Beneath the Volcano

After a summer off, I am finally back to writing. I dedicate this story to our friend Virginia Maxwell, who was taken from us far too soon. We love her and miss her.virginia


We walk along the jungle path, the greenery closing in around us. Birds call and insects buzz. Reaching a large, dark hole in the ground, we begin our descent into the longest and deepest lava tube in the world. The air is immediately cooler, dropping about 20 degrees to the low 60’s (Fahrenheit,) which makes me glad I have on a sweatshirt. As we slowly move away from the cave opening, the sunlight disappears. Only flashlights and headlamps penetrate the inky blackness. This is the Kazamura lava tube on the Big Island of Hawaii, and it is unlike any cave we have ever seen.

misc 112Over the years, we have toured a lot of different kinds of caves.  From Iceland to Tennessee, Puerto Rico to Texas, we have explored caves. We even went deep into a coal mine in Nova Scotia, which is basically a man-made cave. The Kazamura cave is different from them all. The stalactites and stalagmites were made from flowing lava, not water. That changes everything!misc 116

The cave rests beneath Kilauea Iki, which is still a very active volcano. An eruption 700 years ago started the slow process of creating the cave system. We see amazing sights as we walk through with our guide. There are “lava roses,” which are rare. They are formed when lava from a tube below fills up and then oozes through a small opening in the floor. As it bubbles up it creates a rose-like shape. There are also lava straws that hang from the ceiling; lava ripples along the floor, where a rock fell into a pool of lava; and lavafalls along the walls. Many of the formations are chocolate brown in color and look almost shiny, which is caused by minerals and the way the lava cools. It’s all really beautiful and different.misc 117

Our guide tells us that two creatures live here in the deep: an albino spider and an albino cricket. They feed on the minerals in the water. Of course, just after hearing about the bugs that could be surrounding us, our guide has us turn out our lights so that we can experience true darkness. That is always an amazing experience, leaving  you a little breathless and profoundly glad that there are always back-up flashlights! Rachel, age 8, is beyond happy to have the lights back on.misc 063

We end our tour back where we started; in the jungle. The air is warm and the sun is shining. It’s time to explore the volcano from the outside. We are heading off to hike the Kilauea Iki trail into the big crater. Can’t wait!

Can I do this adventure?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Courage Level: 2 The only issue is if you are seriously afraid of the dark or claustrophobic. If you are, caving may not be for you!

Fitness Level: 1 This is an easy, one-hour tour. The guide will go at your speed.misc 055

More info?

There were only the three of us on our tour, which was great. Tours are run by Kilauea Caverns of Fire  You have to call and make an appointment. We did the one hour tour, which is perfect for anyone with kids.

We stayed at the Kahi Malu Guest Cottage in Volcano Village while we were exploring Volcano National Park. With two bedrooms, it’s great for a family. There is also a kitchen so you can save on dining if you want.



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Sharks! A diving adventure in Bora Bora

I peer through the clear, salty water to see my husband descending alone to the sandy bottom 18 meters below. I reach out to grab him, but he slips away too fast. I try to catch his attention but have no way to make noise (I really need to work on that problem!) I put my regulator in my mouth, go down a couple meters and yell. Of course, that doesn’t work. He keeps going. I can clearly see the three huge lemon sharks gliding through the water below him. Can’t he? The Dive Master said anyone who was feeling queasy in the swells could drop down out of them. Rafael should know he didn’t mean to go all the way to the bottom alone!

The rest of us start our descent. It’s a perfect day for a dive; clear, 85 degrees, light wind. The water is 80 degrees, so Rafael and I don’t wear wet suits. The water is clear for at least 18 meters, so I can easily keep an eye on Rafael. He now hovers on the clear, sandy bottom. It’s nice and flat, with no flora around. The two sharks are circling him. He is turning like a wheel, watching them as well. The only sound I hear is my breath through the regulator. It’s very calming, unlike what I’m watching. In. Out. In. Out. When the sound starts to fade away, I pinch my nose with my fingertips and blow hard. Crackle. Pop. My ears clear and I can hear again. I continue my descent and perform an ungainly pirouette, feet first, to see what’s behind me. I see other divers, some small fish and clear water reaching out forever.

In less than a minute, I make it to the bottom. Rafael joins me. I try to give him a wifely disgusted face, but it’s hard in a mask and regulator under water, so I give up and enjoy the view. Sharks! They circle us all now. The lemon sharks are wonderfully ferocious looking, with a blunt head and round eyes, and the much-expected mouth full of teeth. These are big, maybe 3 meters, and have a second dorsal fin. An entourage of small fish stay so close, they look to be attached. The sharks watch us closely but make no aggressive moves. We continue our dive, checking out other interesting flora and fauna. A moray eel sighting is cool, but nothing comes close to the excitement of the sharks. We are at dive site Tapu in Bora Bora, it is the first time we have seen sharks, and it is thrilling!

4 Seasons Dock

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Can I do this adventure?

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.

Courage Level: 2 – If you scuba dive, this is a great place to do it. The water is clear, warm and full of amazing things!

Fitness Level: 2 – This is no different from any other dive. All diving requires some basic level of fitness, but nothing crazy.

Do I need special gear?

A few bathing suits and lots of sunscreen!

We also brought our snorkel and mask but we dd not need them because they had them in the rooms. Although we didn’t have a camera for our dive, we did bring our Olympus Tough camera to take lots of other underwater pictures. It was great for snorkeling and when we fed the sharks and rays.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA stingray and suckerfish

More info?

We use Top Dive, a PADI 5 Star dive shop. We do a two tank dive, our first to Tapu and our second dive to Toopua. Tapu takes you out of the reef that surrounds Bora Bora so you see bigger sharks, but the sea can get rougher. The other is a beautiful coral garden.

This is not our typical adventure trip. It is the only trip we have taken without our daughter since she was born and it is very luxurious. We still have some great adventures, but it is not exactly budget -friendly as a whole! On that note, we stay at the Four Seasons, which is out of this world. The bungalows over the water, the treatment by staff, the views, the ocean, it is all amazing. For us, probably a once in a lifetime trip!