I remember the first time visiting the Hawaiian green sea turtles at Laniakea beach on Oahu's North Shore more than a decade ago. It wasn't as crowded as it is now, with a constant stream of visitors. There were visitors, yes, but not the sheer volume that there is now.
It was magical to see these magnificent creatures basking so peacefully on the shores of the beach. I recall getting into the water as well, and seeing some of the honu feeding on limu on the rocks. I knew then to get out of the way, while still admiring them. It's no wonder that an estimated 600,000 visitors make the trek to the North Shore, park in the makeshift dirt lot across the street and dart across Kamehameha Highway to get a glimpse of the sea turtles, too.
The wonderful thing is that they do so out of curiosity and hopefully, love for the honu, too.
But they may not know that the turtles are a threatened species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act and state laws. And they may not know that you should not feed, touch or sit on the turtles. You should also give them space (at least six feet) to bask in peace as well as a clear path to and from the ocean.
Thanks to volunteers from Malama Na Honu, the turtles are watched over by people who do what they do out of a love for turtles, too, and a desire to see them survive for future generations to see. On a recent visit, a little girl darted past the rope border and in front of a basking turtle to reach her father. Everyone gasped. Luckily, there was no harm done.
Whatever the state Department of Transportation decides to do about the volume of visitors visiting Laniakea and the traffic and parking problems they create, I hope the volunteers will continue to protect the honu, which are also under review for a delisting under the Endangered Species Act.
There are other places to see honu, too. If you see a stranded Hawaiian green sea turtle, call 983-5730 (7 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays on Oahu) and page 288-5685 on weekends, holidays and after hours.