-By Ashley Boreckyi
When I first visited Hawaii five years ago, there was an abundance of activities involving captive dolphins and other sea life actively promoted around the island. You couldn’t walk a few metres down the main road without being offered the chance to swim with dolphins, or “feed and pat real turtles!” It was a disturbing trend to such a majestic backdrop.
On returning recently, it was uplifting to see the island has made a tangible shift towards promoting the care and protection of marine life. While you can still find advertisements for the island’s marine park, it was pleasing to see the majority of activities now being promoted are designed to experience the island’s natural wonders, with an emphasis on a ‘look don’t touch’ approach.
One such activity recommended by a number of locals was the Holokai Catamaran Turtle Canyon Snorkel Sail, which promised an eco-friendly chance to explore turtle canyon and experience the natural underwater wildlife. Keen to see turtles up close but also concerned with doing so ethically, a friend and I decided on this tour and we were not disappointed. Staff swam with us, pointing out turtles and different types of fish. They were very careful to emphasise keeping our distance and respecting the turtle’s environment.
It was truly awe-inspiring to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. Looking into their soulful eyes is a truly transformative experience and highlights the need to protect them and our oceans – for all the creatures that call it home.
Experiencing these wonderful animals in their natural habitat also reinforced just how wrong it is that we still keep not only turtles, but whales, dolphins and other sea creatures in captivity. A tank is genuinely no comparison and it is difficult to imagine anyone believing otherwise after experiencing it first hand – a sentiment shared by many that attended that day and staff as well.
I can only hope that this heightened environmental consciousness will continue among the Hawaiian people and tourists alike, causing people to think twice about visiting places like Sea Life Park Hawaii – notorious for breaches in safety and poor welfare.
The care and protection of Hawaiian wild and sea life was a common concern for many of the people I encountered throughout my stay. From our taxi driver – who was the first to recommend our turtle canyon tour, to the activity guides, hotel staff and fellow travellers that joined us in our activities – the overriding sentiment was one of wanting to foster a love and respect for the environment. It was refreshing to see.