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Early Summer in Kaua’i

This past May and June, celebrating the turning of the season from spring to summer, my partner Rebecca and I were finally able to embark on a long-postponed trip to a place which left an indelible mark on my view of the world: the garden isle of Kaua’i.

Photo of Hanakapi'ai Falls on Kaua'i by bioregional artist Derek Schultz

Originally scheduled for March of 2020, our trip didn’t end up happening on that timeline (needless to say). While we waited through the pandemic, the lockdowns, and the development of vaccines, we were happy to be able to save up and develop an adventurous two week itinerary. I hadn’t been to the island since 2008 when I was a senior in college, and Rebecca had never yet been.

2008 recreated in 2022

Selfie of artist Derek Schultz with his partner Rebecca in Hanapepe, Kaua'i
Derek & Rebecca at sunset in Hanapepe

Something magical is immediately apparent the moment one sets foot on the Hawai’ian islands; the air is richer, the colors are more saturated, life feels more vibrant somehow. It’s a hypnotic and relaxing place, while simultaneously invigorating, and I’ve never experienced anything else quite like it.

The sheer beauty of the landscape and the diversity of the wildlife make it an incredible destination with great depth to offer to any naturalist or outdoorsperson.

North shore sights

We began our sojourn by settling in to the south shore of the island and doing a bit of snorkeling and swimming. We were immediately impressed by the splendor and diversity of subtidal life; even on a crowded sandy beach there were hundreds of fish making their homes in the shallows. Below a single foot of water I started seeing blennies and moray eels hiding, making their homes in the small crevices between bits of calcified red algae. A few feet deeper in the water, nestled between tiny wave-carved caves, were communities of wrasses, butterfly fish, and parrot fish. It was incredible to see an entire ecological succession of habitats and their attendant members from the sunlit shallows down to only about 6 feet deep. It was akin to watching an ecosystem morph from a desert to a lush forest across the distance of my front yard.

Underwater photograph of a whitemouth moray eel in Kaua'i by bioregional artist Derek Schultz
Gymnothorax meleagris, a whitemouth moray eel

Underwater photograph of Elysia lobata in Kaua'i by bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz
Elysia lobata, a sap-sucking sea slug which consumes algae and becomes photosynthetic

Bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz SCUBA diving in Kaua'i at Makua Reef

I spent most of my time on the island exploring the outdoors or relaxing afterward, however I did manage to find a bit of time to paint while I was there.

Stunningly, at sunset, sea turtles would haul out onto Po’ipu beach to bask and relax before their next day’s tasks. Monk seals played in the shallows of the vacated waters while the turtles made their way ashore. This evening ritual brought an incredible sense of joy and peace at the close of each day as the vibrant colors faded through dusk to starlight.

Photograph of a green sea turtle at Po'ipu Beach in Kaua'i by bioregional artist Derek Schultz
Green sea turtle hauled out at Po'ipu Beach

Over the course of our weeks in Kaua’i, we hiked, swam, snorkeled, scuba dove, and surfed. We spent as much time connecting with the ocean and the landscape as we could, with a healthy amount of rest and relaxation in between outings. The food was a pleasure to experience, particularly the Native fish-based dishes which are iconic of the cross cultural pollination so representative of the Hawai’ian isles in the center of the Pacific ocean.

We ascended the red earth of Waimea canyon and trekked through the alpine bogs of Alaka'i, one of the most extreme landscapes on Earth. It was breathtakingly beautiful, deep in the mists atop the plateau of the subsiding volcano.

Bioregional fine artist Derek Schultz and his partner Rebecca in front of Waimea canyon, Kaua'i

Photograph of a Spotted Toby by bioregional artist Derek Schultz
A spotted Toby, one of our favorite fish friends from Kaua'i

The experience was far too much to recount here, but suffice it to say it was the adventure of a lifetime. Adventure is such an important part of living – it refreshes our perspective while broadening our horizons. Seeing a new part of the world helps weave the tapestry of life in richer and richer fabrics. It is a treasure which can be brought back and shared for a lifetime.

First salutations to the stars.

Thanks to all relatives and ancestors.

May all beings be happy and free.

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