After an hour of constant conversation and getting to know each other, we started our exciting adventure snorkeling the vibrant Two Step, the crown jewel of the Big Island. As we snorkeled above the reefs, we discovered many biotic and abiotic factors including sea turtles, sea urchins, Yellow Tang, volcanic rock, and the crystal-clear ocean. Following two hours of the underwater adventure, we made our way to the southernmost restaurant in the United States, Hana Hou.

A group photo taken at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

A group photo taken at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach.

After eating our delicious meal, we arrived at Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, where we swam, played beach soccer, and protected the ecosystem by picking up trash. Finally, after another hour of driving through 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 roaming the waters of Two Step. | Photo: Catherine V.

A green sea turtle roaming the waters of Two Step. | Photo: Catherine V.

The lava rocks of Two Step. | Photo: Lucy E.

The lava rocks of Two Step. | Photo: Lucy E.

On day two we started our day with breakfast at the Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) before heading to our first day of community service in the Volcanoes National Park rainforest. Our guide, Carole, 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.

Photo: Carole from Friends of Volcanoes National Park

Photo: Carole from Friends of 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 to target the invasive ginger root and kill 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 extensive work and joked about how the pesticide workers would have their work cut out for them.

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

Before and after photos of 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 and fun until lights out.