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Anelakai Adventures - Big Island

During the day we provide two hour guided Outrigger Canoe, Kayak and Stand Up Paddle Board adventures out of Keauhou Bay. Tours are offered daily at 9:00am and an incredible Night Manta Ray Adventure. Our goal is to provide guidance and instruction, and we are there with you every step of the way to ensure that you have a fun and relaxing time on the water.

Tom Barefoot's Tours Interview with Anelakai Adventures on the Big Island

Tom: Good morning, welcome to another edition of Tom Barefoot’s Tours Live. Read Full Transcript

Video Transcript

Tom: Good morning, welcome to another edition of Tom Barefoot’s Tours Live. We’re a company that deals with all the different tours and activities in Hawaii. We have hundreds, hundreds of different vendors, hundreds of different tours + activities, and we’ve been doing this for a long time, since 1975. But in this series, what we’re doing is highlighting individual vendors. We’re taking individual ones and asking them questions and finding out a little bit about them and learning what it is that they do. This morning and the previous part of this week we’ve been dealing w/the Big Island--we have a lot of vendors there. This particular vendor deals w/a lot of things on the Big Island: snorkeling and kayaking and outrigger canoes and manta rays--a small company that has a really interesting business profile--a fun little project that they’ve put together for themselves--so we’re going to be interviewing them today. The name of the company is Anelakai Adventures, and we have Iko and we have Holly which should be on the other screen in just one second…

Iko/Holly: Good morning…

Tom: So, it looks like you’re in your home there, are you in Keahou?

Holly: We’re right in Kona, we’re about 10 minutes from Keahou, in the heart of Kona.

Tom: Okay, always nice to be close to work…

Holly: Absolutely.

Tom: So, you guys operate your tours right from Keahou Bay which is really convenient- I believe only 6 miles from the center of Kona town, from the pier and all that, so it’s easy to find, it’s right on the maps, right on the ocean, and a great place to do tours--a beautiful, beautiful bay. One thing I did want to say before we started talking about your specific activities there is just in general how cool a place the Big Island is for the marine activities that are there. In my opinion, what I’ve seen over the course of years, I’ve had the best encounters on the Big Island off the Kona coast in terms of snorkeling, and seeing the marine environment-lots of fish and coral formations, dolphins, manta rays and turtles, it seems to be a plethora of marine activity there, and I always encourage people to, if they can, do their snorkeling trips there because they just seem fantastic.

Holly: Absolutely.

Tom: But now, specific to you guys, you have a number of operations there--you do kayak tours, outrigger canoe tours in the morning, but also, you do an incredible manta ray tour with your outrigger canoe in the evenings that is very different from everybody else on the Big Island. But let’s go one through the other, let’s start with the kayak tours and let’s assume that we’ve got someone that’s shown up for your 9:00 AM, they’re there at 8:45 AM--take us through the day, which I believe is 2 hours on these trips, what happens for them? What do they see? What is their experience like for the kayaking?

Iko: So, first of all, when we first meet at 8:45 AM, we meet and greet, and we talk a little bit about the area and what we’re going to be encountering that morning once we get going, but first of all we talk about all of our safety and how to kayak--the easy ways of getting in and out of the kayaks. Once we get off of the boat ramp we go down into the water into Keahou Bay, we’ll explain about the bay, what Keahou means--it means the new era--then we go right out into the middle of the bay and we give a little history of the area. As we head out we go south of Kona towards (?) Bay where all the sea caves are. We’ll give the history of the caves and what’s in each cave--it’s a pretty cool paddle south.

Tom: So, do you get to go in the caves with your kayaks?

Iko: Yes, we do--the majority of the year our water in Kona is super beautiful and super smooth water so we do take everyone into the caves as long as it’s safe--our #1 thing is the safety of our people and resources.

Tom: Is there a time of year that it’s more likely that you can have good weather/good terrain to get into the caves?

Iko: Yes, I would say a lot of the year it’s nice, but in the winter time we do have swells, so on the days we do have swells we’ll go a little further out from the coastline where you can enjoy all the big splashing of the waves along the coast.

Tom: what percentage of the days + I’m going to guess here, that if there’s really inclement weather and big problems w/surf or something that’s beyond your control
That you’d cancel most likely, what percentage of the 365 days a year are you forced to cancel?

Iko: Shucks, I would say the percentage of days we cancel would be 10 %.

Holly: That’s exactly what I was going to say, about 10%.

Tom: That’s pretty darn good, and mostly it’s in the winter time.

Holly: Yeah, so January, February tend to be the months where we get our really big swells--and we don’t take chances, so we will cancel if there’s any questions about safety or enjoying the experience out there--so if you’re not going to enjoy yourself, we’re not gonna go.

