No visit to Big Island is ever complete without an encounter with flowing lava, especially when it is accessible for safe viewing. The Hawaiian volcanoes are considered “benign” even when erupting compared to Indonesia, Iceland or Japan, where eruptions were explosive and deadly. The Kilauea volcano has been erupting steadily since 1983, and although the villagers are powerless to stop its flow, they are able to react and evacuate before it claims their homes in most cases.
Wanting to experience the lava at close proximity, my family wanted to embark on a lava hike. However, there were many reasons to sway us into choosing a docile helicopter ride or boat tour instead.
For one, it would be the longest hike attempted with the kids: an 8km roundtrip of over six hours. Second, it would be trekking on rough, uneven and even jagged lava terrain. And third, we would be hiking back in the dark.
But Pele beckoned like a siren song. And so, we engaged a geologist from one of the tour companies that specialises in lava hikes. Starting our journey from a private estate in Kalapana – lava flows are on private land – we headed out in high spirits, undeterred by the slight drizzle.
We hiked through the lava flow of 1983, where the fields are covered with scrubs. The rich volcanic soil had softened for plants to grow. Kamapua’a wild boars had also gone to work. As we trekked further, the lava fields became barren; here, the lava flow was more recent.
The hike proved to be long with no end in sight. Miles of black glistening lava stretched across the vast horizon as we followed in the footsteps of our guide, mindful not to step on jagged edges. As the sun sank into the horizon, we could see smoke stemming from the Pu’u Oo vents from a distance, and the grounds became warmer.
the Halemaumau crater within the Kilauea caldera is still an active volcano.
the writer and her family hiked until sundown — and beyond — over rough terrain to get close to a lava flow.
a portrait of Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Volcanoes, by local artist Herb Kawainui Kane, as displayed at the Jagger Museum.