Hilo, Hawaii

Bruce McDougal
On the Big Island, we took the tour to the observatories at the top of Moana Kea instead of visiting the Volcano national park. The observatories are at 14,000 feet, so high that you have to stop part way to acclimatize to the thin air. We left the ship at sea level, in warm sunshine, and drove in a van up to 9,000 feet. The guide described the fascinating landscape as we drove, showing us how to tell the difference between the several kinds of lava fields we saw. At 9,000 feet there is a visitors’ center with some exhibits, a gift shop, and a small garden with native plants. Our guide fed us some juice, water and cookies, and basically made sure we all felt OK. After almost an hour, we drove on up to 14,000. At that altitude, there are no plants, no life at all. Moonscape is a good word to describe it. Once at the top, you can see the eight or ten different observatories. You actually go inside the Keck observatory, which is air conditioned to match the temperature of the nighttime air so the delicate machinery isn’t affected by any changes in temperature. Even with the hour-long pause at 9,000 feet, we still felt a little light-headed up that high. The air is amazingly pure and clear, and we could see all the way back down to our ship in Hilo, down the other side to Kona, and across the water to Maui. Interested in becoming a travel agent? Follow this link to find out more. Home Based Travel Agent              

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