Tom: Well those statistics are pretty consistent w/the rest of the state, that’s just the way it works, right?

Iko/Holly: Yes.

Tom: So, tell me, how many people do you take on these kayak tours?

Iko: So, on our kayak tours we’ll take between 1 and 12 people, and we always like to staff (inaudible) with a lot of certified lifeguards all the time--so, even if we have only one person going out, we have 2 certified lifeguards.

Tom: Okay, so are these 2 person kayaks? If you have 12 people going out do you have 6 kayaks?

Iko: Well, if people ask for a single kayak, we’ll bring down a single kayak for them as well. We try and accommodate for people to be comfortable and sometimes people just want their own kayak so they don’t have to work in sync together on a double.

Tom: So you really do it on a kind of personalized basis

Iko/Holly: Yes.

Tom: Let’s move to what I think is kind of the more dynamic part of what you offer, that is the outrigger canoes, you offer them in the daytime at 9AM, the same time as the kayaks, also for 2 hours, and you also do them later in the evening--we’ll talk about them in a minute, but what is the difference, why don’t you explain the canoe, what it looks like--I know that you guys made it, right? And you’re making another one--but go ahead and explain to the people how it facilitates the tour...

Holly: Yes. What we have is a double hull canoe. So it’s 2 canoe hulls--we order the hulls, but Iko built every other part of the canoe, so he built the (?) the crossbeams, the floor, the subfloor, so he just poured his heart and soul into this canoe. It’s 2 canoe hulls that are 4 manned canoes with a floor in the middle. So, like he said, we always have a minimum of 2 guides, so typically on the outrigger daytime tour, we take up to 6 people. And honestly, between the manta and the daytime, it’s one of my favorites--it’s just about cruising, it’s holo-holo, we do a similar experience to what we do with the kayaks--we launch at the same boat ramp, same time, but just being on the canoe, when you do have a group of 4 or 6 people and it’s a family there’s just a sense of togetherness...

Iko: Yes--it’s intimate

Holly: It’s a historical, cultural, intimate experience. It’s very, very cool. Everybody is just stoked on paddling and having the whole Hawaiian experience.

Tom: A lot of comradery I’m guessing…

Holly: Yeah--it’s just fun.

Tom: So you’ve got the 2 hulls, so you’ve got the 3 passengers and then if you had 6 people with you, it’s 3 on each side and then in the last seat, each of your staff.
Holly: Yes--you got it.

Tom: And then there’s a platform in between, or it’s lashed together in some way?

Holly: No, there’s a platform.

Iko: It’s all traditionally lashed--our canoes look like they’re from the old days, but we use all modern materials, but we still lash the all together--there’s no screws or nuts and bolts to put it together--it’s all traditional you know? We try and keep it that way. I always tell the people, ‘We’re going on an Eco Adventure, and my name is Iko (laughs). So, we like to try and give everyone the Hawaiian experience. The first thing that ever touched land before man in our state was a canoe. So we like to give everyone a chance to come out and paddle on our Hawaiian, double hull canoe.

Holly: ...but, no sea caves on the canoe (laughs).

Tom: Okay--it occurs to me, tell me if I’m incorrect here, but this would be great for people that are really not that experienced in ocean ways and so on--you’re not gonna tip it over obviously-

Iko/Holly: Right.

Tom: ...because it’s got the stability--I mean even a kayak would be a little bit more ‘tippy’ right? People can all kind of go along for the ride, although they’ve all got to paddle, right?

Holly: Yep, they are our motors (laughs) so, yes, when you come out on the canoe, be ready to paddle a little bit (laughs)

Tom: Alright, and then, they’re going to have the opportunity at some point to actually jump in the water and do some snorkeling, right?

Iko: Most definitely--we can’t let them leave without snorkeling, you know--the coral reef, the areas we go is super amazing, like you said earlier, the Big Island,we do have a lot of amazing fish, and beautiful coral, the reason why is we’re the newest island as of right now--we have another island being built, right outside of Big Island. We do have a lot of fish--everywhere you go it’s private, you know--

Holly: Right, we find all these little coves, it’s pretty awesome.

Tom: so, are you usually the only ones out there, or is there another boat you’ll see i the distance or something?

Iko: Once in a while you’ll see another boat, and on our canoe tours we always bring fishing poles too, and once in a while we’ll bring a bbq out with us--we call it the Hook N Cook--whatever you hook, we cook (laughs).

Tom: Cool--let’s move now to what I really consider the centerpiece of your tours, and that is the night manta ray trip. My understanding here is that you leave from the same location at Keahou, it’s only about a 10 minute paddle out, once again, in the twilight or darkness of night, going out to a special location where you see the manta rays. Now, explain the situation, you’ve got up to 6 people on board, and soon you’ll have another outrigger that can take another 6, you’ve got the 6 people on, so, how does it work?

