Kailua-Kona, Big Island of Hawai’i

2023 Vancouver-Hawai’i Cruise

Oct 16, 2023 – a day in Kailua and the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawai’i, USA

I am up at 7AM and have my usual light breakfast in the Grand Dutch Cafe: fruit parfait, blueberry muffin and a cappuccino. The ship anchors in the bay, drops some tenders into the water, and is soon ready to transfer passengers to shore after the ship is cleared by the port authorities.

I wait until just after 9AM to go down to Deck 1, where we are immediately loaded onto a tender. I have VIP service with my 4-Star Mariner status, so I don’t have to get a tender ticket or wait around to be called. Once I’m ashore, I walk the short distance to the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and wait in the lobby for my friend to pick me up. She is running late, so I hang out in the hotel to stay out of the heat and away from the noise. There are many artifacts on display in the hotel, including the impressive Mahoe, Kai Opua Canoe Club’s 40-foot koa canoe. The Ironman competitors are also leaving the hotel this Monday morning after competing over the weekend, so the people watching is great.

My friend arrives, and we are off to Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge). It is great to retreat from the crazy tourist strip, driving through the Captain Cook coffee farms to soak in the good mana at Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau, which is probably my favourite place in the world. In past visits, when I stayed at B&Bs in the Captain Cook area of the Big Island, I would come down here to just hang out for hours. There is a Hawaiian man weaving baskets in the Canoe Hālau A-frame, and there is a beautifully made wooden Kōnane Papamū under the palms for playing kōnane (Hawaiian checkers). A Green Sea turtle (honu) blesses us as it swims in Keonae’ele Cove just before we leave. The bonus today is that admission is waived!

We stop at a mall at Keauhou to have some fish tacos at Tropics Taphouse, which is a sports bar in the mall. My friend drops me off at the hotel, and I walk back to the tender dock, where I board the next tender with no waiting. I’m back in my cool stateroom by 3PM, freshen up and then take my notebook down to the Grand Dutch Cafe to have a cappuccino and big chocolate chip cookie, which revives me nicely.

I watch the crew hoist the tender boats aboard from the Promenade Deck, and then return to my stateroom to dress for dinner in the main dining room. I have corn and crab fritters to start, spaghetti aioli entree, and a banana crisp for dessert. I don’t go for my usual martini nightcap this evening and skip the magician show, preferring to work on my photos and journal stay in my stateroom.

Starting tomorrow, we will be docked in Honolulu for two days with an overnight at the dock. I go online to buy a ticket to the Bishop Museum for tomorrow, since it was back in the 1980s when I last saw the museum exhibits.


Komodo Island, Indonesia

March 11, 2016 – Slawi Bay, Komodo Island, Indonesia

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

Stepping onto Komodo Island is like stepping back in time. The Komodo Dragons are fascinating, and ruthless killers. These large monitor lizards and the Komodo islanders coexist on an inhospitable island in the Indonesian archipelago.

Reflections in a glassy sea in the Slawi Bay in the early morning light
Reflections in a glassy sea in the Slawi Bay in the early morning light

We anchor in Slawi Bay, and I go ashore in the tenders at 9:15AM to join my excursion to see the Komodo Dragons. When we arrive at the ranger station, we go for a hike along the trails in small groups escorted by guides and park rangers. Some people pass out in the heat and have to be packed back to the tenders and the ship, since it is exceedingly hot. Of course, it’s not as if we weren’t warned about the conditions ahead of time. Fresh water is scarce on Komodo Island. The islanders collect rainwater during the rainy season, but otherwise they survive on very little water. We are supplied with lots of cold, bottled water before we leave on our hike.

There is a young female Komodo Dragon near the ranger station where we assemble, so everyone takes photos. As we walk through the bush, we see large green Imperial pigeons, hear the noisy Friarbirds, and spot a couple of deer. There are some striped snails, and a wide variety of plants and trees on the island. As we approach the water hole (which is dry), we see three medium-sized Komodo Dragons. We also spot a larger Komodo Dragon resting in the bush as we leave the water hole area. So in total, we see five Komodo Dragons.

Komodo Dragon monitor lizard at the water hole with tongue extended, Komodo Island, Indonesia
Komodo Dragon monitor lizard at the water hole with tongue extended, Komodo Island, Indonesia

Komodo Dragons are just really big Monitor lizards. They are carnivores, preying on the deer and wild pigs that inhabit the island. They are at the top of the food chain, and they also sometimes eat their own young. Komodo Dragons are good swimmers and, for short distances, quite swift on land. One Komodo Dragon will bite its prey, inflicting injuries and causing massive infections in the wounds with the bacteria in their saliva. Once the prey is dying, all the Komodo Dragons in the area will come to feed.

There are about 1,100 Komodo Dragons on this island, and they inhabit other islands in the area as well. They are originally from Australia, where they grew even bigger, but they are no longer found there.

I’m glad our little hour and a half trek is over by noon, and we can return to the comfort of the air-conditioned ship. Slawi Bay is very pretty, with glassy water, surrounded by green hills, and a white, sandy beach with nobody on it. I think Komodo Island and some of the other Indonesian Islands are on par with French Polynesia when it comes to spectacular shoreline scenery.

The captain is seriously annoyed with people throwing money at some boys in dugouts beside the ship as he tries to manoeuvre the ship out of our anchorage. Dolphins escort us out of the bay as we make an early departure at 3PM.