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For clients whose body clocks are on U.S. mainland time, it’s natural to wake up early in Hawaii. And if they’re staying at Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii on the Big Island, they have an even better reason to get out of bed pre-dawn: a sunrise canoe voyage.
Our morning excursion began at the beach not long after the moon had set. It was a magical time on-property: peaceful, calm and still fairly dark outside. We had the place to ourselves as Josiah — one of Fairmont Orchid’s Hui Holokai ambassadors — prepared us for our outrigger canoe ride to greet the rising sun.
After handing out paddles to each member of our group, Josiah gave a simple lesson in how to use them. Next, we helped him slip the canoe into the shallow water. He talked about the canoe’s importance to Hawaiian culture, stretching back to the days of early Polynesian explorers.
The sky grew lighter as we slid into the seats of the sleek watercraft. We lifted our paddles and stroked in unison, steering out of the resort’s protected cove. It was February — whale season — and we saw a pair of humpbacks leap on the horizon. Closer to the boat, a turtle poked his head up to stare at us.
“The ocean is amazingly flat for this time of year,” Josiah said.
Usually in the winter months there are some waves to contend with, he said, but on that day, we had it easy. Following a few minutes of paddling, Josiah maneuvered the canoe so that we could take in the view.
“This is the only place where you can see all four of Hawaii Island’s mountains: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa and Hualalai,” he said.
It was a vast, humbling panorama.
As we waited for sunrise, the sky turned different shades of pastel colors. Josiah suggested that this was an ideal opportunity to reflect, and that he hoped this paddling experience helped the guests put life in perspective and feel the “mana” (Hawaii’s spiritual energy).
Josiah brought some “ti” leaves, and he took them out, tied them in knots and handed them to us. Just as the sun peeked around the edge of Mauna Kea, he blew a conch shell three times, then offered a traditional chant to welcome the day: “E ala e, e ala e, e ala e” (“awaken” or “arise”).
Josiah then invited each of us to focus quietly on the good in our lives. When done, we dropped the ti leaves in the water for safe passage.
During our leisurely paddle back, Josiah described old Hawaii’s land division system, called “ahupuaa” (“from the mountains to the sea”) — which made sense from our vantage point in the ocean. He shared stories about the ancient fishponds like those near Fairmont Orchid.
We hugged the shoreline, looking at exotic marine life beneath the surface. Josiah told us that this is a great snorkeling area thanks to its clear waters and colorful coral.
Then, we steered back into Fairmont Orchid’s cove as the resort’s floating yoga class began. The rest of the world had woken up, the sun was rising quickly and I felt Josiah’s chant resonating within me. As we said goodbye, I was ready to embark on my day with a sense of inner peace.
Offered exclusively to resort guests, the one-hour voyage costs $49 per person. Guests must sign up one day ahead.
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