Mother Nature walks beside us, pointing out her treasures along the way..."Safari lucks" prevails...Another astounding sighting...


Not known for a pretty face, the Hawaiian monk seal, as is the case among many other wild animals, possess an ugliness that ultimately is adorable and endearing, especially when we consider the journey this ancient creature has come and who will eventually disappear by human intervention.
Many of our readers have asked how, day after day, as I sit here with my mug of coffee, writing, posting photos and coming up with ideas on topics for the day.  I won't say the deciding on topics aspect of posting daily is the easiest part. It's not.



At first, when I'd raced out to the beach, I didn't see a thing.  Had the Hawaiian monk seal already gone back into the sea?
At times, when photos back up that we've yet to share, I feel confident I'll be able to conjure up topics surrounding them.  Julie, a highly experienced TV producer asked me a question no one had ever asked, "Do you use the photos as a basis for the topics or do the topics inspire the use of the photos?"

Heading to my right when I made it to the beach, I saw this glorious sight.  There he/she was in full repose enjoying idle time lounging in the sand with nary a thought in the world...so it seemed.
At times, it's both. At other times, it's one or the other. I'm well aware that often the topics don't necessarily revolve around the photos for the day. Many times, a topic pops in my head as soon as I sit down to begin each morning.  At other times, I labor over possible topics for a short period and then it materializing as my fingers begin their less than perfect journey over the keyboard.


I'm a lousy typist that must look down at the keyboard every 15 seconds or so to ensure I'm on the right track.  Oh, I've tested myself and I can type without looking down.  But, old habits are hard to break.  Speed is not my forte.  I type only as fast as the words come to mind, if they even come to mind at all.

Moving closer, I noticed the Hawaiian monk seal was tagged on its rear flipper.
It often feels as if my brain is contained in my hands rather than my head from the way in which the words flow from my fingertips. Its relatively easy once the topic is established.  At times, with a topic "on hand" I struggle for only a few minutes to finally begin.  Today, its that exact scenario that prompts me to share the above observations before I begin with the "real" story.

Not wanted to awaken her/him, I kept my distance although I'd have loved to see more.
The real story?  Another sighting of a gift from Mother Nature, the rare and endangered Hawaiian monk seal, when Julie and I traveled to the end of the road to the Napali Coast.  With no place to park we decided to each view the beach separately while the other stayed behind sitting in the car in a "no parking" zone.  She went first.

Suddenly, a flipper aided in a leisurely rollover making my heart sing.
Practically running to me after being gone 10 minutes or so, having taken many of her own photos, she told me that there was a Hawaiian monk seal lying on the beach.  I couldn't get there quickly enough as I practically ran the few hundred yards to the sandy beach.

Its easy to think of such words as "lazy, blubber and inactive" when one see a Hawaiian monk seal lounging on the beach.  But, no laziness was involved in the perpetuation of the species for millions of years.
And there, I beheld this beautiful/peculiar looking mammal, a prehistoric creature from the sea, often referred to as a "living fossil" isolated from their closest living relatives, of 15 million years ago. 

An endangered species, there remains a paltry 1100 Hawaiian monk seals, threatened by human encroachment, often entangled in fishing nets and marine debris.  Many locals with whom we spoken have lived here in Kauai for many years, never to spot a single Hawaiian monk seal.

At this point I was limited to a view of the underside of his chin.
"Known to native Hawaiians as ʻIlio-holo-i-ka-uaua, or "dog that runs in rough water", its scientific name is from Hugo Hermann Schauinsland, a German scientist who discovered a skull on Laysan Island in 1899.[8] Its common name comes from short hairs on its head, said to resemble a monk.[3] The Hawaiian monk seals are adopted to be Hawaii's state mammal."

