The 15-year-old eagle ray, Kai Nalu, at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu // © 2011 Skye Mayring
From hula lessons and Hawaiian language classes to fitness walks and turtle talks, there are no shortage of activities at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaupulehu. On day one, the activities schedule was packed with classes and events, many of which were complimentary. I decided to take it easy with one scheduled activity and signed up for the afternoon eagle ray feeding at King’s Pond — a 1.8-million gallon pond, carved out of the property’s natural lava rock.
King’s Pond contains more than 3,000 individual tropical fish from more than 75 species, and snorkeling equipment is readily available for guests who want to get a glimpse of local marine life in a safe environment. However, it’s easy to forget that you are swimming in a manmade “aquarium” — subterranean channels fill the pond, pulling the body of water with the ocean tide, so it feels as if you are snorkeling in the open water.
The resort’s marine biologist met with me and a few other guests prior to the eagle ray feeding, giving us some background on Kai Nalu (Ocean Wave), the 15-year-old eagle ray who was eagerly awaiting his lunch. One at a time, we jumped into the water and were handed slimy pieces of raw shrimp, clams or squid, waiting for Kai Nalu to circle toward us. The anticipation made some guests nervous, particularly a young girl, who was also frightened by a relentless halibut, who appeared to be begging for scraps.
When it was my turn, Kai Nalu seized the shrimp from my hand, his mouth acting like a vacuum, and I let out a girlish shriek from the surprise. As a cartilaginous fish, his belly felt smooth and, up close, the white spots decorating his back became noticeable. After getting enough grub, Kai Nalu seemed to fly away, ever so elegantly, waving his two pectoral fins like wings.
The eagle ray feeding was far more thrilling than I expected. And not long after, I snuck another glance at the schedule, planning other unique experiences to squeeze in before dinnertime.