now I would have to wait another few hours to reach the shore. I totally understand though, the water was a bit choppy and there were a few coral heads in the area, which would completely destroy the boat. We did however get close enough to see the baby monk seal! He was so cute all snuggled up in the warm sand. I knew we would get to see him later on in the day. We started to turn around the canoe. We wanted to position it so that we could catch a large wave and ride it into shore. After catching a few smaller waves, we were able to take the canoe back to the beach in a fraction of the time it took us to get out. We packed up the canoe in its protective covers and started to walk home. What a successful morning! It was only 9:00 and already we had had a pretty solid adventure that day.
We grabbed a big breakfast and prepared to head out to the mokes. The Mokes were two small islands off the coast of Lanikai beach. One of the islands was completely preserved as a sanctuary for seabirds, while the other one you could actually walk around the base of. The swim is pretty far, a little over a mile and a half round trip. This was definitely doable for my brother and I, but some of the people in our group decided to bring a kayak. This was smart, because there were a few supplies we wanted to bring like sunblock and shoes that would be pretty inconvenient to swim with. If you want to swim to the mokes, you can save a little bit of time by finding the right launching point. There are multiple points of water access around Lanikai and if you can find the right one, you’ll have a pretty short trip to the islands!
The swim over was so pretty, but I couldn’t really wander too far otherwise it would take me all day to get there. I saw a few sea turtles that were definitely worth stopping for however. When we got to the beach, the waves were pretty rough. This island in a way marks the end of the calm part of the bay. On the otherside of it, you are quickly reminded of how violent the ocean can be. I had to time my landing just right other wise I would be knocked over as I was trying to climb onto the beach.
All of this rough surf didn’t seem to upset our sea lion friend. He was still snuggled into the sand completely content. If you guys see a Hawaiian Monk seal, don’t go any closer than 100 feet away from them just to be on the safe side. Alert a lifeguard if you are on a crowded beach or call someone from a conservation team and they will make sure to block off an area for the animal. Many tourists don’t know the code, and will try to keep pushing the limits when it comes to taking pictures, but this harasses the animals. They were here long before us, and we need to share this land and ocean with them and treat them with respect.
That being said, don’t feel like you have to miss out on this incredible opportunity to see these animals in the wild. Once the area is roped off, you can take pictures from a distance and watch them as long as you like! It’s fascinating to watch them do the simplest activities on the beach like scratching themselves or rolling over. If you stay for a long time, you might see them crawl back into the water, but this can take a lot longer than you’d think!
We walked around the base of the island and saw tiny little caves carved into the side of the rocky cliff. Sure enough, there were tiny little chicks in here waiting to be fed. We got to watch as the parents came back to feed them and then flew off to get more food. It was so cool to get a peak into the intimate details of these animals lives, and I wouldn’t expect to see this on an island with so many tourists. Next, we came to some tidepools. Here there were tiny little fish and crustaceans swimming around. I always find tidepools fascinating because they are a world in miniature.
Around the corner, we came to the other side of the island. We had to hop from rock to rock just to get around and we kept having to move places because of the waves. The waves were huge here, and they easily could’ve swept us away if we weren’t careful. We met up with my cousin and her boyfriend up ahead and sat on a rock together to catch up. I noticed a the base of the rock a brownish blog clinging on. I didn't think much of it until I saw a pair of eyes pop out. It was definitely an octopus! I had only seen one other octopus in the wild in my life, so this was definitely a fun sighting. I could only see it when it wasn’t cover by water, in between waves. I wanted to get a better look at it but the waves were just too strong. Just then, the water level receded and I saw the eyes again and this time a few tentacles pop out and it began to climb up the rock. So cool! I only got to look at it for a few seconds until eventually another wave came and swept it back into the ocean. I still got to see an octopus though!
We returned to the beach after a long day out on the water. The only thing is, our day wasn’t quite over yet!