To travel from Western Australia to Hawaii is a long way & the thing we wanted the most was to see the live lava flow up close. This wasn't possible with the excursions from the cruiseship "Pride of America" due to the sailing times. After numerous emails with Philip from Volcano Discovery we very luckily managed to secure the date that we were in Hilo, Hawaii for a 8hr private tour. We told him what we most wanted to see & learn about & Philip tailor made our tour.
From the moment he picked us up from the pier we knew that this was going to be a special day. His Chevrolet vehicle had the most comfortable seats and had heaps of room- very important for a long tour. We headed off to what is left of Kalapana Village and then a short distance away THERE was the lava flow. It was only a 10 min hike from where the road was blocked to the flow - not usually so close so we were really lucky that it was not a long hike. To see the lava up so close & walk across the lava field was awesome! It rained for a little while & the sizzling sound when it hit the lava - an extra which mother nature threw in for us! Philip explained everything you would want to know about volcanoes, how they are formed, eruptions, etc the list goes on. He did this in a way that was easy to understand and he had our total attention.
We then went a short distance away to the Black Sand beach - the contrast here against the beautiful blue ocean - what a sight!
Philip then drove us to the Volcanoes National Park - during the journey up there we learnt about Madam Pele the Volcano Goddess & Hawaiian cultures - so interesting. We even learnt more about Captain Cook and how he was eventually killed than we had learnt at home!
Arriving at the VNP we saw Kileau Crater - the lava pit within was smokin! Plumes of dirty white steam spewing out - wish we were able to view it at night with the red glow against the black sky. This crater is massive - Philip had a file with diagrams, photos of previous flows, eruptions etc - this helped to really understand what happened here. Mauna Loa & Mauna Kea in the background too - scenery plus.
Next, was a hike through the rainforest at the edge of the crater - you get a different view of how massive this crater is & a wonderful walk through a most amazing rainforest. It really surprised us at seeing so many different trees, plants etc and how they adapt to this environment - everything was once again explained so thoroughly by Philip. We were really thankful for his knowledge - to see other people just walking through the rainforest without knowing what they were really seeing was such a shame.
We then arrived at the Thurston Lava Tube - impressive - to think we were walking through something that had lava flowing through it! Once again, heaps of tourists walking through, not stopping to look around and not knowing what they were really seeing.
We then made out way back through the rainforest to the car where Philip had a yummy selection of fresh prepared local fruit. Drinks, snacks were available to us any time during the tour from the well stocked vehicle.
After this we were driven back to the pier with plenty of time to board the cruiseship.
This tour would have to be the highlight of our 3 weeks on the Hawaiian Islands and something we will never forget. If we ever make it back again, we will book another tour with Philip to see some different sights.
Philip is a wealth of knowlege for such a young person - not only is he a Geologist & has worked at the US Volcanoes National Park, but he has an extensive knowledge of Botany and the Hawaiian Culture. Our 20 yr old son & 15 yr old daughter just soaked up everything he said. As well as being a total professional, Philip is friendly, easy going and relates well to all age groups. For the price we paid $175pp for an 8 hour tour, you won't get better value anywhere else with the same detail & knowledge. Consider the price of a helicopter ride over the lava flow - no way do you see the same awesome sight that we saw so close.
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