We had just returned from the mokes and we still weren’t done playing. It was a sunny day at Lanikai Beach and we wanted to make sure we really got use out of it!
When we were in the Carribean a few years ago, my brother and I invented a game we called “huskball” and we were excited to start it back up again. Basically the game was similar to lacrosse, but the prep-work was half of the fun. Instead of lacrosse sticks, we used the dried out husks of a palm tree. We would search around the neighborhood to find the best husk and then we would soak it in water for about an hour or two. The husk could then be molded around a tennis ball to form the perfect catching mitt. In addition to catching, the husk could also be used as a throwing device, so the game is basically trying to get the best throws and catches you can. Every once and awhile you get a really nice catch from all the way down the beach and a small crowd of people will gather around to watch. It’s a lot of fun!
Huskball is serious Business.
We played huskball for about an hour or so and then we took turns on the paddleboard. My dad was the best at the paddleboard and would be perfectly balanced the entire way to the mokes. I was looking for something a little more challenging though. I wanted to try and do a headstand on the paddleboard. This is really challenging, not only because the paddleboard likes to flip over, but also because there are so many things preventing you from getting a consistent gaze. The trick with a headstand is focus, and it is tough to focus when the scenery keeps moving. You are also dripping wet and as any diver will tell you, the dripping can be very distracting. I would recommend waiting until you dry off a tiny bit and the paddleboard is relatively stable. I have accomplished the paddleboard headstand since our Hawaii trip, but at the time I was super shaky and I was only able to stay up for about a second.
When we got home, we had a quick meal and talked about what we wanted to do for the rest of the day. My cousin and her boyfriend had been talking about a forest that you can find wild chameleons, and I had been looking forward to going here all trip. Chameleons obviously weren’t native to the island, but apparently in the past few decades someone had let them go on the island and now there are some places where you can find wild chameleons. These are invasive species, so you are supposed to bring them in. I’m always conflicted by this because I want to be respectful of both the individual animal and the ecosystem itself. Anyways, I’ll talk more about that later.
We took two separate cars and drove out to an undisclosed location. I really have no idea where this place is and I don’t think they knew either. They just happened to be on a hike in the area and started to see some wild chameleons. We drove into a very affluent neighborhood that had a few huge properties but still was heavily forested. Eventually we parked on the side of the road and walked into the trail. It had just recently started to rain, so the ground was a little bit wet at this point and there were a few mountain bikers on the trail we needed to watch out for. I really enjoyed this hike. It was so quiet and the miles of trails allowed me a lot of time to catch up with my aunts. We hadn’t seen any chameleons but there were a ton of birds around here to watch. My aunts were the type that could identify almost any bird from the call so every bird song we heard they wanted to wait around to look for the bird that made it.
I find that the more you know about wildlife, the more appreciative you are of hikes like this. Instead of being fixated on finding chameleons, we could enjoy every part of the hike. This is true with bird watching, and it is especially true with mushrooms. People who are really interested in mycology or studying mushrooms almost never have a bad hike because there is so much to see! We just recently completed a few mushroom walks where we would just stare at the ground the entire hike and identify like 50-100 different species. Vibrant colors of purple, orange, red and yellow are also more common than you’d think if you know where to look. If you find that your hikes have become a little bit boring, I would highly recommend you try these tactics. Focus on something small like insects or mushrooms and an entire world will open up to you! You will never have a boring hike as long as you shift your expectations to something smaller.
After about 2 miles or more of hiking, we finally came to the spot where my cousin saw the chameleons last time. We got even quieter, and started to give every single leaf a second glance. We were not chameleon experts by any stretch of the imagination, we were going off only one previous encounter. We were told what type of tree my cousin spotted them on and we carefully examined every single one. Up ahead we heard her super excited. “there they are!” she said. We were about 15 minutes from turning around and there they were. Two chameleons with one another.
The chameleons were in the process of mating, and being an invasive species this would’ve been detrimental to the ecosystem. They needed to be separated from one another, even though this seemed mean in the short term. We gently picked up one of them and they quickly separated. I have to say, these are some of the coolest animals I’ve ever seen in the wild. No amount of David Attenborough or Animal Planet will prepare you for this encounter. They are so unbelievably strange and unique. I took a minute or two to hold one of them and eventually he clamed down and began to climb all over me. I say “he” because with Jackson’s chameleons, only the male grows horns. Their eyes can rotate to allow them to see in 360 degrees and even when they have their back turned to you, they shift an eye or two back o keep an eye on you.
This was so creepy at first but eventually you get used to it and really start to appreciate how cool this adaptation is. Oh, also they can change color. They changed between a light green to a deep shade when they were on my dark t-shirt. I normally wouldn’t interfere with these beautiful creatures, but they were an invasive species and I needed to separate them. That was the least I could do. After taking a couple of pictures and learning so much about these magnificent animals, we let them go in different locations. I’m sorry if any of you think that we did the wrong thing in this situation, but it was a complex quandary with no perfect solution. Whatever was done, was done with good intentions and I didn’t want to do anything drastic or disrespectful that I would later regret and I really hope that whatever we did didn’t harm the ecosystem.
We walked back to the car much faster now that we weren’t actively seeking out chameleons. The trail itself was so beautiful. An orange clay-like soil lined the pathway in some areas, which contrasted beautifully with the emerald green shrubbery. We talked about how the chameleons got here. The Jackson’s Chameleon is originally native to East Africa (including Madagascar) but was introduced to parts of the United States because it is a popular pet. People want to be kind to the pet that they have, so sometimes they let them go in places where they can survive. These exotic pets can, in turn, decimate local bird populations and pose a huge environmental threat. The easiest, most humane solution to this problem is just to simply not buy these exotic pets in the first place. If you already have one, hopefully you understand you have a responsibility to take care of it as long as you possibly can and not let it go into a new environment.
The talk about East Africa got us to the topic of my Aunt and Uncle’s upcoming Madagascar trip. They had Madagascar and Borneo on tap for this year and I was beyond jealous! Sri Lanka is possibly number 1 on my travel list and they got to do that the year before and now they were hitting 2 other places in my top 10. Incredible! This just got me even more excited for all the adventures I would experience in the next few years.
Of course I was thankful for the trip I was on now. I never thought I would get to see wild chameleons before I got here and this was an amazing experience I won’t soon forget. We had so much fun today I needed to separate it into two separate posts!