A tour of famous movie locations ends at a hidden and exclusive waterfall
Several times a week, Island Adventures guide Sommer Kauakahi escorts visitors to one of Hollywood's favorite sets in Hawaii.
From a bluff overlooking beautiful Huleia Valley and the Haupu mountain range in southeastern Kauai, she shows them the field where the thrilling dinosaur stampede in "Jurassic Park" was filmed.
If you go ...
What: Discover Jungle Falls Tour
Meet at: Island Adventures' office, Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor, Kauai
Time: 7:45 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; 9:15 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays
Call: 246-6333 on Kauai or 888-245-1707 from neighbor islands
Price: $89 for adults and $69 for ages 6 through 12; no one under 6 is allowed, and maximum weight for individuals is 250 pounds. Price includes a lunch of cold cuts and veggie sandwiches, chips, cookies, juice and bottled water.
Web site: www.kauaifun.com
Notes: Wear a swimsuit under casual, comfortable clothes that you don't mind getting wet and dirty. Your footwear should have good tread for wet, muddy conditions (no sneakers or rubber slippers). Bring a towel, sunscreen and mosquito repellent. Dry bags and life vests are provided. The hiking segment of the tour is moderately strenuous. Participants should be in good physical condition and able to walk up and down nine flights of steep, uneven steps. Private tours available for groups of 20 or more.
She points out the site that doubled as Neverneverland in "Hook" and as South Korea for the television series "M*A*S*H." According to her, this lush locale also appeared in the movies "Outbreak," "Dragonfly," "Mighty Joe Young" and "Six Days, Seven Nights."
Nature is the undisputed star of Island Adventures' Discover Jungle Falls Tour, a 4 1/2-hour adventure that combines sightseeing, kayaking, hiking and swimming at a waterfall that's otherwise inaccessible to the public.
My group began the journey with Kauakahi in kayaks, gliding 2.5 miles on the Huleia River through the Huleia National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1973, the refuge provides a haven for 31 species of birds, including the endangered aeo (Hawaiian stilt), alae keokeo (coot), alae ula (moorhen) and koloa maoli. (Information about the creatures can be found at www.fws.gov/pacificislands.)
The river usually is placid, and the trip is downwind all the way. First-time kayakers will be paddling like pros in no time.
We made a stop for refreshments at the spot along the river where, in the opening scenes of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Indiana Jones escaped from angry South American tribesmen in a seaplane.
From there it was just a short paddle to a landing, where we left our kayaks and embarked on a leisurely nature walk. Kauakahi offered short lessons in botany as we walked along a trail bordered by greenery, including philodendron, avocado, wild coffee, heliconia and hau trees.
"Long ago the Hawaiians used hau branches to make outrigger floats for their canoes," Kauakahi said. "They also stripped the bark off the branches and wove it into a really strong rope."
She told us the early Hawaiians used the oily nut of the kukui (now Hawaii's state tree) as a potent laxative and a source of light, and that in the mid-19th century Chinese immigrants brought the firecracker plant with them when they came to work on Hawaii's sugar cane plantations.
The plant's slender, red, tubular flowers resemble the firecrackers many Chinese set off at New Year's to ward off evil spirits. "The Chinese immigrants planted lots of firecracker plants around their homes for the same reason," Kauakahi said.
COURTESY OF GREG HOXSIE 2006
A waterfall swallowed by rainforest and known only in childhood memories was rediscovered by the creators of Island Adventures' Discover Jungle Falls Tour.
After the walk, we boarded a van for a short ride onto private land for a hike that's the most challenging and scenic part of the tour. Caution: The trail switches back down a series of steep steps, and rain can make it slippery.
If conditions are good, sure-footed participants can make the trip in about 15 minutes, even if they pause to snap pictures of the abundant yellow ginger, lauae fern and noni (Indian mulberry), and sample guava, strawberry guava and passion fruit.
"A 90-year-old lady did the hike, and so did a man with a prosthetic leg," Kauakahi recalled. "They took a little longer but they both did just fine."
On the valley floor we stopped to admire and snap photos of 25-foot Bamboo Falls, then continued on to Jungle Falls, which cascades 50 feet into an inviting pool.
"One of our guests from the mainland went swimming there, and when she came out she was crying," Kauakahi said. "At first, I thought she was hurt, but she wasn't. She said she had never seen anything like Jungle Falls before, and the beauty of it moved her to tears."
Awe, wonder, joy -- that's also what Greg Davis, vice president of Island Adventures, felt when he first saw Jungle Falls. In 1999 he set out to find the falls after talking to longtime residents who vaguely remembered going there years before but couldn't describe its exact location.
All they knew was that it was somewhere in the heart of the rain forest near Papakolea Stream.
COURTESY OF GREG HOXSIE 2006
Island Adventures creator Greg Davis took six months to map and machete the way through the jungle foliage to blaze a trail to two waterfalls.
As an avid outdoorsman, that information piqued Davis' interest. "I wanted to find the waterfall because I thought it would be a fun challenge," he said. "Also, my partner Kamal Salibi and I were looking for a way to enhance our kayak tour on the Huleia River, which we had been running since 1977. We thought a hike to a waterfall would be a great addition."
Because of the thick vegetation, Davis knew that an aerial survey of the area would be fruitless, so he set out on foot to find the hidden waterfall. No trail had been blazed, so into the wilderness he went, armed with a machete and a few bottles of water.
On his first foray into the forest, Davis got close enough to hear the sound of rushing water, but the trees, shrubs and bushes were so dense he couldn't see the falls. A week later, he made his way to the top of the falls but didn't have time before nightfall to do more exploring.
When he returned to that spot the following week, he figured rappelling down the cliff would be the best way to get to the foot of the falls. That's what he and Salibi did the next week; discovering Bamboo Falls was a serendipitous bonus.
"We wound up with a lot of cuts and scrapes, but finding the falls was well worth the effort," Davis said. "I remember thinking, 'Awesome! Visitors are going to be blown away by these falls, and the hike down to them is going to add a real element of adventure to the tour.'"
It took two years for the two entrepreneurs to pursue and negotiate a lease with the landowner, and another six months for them and a few workers to map, mark, clear and carve out the trail. They launched the Discover Jungle Falls Tour in July 2002, and it has been Island Adventures' most popular offering ever since.
"It's a great option for many reasons," Davis said. "First, it combines a variety of outdoor activities. Also, the area guests explore not only is gorgeous, it's private; going on our tour is the only way visitors can get there. The best part for me is seeing our guests' reactions when they arrive at the waterfalls and realize they're going to be the only ones there. Now that's a true Island Adventure!"
COURTESY OF GREG HOXSIE
Island Adventures guide Sommer Kauakahi points out several Hollywood movie sites while on the job.
Cheryl Chee Tsutsumi is a Honolulu-based free-lance writer and Society of American Travel Writers award winner.