After an hour of getting to know each other, we started our exciting adventure with a snorkeling excursion in Honaunau Bay, known as Two Step for the lava rocks that provide a convenient access point for the water. As we snorkeled above the reefs, we discovered many biotic and abiotic factors, including sea turtles, sea urchins, yellow tang fish, volcanic rock, and the crystal-clear ocean. After spending two hours in the water, we made our way to the southernmost restaurant in the United States, Hana Hou.

A group photo taken at Punalu’u Beach

A group photo taken at Punalu’u Beach

After eating our delicious meal, we arrived on the black sands of Punalu’u Beach, where we swam, played soccer, and protected the ecosystem by picking up trash. Finally, after another hour of driving across the beautiful island, we arrived at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where we will be staying for a couple days and providing service to preserve the alluring environment. At the end of the day, everyone was tired, fulfilled, and excited for more adventures to come.

A green sea turtle swimming in Honaunau Bay | Photo: Catherine V.

A green sea turtle swimming in Honaunau Bay | Photo: Catherine V.

Lava rocks that inspired the nickname Two Step | Photo: Lucy E.

Lava rocks that inspired the nickname Two Step | Photo: Lucy E.

On our second day, we ate breakfast at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) before heading to our community service site in the Volcanoes National Park rainforest. Carole, who was our guide from Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, took us to our service destination. Our service consisted of removing an invasive species, ginger, which affects the native vegetation of the park’s ecosystem.

The group in Volcanoes National Park

The group in Volcanoes National Park

After a long day of work, leader Neal and explorer Alex fell into a hole—but don’t worry, they’re okay! | Photo: Catherine V.

After a long day of work, leader Neal and explorer Alex fell into a hole—but don’t worry, they’re okay! | Photo: Catherine V.

Our assignment was to use clippers to cut the growing ginger near the roots so that a team of park workers could then spray pesticides that would eradicate it. She explained to us the harmful effect that the ginger has on the ecosystem. Then we set off into the jungle and had a competition over which group could cut and collect the most ginger. She complimented our hard work and joked about how the pesticide sprayers would have their work cut out for them.

Before and after photos from our ginger removal project | Photos: Luis M.

Before and after photos from our ginger removal project | Photos: Luis M.

After our service in the forest, we returned to KMC for a magnificent game of soccer and a nice dinner at the popular Thai Restaurant close to the park. We returned to camp for card games until lights out.