A carapace (shell) with streaks the color of koa, an indigenous wood used by Hawaiians to build their wa’a (canoes), surfaces near our 45-foot traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoe.
“Honu!” My five-year-old leaps to her feet from my lap excitedly, calling the green sea turtle by its local name, which she has just learnt. Camera in hand, I am torn between snapping photos of the turtle or my husband and four kids’ delight as they paddle on the six-seater vessel.
Kevin Piilani Hoke, the founder of Hawaiian Ocean Sports [hawaiianoceansports.com/], is guiding us on an hour-long Outrigger Culture and Turtle Tour off the shore of Wailea Beach in South Maui.
“Lawa,” Kevin says to stop us paddling. He tells us to stay quiet and watch the honu. “That carapace is nearly four feet in length so this honu probably weighs about 300 pounds.” Their lungs are two-thirds the size of their shell, which means they can stay underwater for up to five hours, so it could be a while until it surfaces for breath.