The experience that my Dad and I had on our Paradise Helicopters flight this morning is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. We did the complete island trip that departed from the Kona Airport. It was a clear day so we got to see the summits of both the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the way over to the volcano.
We pulled up to the Paradise Helicopters office at the commuter terminal of the Kona Airport at 7am sharp. When I woke up I was not as tired as usual, I popped out of my sleep thinking of nothing except for the fact that today was the day that I was going to go on a helicopter flight over the erupting volcano. Being from Maui I have not had a tremendous amount of opportunities to do these flights so every time I get to go it's very exciting.
After watching a safety video in the check in office we made our way out onto the tarmac where our pilot stood waiting for us. As we boarded the helicopter he greeted us and introduced himself as Koji. Once we got on the helicopter I observed that the seating configuration was a bit different from most helicopters I've ridden on in the past. The front seats faced forward and then the back rows were arranged towards each other like they are in the back of a stretched limo.
As the motors reached full speed Koji gently pulled up on the control stick and the helicopter gently lifted up off the ground. Within minutes we were far away from the airport and there was nothing but rocky, desolate lava fields for as far as the eye could see. After 15 minutes or so we came up over the ridge and we could see the mountains of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the great rift zone.....and far off in the distance we could begin to make out the plume of gasses coming out of the volcano.
As the minutes passed the plume of gasses got larger and larger as we got closer to the volcano. During the whole flight I had my window open enough to be able to stick the tip of my lens out the window for better shots. As we got close to the volcano and began to circle it I could actually feel heat coming into the cab. On our first pass the whole top of the crater was crusted over with a black crust, hiding the molton lava. Then as we made our second pass it became very apparent that a crack was forming in the crust that was allowing the glowing red lava to seep out. Then when we came around for our third and fourth pass there was actually a fountain of glowing lava pouring up out of the crack in the surface of the crater. I was exactly what I was hoping to see!
As we continued passed the volcano towards Hilo town I couldn't help but smile about the experience we had just had at the volcano. As the foliage underneath us transitioned from a lava field to a rainforest Hilo Bay became visible off in the distance. Eventually we passed over Hilo and veered left up the Hamakua Coastline. We began seeing waterfalls and eucalyptus forests all over the place until eventually the topography of the land underneath us began to get extreme as we got to Waipio Valley. Cliffs covered in dense jungle with water falls flowing off of them stretched thousands of feet into the sky. We explored the coastline and then worked our way up into the back of the valleys where we passed by the largest waterfalls on the island. I had an 18mm lens on my DSLR and the waterfall was so tall I could not the whole thing into one shot. As we came up over the back of the valley we found ourselves near the town of Waimea and the resort community of Waikoloa. As we passed over the resorts I admired the stretches of stark white sand that stretched out infront of them. The water was a rich blue color that tapered into a lighter aquamarine towards the shore. It was all absolutly beautiful.
A few minutes later we touched down back at the heliport in Kona. When we landed I looked around the inside of the helicopter and saw that everyone has ear to ear smiles stretched across their faces. Our flight with Paradise Helicopters was great, and to get to see the erupting volcano was a truly unforgettable experience. I can't wait to do it again.
People often ask me what my favorite Hawaiian Island is. I always tell them that I am a bit biased towards Maui because I was born and raised there but all of the islands have something different to offer.
The volcano is one of the Big Islands most popular attractions. The view from the Jagger Museum is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
We had been outside waiting by the curb for about 30 seconds when the Paradise Cove Luau bus pulled up in front of us. The luau representative greeted and gave us our admission tickets to the luau grounds.
Aside from a luau I think the most classic nighttime activity that we offer is a sunset dinner cruise in the waters in front of Waikiki. These trips, with the classic view of Diamond Head and the skyline of Honolulu are something that I would recommend every visitor on Oahu to experience at least once.
One of the most popular things to do in the state of Hawaii is the Polynesian Cultural center. This attraction is located on the northern tip of Oahu is the town of Laie.
What many people do not know is that you do not HAVE to leave Waikiki to do a Luau. There is actually a luau that is held at a massive rooftop luau grounds.
Helicopters are one of the most popular tours that we offer. Helicopter tours are available on all islands so if you want to see the Volcanos National Park, the waterfalls of and jungles Hana, Pearl Harbor, the famous surfing beaches of Oahu's North Shore of even the magestic Napali Coast of Kauai we can easily arrange a flight for you.
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