Holly: So, the whole basics of the manta…(inaudible) What sets us apart is that we are the only paddle power vessel that offers a manta,and being that we’re paddle power, we’re able to have our lights right between the hulls of our canoe. Every other company, and they’re all great companies, but because they’re motorized, they have to build some sort of light board so that when they get out to the sight they’re gonna put all their guests in the water where they’re going to hang on to this light board and swim away from the vessel which has this motor on it. First of all, it’s just so cool paddling out there, whether it’s at twilight or in the dark, it’s just such a cool experience and once we get out there, we’re able to just get our lights right on the surface of the water right between the canoe. They’re so close, you can’t touch them, but if you could, you could stick your hand in the water and touch them--they come right up to the boat. So a couple of advantages--you don’t have to get in the water until the mantas start coming up.

Iko: So you know what to expect.

Holly: Right, because you imagine that most of these folks visiting never swam with a manta and really don’t even know what a manta is--here, they get up to 12-13 foot wingspan so I imagine the guests that are getting in the water are hanging onto this board saying ‘Where is this thing, what’s it gonna look like?’ (laughs) With us it’s like, ‘okay--that’s this creature I’m getting in the water with, I’m gonna get in now’ so you’re in much more control over when you get in and out of the water. And, there are some people that say ‘I want to be out there but I don’t want to be IN there’ So, we have guests come out with us pretty often that want to stay in the canoe and just view them.

Tom: Right, right

Iko: That’s a really nice part for us, is accommodating people that don’t want to or can’t get in the water. What we do is we put people between the hulls of our canoe where you’re super safe so nothing’s gonna bump into you, you’re right there, WE are right there within arm’s reach to them, but we keep you 4 or 5 feet away from the mantas so the mantas don’t get touched or hurt, and we don’t get touched either. Although they can’t hurt us, we can hurt them, so we try and keep it as non-invasive as possible.

Tom: So, what’s happening here is the people are hardly leaving the safety of the boat--they’re just getting out of their seat, going into the area of water between the 2 hulls, there’s a bar or a rope they hold onto, and at that point they can see what’s going on--do they have a snorkel in the water?

Iko: You’re wearing your mask and snorkel, you have your ankle floats that we give each guest, that you put on your ankles so you lay horizontal in the water so you’re flat--you’re like Superman or Superwoman--

Holly: It’s effortless.

Iko: You’re laying holding onto the handle, and the mantas will come close to you, and the more yelling and screaming or singing you do, they love to come closer. (laughs) So if you’re kind of quiet, they’ll kind of stay a couple feet away from you but if you start screaming really loud, they will come inches to you--and like we said, no touching of the mantas, or you get to come onto the canoe and listen to our stale jokes that we have.

Holly: You get a time out. (laughs)

Tom: (Laughs) Okay, so there definitely appears to be some major advantages to this--it looks like the maximum # of people is gonna be 6 people on this, instead of larger groups, which makes it a little bit more personalized and the fact that you’re just using oars as your power to get out there, you don’t have the sound of motors you don’t have any kind of diesel smell...it’s kind of the real deal out there--it’s just you guys, alone with the mantas.

Iko: Yes, it is, and our guests feel like they’re the only people in the water because they’re between the hulls. It never gets boring. I’ve been out there thousands of times and every night is brand new for me. It’s as exciting as the first time I’ve ever been in the water.

Holly: Yes, and we’ll have guests from all over the world, well travelled, who’ve seen so much cool stuff, and so often we’ll hear ‘That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life’ and that’s what’s just really incredible about it.

Tom: I know that with us, dealing with clients all the time that are asking about the manta rays, people are so clueless-first of all, they’re so giant, so many pounds and they have this unbelievable kind of wingspan and people are afraid they’re gonna get eaten by them, they don’t know what to expect..

Holly: No, stingers, no teeth, they’re completely harmless.

Tom: They are completely harmless, but it’s one of those kinds of things that once people get the picture, it’s like ‘waw--I’ve got to do it.’ I think you’ve got a really ideal situation for them to do this with. Now, you do it a couple of times a night if you have enough people.
Holly: We do.

Tom: So, how does that work? One’s at sunset, probably and one’s when it gets a little darker--how does that work?

Holly: Exactly--it varies a little bit throughout the year based on the time of the sunset, so right now (MAY) we have a 6:45PM

Iko: Which is sunset…

Holly: ...and then an 8:30 PM. So, there are advantages to both--you know, we get asked all the time, ‘Which one am I gonna see more mantas on?’ And there’s really not one that’s better than the other as far as seeing mantas, but the advantage to our earlier trip is it is sunset. It’s beautiful, paddling out as the sun’s going down, it’s just gorgeous out there. The advantage to the 2nd trip is there tend to be less boats out there.

