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Expert Volcano Guide

East Meadow, New...
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Expert Volcano Guide

Since we have visited quite a few world volcanoes and taken tours (Costa Rica, Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, etc.) we know quite a bit about volcanoes but still had swiss cheese knowledge (a lot of meat but big holes too). So we decided to take a private guided tour with a Geologist at Volcano National Park. Philip Ong used to work for the government monitoring center at VNP, has a masters degree in Geology, and is truly an expert who filled in all our gaps, was able to answer every question, and is expert enough to serve as a guide for science and technology visitors who start out with quite a bit of knowledge. In fact, another well liked guide (often mentioned on this forum) recommended Philip when he learned that we had visited many other volcanoes in the past. So, if you want to learn a lot, have unlimited questions, and want to experience time with an expert, this is the best possible choice. He brings snacks, knows his way around, can recommend good night time viewing areas, and takes you on as many hikes as you want but he is not funny and is a more thorough volcano guide. His co-worker, Arthur, is the one recommended for children, laughter, and more general volcano and nature oriented tours. They have two vehicles (one for smaller groups and another that can accommodate up to 6 people) and together they do a great job of meeting individualized needs.

We found that by having this choice of guides, we were able to go with the one who best met our needs. We liked the small personalized group as opposed to groups of 30 people we saw herded around looking glazed and we liked that we could focus on what WE were interested in as compared to a more general tour that is one size fits all. I can strongly recommend Philip and Arthur at hawaii@volcanodiscovery.com

Volcano, Hawaii
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1. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

Thank you so much for taking the time to post about your experience. Its great to hear that you had a good time with Philip!

He is truly a wealth of knowledge. Every question that I have asked him he has been able to answer. Sometimes it leads to a fairly long discussion that touches many topics, but its all to help better understand the question at hand.

I actually recommend that anybody who goes with Philip try to ask less questions during the tour. Your questions will likely be answered at some point. If not, then ask at the end of the day, or at the end of the "talk" in the area being explored. There are times when there is a lot to share with only so much time available to share it. All the presentation material that he carries with him really helps put things into perspective for the visual learners out there.

I thought I knew a lot about the Volcano until I met Philip. Now I feel like im back in grammar school. Needless to say, I do much more listening than talking when touring with him.

If you have a shorter attention span then Philip might be a bit much, but there will be other options for the laughs and basic knowledge.

Thanks again for your post larktrav!

Palm Springs...
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2. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

as a professional naturalist/interpreter I have come to know both Arthur and Phil and have met them at several professional seminars. Both are a wealth of knowlwdge and have the ability to provoke you into connections to the world around you.

The company both work for in an international network of volcano professionals that is highly thought of.

One thing to add is everywhere in the world are differing levels of regulations and laws. Whereas in some far flung cornner you can get right into the danger zone, here you cant. Hiring a guide, even such well qualified ones as Art and Phil is not a golden passport to walk up to the lava. That legaly is not possible so dont go expecting a LAVA gUIDE

From experience, I have found that every lava guide was a both an idiot and a flake. that told their customers they have special permission.. To the credit of Art and Phil, neither has a boat to the lava..... I wonder why not ???

East Meadow, New...
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3. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

Philip told me that he HAS gone to see the lava pour into the ocean in a boat but thinks the seas going there are very rough and not suited for most tourists. In addition, the lava does not pour into the sea all the time- only some times- and that is misleading for most tourists.

Just because they do not have a boat does not mean that the boat trip is dangerous or impossible but each person needs to know their own limitations and comfort level.

Volcano, Hawaii
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4. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

It is not necessarily the act up taking a boat out to the ocean entry that is so dangerous. It is more about when you go, who you go with, how close you get, what the conditions are at that moment, and the personal risk comfort level.

There are many hazards to deal with out there. The ocean entry can be one of the most dangerous parts of the lava field for many reasons. Toxic gases with bits of glass-like particles, steam explosions, large collapses of the cliff side, 190 degree water temps, and rough surf can turn a great day into your last.

It hasn't happened yet, but there are many on this forum who believe an accident is overdue, especially with the way people and tours have approached the area.

The most important thing to consider is WHO takes you, as Dan touched on. (BTW Dan - Lava Guide? Im confused... Ill just assume that when you were talking about being a flake and an idiot you weren't talking about me, Lavaguyd :-)

I too have been out there a few times, but never with any of the boat tours. The person i went with has fished in the area for over 30 years and he knows very well how unpredictable the ocean can be. We never went as close as many of the tours do. He knows better.

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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5. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

I think Dan was emphasizing the difference with his capital letters and spelling difference. You are one of the few who receives Dan's accolades. :)

I have walked basically right up to the lava in VNP. It was very slow lava, and I respected it. That was in another time when it was close to Chain of Craters. It's not illegal, depending on where it is and how the park officials assess it.

I think it would be very dangerous and foolish to wander around in the lava wilderness looking for lava, without a licensed professional guide (one who doesn't work for Arnott's). A person could get lost, injured, cut off by the lava ... not a good idea. A guide is worth it.

