Islands of Paradise
SwimTrek founder Simon Murie says aloha to Hawaii
The mere mention of Hawaii conjures up images of islands of paradise interspersed with rolling surf, soaring volcanoes and rugged coastlines. But on top of all of this, there is a real attraction for the adventurous swimmer; with varied wildlife, lava crafted coastlines and manageable swell.
The islands are positioned in order of age, from Kauai (5 million years old) in the northwest to the Big island (¾ million years old) in the southeast. The reason for the chain’s consistent progression in location and age is the Hawaiian hot spot, where magma rises from the Earth and leads to the creation of underwater volcanoes, creating islands. The hot spot’s location is fixed, while the Pacific plate moves continually in a northwesterly direction. This conveyor belt motion takes the volcanic islands away from the hot spot, making them eventually dormant and leads to them falling back into the sea.
My most recent visit was earlier this year when I travelled to the Big Island, home to Mount Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. This geological activity makes the island evolve and we’re not just talking in geological time, you can literally see it in front of your eyes. Kilauea emits lava that wipes towns off the map and continually expands the size of the island. While this adolescent immaturity might well inconvenience the locals, it makes a hell of a good playground for the adventurous swimmer.
Best place for swimming I based myself on the island’s west coast which is the best place for open water swimming, thanks to various access and exit points and few surf breaks. The main town of Kona, home to the Ironman World Championships, was an excellent place to stay as its located in-between potential swims in both the northwest and the southwest of the island. Karlyn Pipes, a much-decorated masters swimmer and her husband Christopher live there and it’s with them that I swim along the Big Island’s west coast.
While all the swims had their own unique points, my favourite was in Kealakekua Bay, which is the place where Captain James Cook was killed. Apart from the odd condo and a memorial to him, the bay looks pretty similar to how Cook found it. Karlyn and I planned a crossing of the bay to the memorial, which is only accessible by sea or by a steep walking track. Ten minutes into the swim we were greeted by the most remarkable site as six manta rays fed around us as we swam. Watching these majestic creatures feeding on plankton was a moment of extreme pleasure. In other swims we came across eagle rays, countless turtles and a plethora of fish. Visibility was excellent so even at depths of 10 metres you could clearly see the ocean floor.
With wildlife, jagged coastline and the renowned Big Island hospitality, it’s a scenic swimmers’ ideal location. I’m definitely going back to check out more of what the Aloha State has to offer. I might even see you there!