Iko: A lot of times, we’re the only vessel out there and it is so amazing.

Tom: I imagine it’d be amazing on a moonlit night…

Iko/Holly: Yeah--it is…

Holly: And even with no moon when you can just see every star in the sky…

Iko: the mantas feed 20 hours out of the day and they’ll catnap for 4 hours--they’re like me--i’ll eat 20 hours a day (laughs) so, the nice thing about them is they’re feeding all the time, so any time of the evening or even the daytime they’ll be out. Another really cool thing about our company is we try and accommodate for disabled and non-swimmers as well. We take a lot of disabled people, friends and families, a lot of people call because a lot of companies won’t accommodate disabled.

Holly: we had a gentleman maybe a month and ½ ago who was a paraplegic who said he’d called every company and no one would take him. And what we do sometimes is we have a subsqautch (?), which is a giant inflatable stand up paddleboard (SUP)

Iko: ...that seats at least 5-7 people, and we’ll bring it our for when we do have disabled--we’ll make it work for them.

Holly: Right--we’ll figure out a way based on their condition…

Iko: ...and we’ll bring in extra lifeguards to make their night amazing.

Holly: We’ll carry them in the canoe and do whatever we have to do...That was always Iko’s goal for this company was to be able to give back .

Tom: That is just so wonderful that you guys do that, and you’re right--it’s rare to find companies that’ll offer something for the handicapped. Did you say quadraplegic?

Holly: No paraplegic…

Iko: We do take out some quadraplegics too, as well--we had a lady, we put a seat belt in the canoe, where she can hang out with the family…

Holly: She just stayed in the canoe, we base it on the person…

Iko: We try and accommodate everybody. I feel that everybody should come out. Mantas are 100lbs per foot, so you have a 14 ft. manta, minimum weight would be 1400lbs.so it might look like it could eat me and Holly in one little scoop, (laughs) but they’ll only eat plankton. They have no bones, they’re all cartilage…

Hlly: It is just a magical, magical experience, and we’re grateful…

Tom: Well, I can see that you guys have a heart of gold, and a lot of your emphasis seems to be, with regard to the ecology and taking care of things, and I’m assuming a lot of this comes from your heritage, and at least Iko, I don’t know, have lived here most of your life?

Holly; Iko was born and raised here, and I’ve been here over 20 years.

Iko: We both were born and raised in the water, so it worked out perfect for us…

Holly: We met surfing (laughs)

Tom: Do you incorporate in your tours a lot of the Hawaiian heritage, things about Hawaii and the sea and kind of bring that out as something that you feel is important?

Holly: Absolutely, Keahou Bay was the birthplace of Kamehameha III, the holua slide there’s one right there at Keahou Bay…

Iko: We talk about the beginning of the New Hawaii and the ending of the Old Hawaii, which is really cool, and about all of our resources in the water and out of the water. The cool thing is, my mom named me Iko for a reason--she might have spelled it wrong, but she had the right idea (laughs)

Holly: that is the great thing about Hawaiians, is their self sustenance and their respect and care for the lands, so that is something we try and share with everybody.

Iko: We are the Aloha state, you know? So, we have to share the Aloha.

Tom: Well, it’s clear that you guys really have the Aloha spirit, deep down, it’s really a part of you, not just on the surface, it’s really going all the way through, so for people to go with you, I can see that they would relish the opportunity. So, I think that’s just about everything--is there anything you’d like to add before we close?

Iko: I would like to just explain the meaning of Hawai’i not only for everyone out there, but for us as well. So, the spelling of Hawaii, H-a-w-a-i-i, so Ha, is the breath of life, when you put your noses and foreheads together--that’s how Polynesians would meet each other and take in each others’ breaths, to share your knowledge, to share your love, so that’s the Ha, the breath of life. W-a-i is water, fresh water that nourishes every single living thing in the world, and for the last i in Hawaii would be for I’o, I’o was god who created every single living thing in the world. I just wanted to share what the meaning of Hawaii is for all of us to know.

Tom: Well what a way to end this, people get a sense of you guys for sure, we enjoy sending people out with you guys, hopefully this will encourage people to understand what you do more, and we’ll be sending people out with you more. So thank you very much for being with us today, and really appreciate having you give us this interview.

Holly/Iko: Thank you, we appreciate it as well. Aloha!

Tom: So, that concludes our interview with Anelakai Adventures, and as you can see, they’re going to be a great company. So, we look forward to seeing you again with additional vendors that we have, just like we did with Holly and Iko today. So, thank you so much, until we see you again, Aloha.

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