Volcano, Hawaii
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6. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

Thank you for your kind review, larktrav! It's always a pleasure to spend the day with volcano enthusiasts!

Many of us are drawn to volcanoes like moths to a flame, with potentially similar consequences! The lava ocean entry, when it is present, is one of the most fascinating and also most dangerous places on the flowfield, and the boat trip does provide unrivaled views of that aspect of the eruption, but also exposes its passengers and crew to toxic gases in a rapidly-changing environment. For some, the aspect of risk is part of the experience, while others see it as Darwinism at work. Does the fact that there have been no accidents mean they are qualified or just lucky so far? Everyone must judge the situation for themselves.

On land, it's because tour operators are subject to more regulation that we are only able to legally hike to the active lava when it's within the National Park boundaries. Still, I have seen "lava guides" with groups of 20 people strung out across the lava field heading in a bad direction, walking directly down the length of the active lava tube (not ideal!), or standing downwind of heavily fuming toxic areas, so do not confuse being regulated with being competent (Dan has a point).

The bottom line -- you can have a fantastic experience on Kīlauea, but be careful of which "lava guide" you choose once the flows are accessible again. Be selective. And don't forget that there is a lot more to see on Kīlauea, where a long string of spectacular eruptions has created one of the most vibrant and surreal landscapes that I've ever seen!

East Meadow, New...
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7. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

I thought that a boat trip to see the lave sounded dangerous and foolhardy to me but it did sound exciting. In all the years and all the countries we have visited volcanoes we had never seen lava flowing and were always disappointed. Philip told us where to drive at night to see the lava flow and we were finally successful in seeing it from afar. Volcanoes are dangerous, lava destroys property and kills people in its path, and the damage is evident in and around VNP. We were very happy to go with an expert, learn a lot, have his advice, and stay safe. We would never go in a large group since we know that it would not be possible for one guide to watch out for twenty people's safety when people do foolish things.

We also opted not to go up in a helicopter to hover for less than a minute over it, never see the red glow in daylight, and take a chance on open doors. Helicopters HAVE gone down.

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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8. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

Helicopters do go down. You only hear about it when there's a fatality. But lots and lots of them fly ... still don't want to ride on one.

>>> it would not be possible for one guide to watch out for twenty people's safety when people do foolish things.

The problem with Arnott's, per the reviews, isn't that the people do foolish things but that the guide goes so fast that people who can't keep up are left in the dust to find their own way, or left in the dark to be picked up when the group gets back. These guys are just being gentlemanly about their competitor.

I don't need to be; I am not a guide. We've had plenty of firsthand reports on the forum about these practices.

One thing people don't take seriously enough is volcanic gas. People figure the danger is falling in the lava or having a shelf fall on you, and while those are very bad things, gas is a silent killer.

Nazareth...
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9. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

A few years back my husband and I (who are avid, experienced hikers and in good shape) hiked out to the lava when it was within park boundaries. I think it took us about 3 hours each direction and it was the toughest hike I've ever done.

The instability of the lava, the heat of the sun, no shade anywhere made for a challenging hike. We came prepared wearing layers, (including zip off pants and gloves), hiking shoes and carrying a knapsack of about 6 quarts of water, snacks, first aid, etc.

I was shocked to pass a number of tour groups (maybe 10-20 in the group) where people were in flip flops (ok, slippahs!)- totally not prepared.

After passing a few small groups of people about 2 hours out who were just sitting on the lava alone, we stopped and asked if they were ok. (There is no cell phone service out there!)

They said they were on a tour and couldn't keep up and were supposed to sit here and wait for the group to return or go back on their own. I couldn't see their group as far as the eye could see, and after hiking another hour out to the small flow, we still didnt' see their group.

About 2+ hours later on our return, a few of that small group that was still sitting there waiting (read...baking) in the sun- most with no hats on. We offered them to follow us back but they refused...still "waiting" for the return of their group.

We left them with a quart of water and some energy bars, a few bandaids and treaded back ourselves. Not sure what ever happened to them, but I thought about them all during our visit.

It was a long hot trek, totally wore the treads off our hiking shoes and difficult, but people go on these tours thinking that its a "walk" out to see the lava. I don't know who the tour was with, but they should be ashamed of themselves allowing people so unprepared to do a hike like this.

Volcano, Hawaii
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10. Re: Expert Volcano Guide

These groups of over 20 may have seemed like a lot of people, but there have been times when they took over 100! From the cruise ship!! In the middle of and hottest part of the day!!! Can you imagine having less than half of a group making it out to the lava after paying over $100 bucks to see it up close?

Its disgraceful, inhumane, and a rip-off. Read the fine print before signing up for a lava hike. Ask the right questions. Know your limits.

For the best experience stick with a company that takes smaller groups and has multiple *experienced* guides. One guide can go all the way with those who can make it, while the other stays with the people who cant make it, or are having a little bit more difficulty.