A quote from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association:

"Hawaiian Monk Seal (Neomonachus schauinslandi)

Species Description

Weight:
375-450 pounds (170-205 kg), females are slightly larger than males;
pups weigh about 35 pounds (16 kg) at birth
Length:
7.0-7.5 feet (2.1-2.3 m), females are slightly larger than males;
pups are about 3 feet (1 m) at birth
Appearance:
silvery-grey backs with lighter creamy coloration on their underside; newborns are black. They may also have light patches or red and green tinged coloration from attached algae.
Lifespan:
25-30 years
Diet:
fish, cephalopods, and crustaceans
Behavior:
monk seals breed and haul-out on sand, corals, and volcanic rock; they are often seen resting on beaches during the day
The Hawaiian monk seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world. Part of the "true seal" family (Phocidae), they are one of only two remaining monk seal species. The other is the Mediterranean monk seal. A third monk seal species--the Caribbean monk seal--is extinct."

For the remainder of the above story, please click here.

As I approached the seal, sensitive to not getting too close, I couldn't believe my eyes.  It was lounging on the beach seemingly oblivious to only two of us onlookers. Let's face it, not everyone is fascinated with wildlife perhaps taking a quick photo and continuing on their way or barely stopping at all. 
Finally, it was time to go.  I knew that Julie was waiting in a "no parking" zone at the end of the road at Napali Beach and my time was limited.  I can't wait to return to park a lawn chair on the beach to hopefully be able to watch this amazing creature in action.  However, I'm so grateful for having seen this amazing mammal on this day.
As all of our readers are well aware, the most exciting aspects of our travels is the opportunity to see wildlife, taking photos and learning as much as we can about yet another species. 

Standing back to avoid disturbing this endangered creature from the sea, my heart was racing with excitement and I could feel the "happiness" hormones coursing through my veins.  I heard someone say, "Is it dead?"  I chuckled to myself.  I knew the amazing animal was alive although it had yet to move.
The Hawaiian people are very in tuned to the preservation of their wildlife.  But, many obstacles beyond one's control are instrumental in the loss of an endangered special as well as the malicious destruction and eradication by a few. 

Please click here for a link to the Monk Seal Foundation for ways in which to aid in the preservation of this endangered species.

Alas, moments later a determined flipper flew into action to assist in a lazy rollover providing me with a better view.  I couldn't have been more excited.  It is with this enthusiasm that I share these quirky photos today of the Hawaiian monk seal from the only angles he or she provided me, grateful for whatever I was to be given.

As we pulled out of the parking lot we spotted this hen and her four chicks scurrying across the road.  Even the chickens, roosters and chicks provide us with an enormous amount of joy as to the magic of life.
I'm longing to return to the Napali Coast to hopefully share an equally enjoyable sighting with Tom to which he's enthusiastically agreed. 

Perhaps, once again, safari luck will prevail.
_______________________________________

Photo from one year ago today, March 16, 2014:

At dusk, the frenzy of activity filled the air along with the smoke from the cooking of various foods on outdoor grills and fire pits.  Still under the weather with an intestinal virus from eating contaminated lettuce on the day of our arrival, we both decided not to try to foods for sale the Big Square (the Medina) which our houseman, Samir had confirmed was not a good idea. Many past guests had become ill  That's not to say the food is bad.  Our bodies may not be adapted to various bacteria that causes no ill harm to the locals.  One must always keep this in mind when eating and drinking in other countries.  We learned our lesson in Marrakech.  For details from that date, please click here.

2 comments:

Elizabeth Banks said...

What a beautiful animal. I agree I would have had my heart in my mouth to have got so closed. I love the seals characters when I have seen them bobbing their heads up and down out of the sea around our beautiful coastal shores. I am lucky to be near the county of Cornwall of the UK (the bit looking like a leg a t the bottom) there are often many seals off the coast there. In a former life when I enjoyed scuba diving to swim in their territory and observe the behaviour was magical.

Jessica said...

Liz, its wonderful to hear you've seen seals in Cornwall. What a joyful experience to have been scuba diving with them. But, whatever means we can use to observe nature, hopefully being able to have a photo to look back and treasure is meaningful for us all. We'll never forget the glorious opportunity as we continue to wander about the world looking for the next exciting creature along the way.

Thanks for writing. We think of you often with happy hearts.
Love,
Jess & Tom

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