When snorkeling at Kua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii, or hiking the coastal trails at Kaloko–Honokohao National Historical Park north of Kona, you will likely be graced by the presence of the Hawaiian Honu, or Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). When hypnotized by their sleepy doe-eyes, take note. You are looking back 150 million years in time into the lens of a reptilian survivor from the age of dinosaurs.
The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle is the only indigenous reptile found in Hawaii, but for Hawaiians, the Honu is a symbol of good luck in the form of a guardian spirit, or Amakua. The Honu pattern is depicted in ancient petroglyphs as well as in modern graphic form. For Hawaiians then and now, the Honu represents the navigator, and the eternal link between man, the land and the sea. One Hawaiian legend tells of a large Honu, Kailua, who would transform into a human girl and served as protector of the Keiki (children) playing along the shore of Punalu’u Beach.
Since listed as a “threatened” species in 1978, the Green Sea Turtle population has made a comeback. Before protection, their decline in numbers came primarily from over fishing. Today the fishing has nearly ceased, but from the moment the eggs are laid, the baby Honu must survive predation by birds, animals and the affect of environmental hazards. If they make it to the sea, the dangers are still abundant; sharks, marine debris, tainted algae, and propellers.
After 25 years of basking on lava, floating along coastal tidepools, and munching on their diet of algae or Limu, the Honu reaches maturity at about 200 pounds. The Honu then begin the arduous, 800 mile journey to the North Western Hawaiian Islands to mate. If they survive this migration, Honu may live up to 100 years , however their exact lifespan is unknown.
To swim with a turtle is magic. To watch them bask in the sun is calming. During your encounters, kindly remember to keep your distance so the Honu remain undisturbed. Enjoy the gentle grace of the Honu who have inhabited this place long before humans. At Holualoa Inn, our Innkeepers will point out prime viewing spots around the Island, depending on your days’ excursion. Just ask!