It only seems like yesterday that they built a boardwalk across the Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge, in between Ma’alaea and north Kihei, but it has been there for three years this month. It only took me two and a half years to check it out with my boys and discovered it is a cool place to take them with their binoculars and play, ‘bird spotting’.
Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge is 691 acres of wetlands. According to the great source in the computer sky, Wikipedia, Kealia Pond “was once an ancient fishpond that supplied water from the Waikapu Stream in the West Maui Mountains and Kolaloa Gulch originating from Haleakalā. Native Hawaiians may have raised Awa (milkfish, Chanos chanos) and Ama’ama (flathead mullet, Mugil cephalus) using a system of ditches and sluice gates to let nearby fish from Ma’alaea Beach into the pond.”
Today it is home to two of Hawaii’s native and endangered waterbirds, the Hawaiian Coot (alae ke’oke’o) and Hawaiian Stilt (ae’o). The pond also supports a diverse number of migratory birds from late summer (August) to early spring (April). This season would be a cool time to check it out as it is one of the most important areas in the state for these migratory waterbirds, that include Mallards, Scaups, Wigeons, and other duck species. The Pacific Golden Plover also migrates 2,000 miles from Alaska, to join his friends the Tattler, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Osprey, Snowy Egret and Ruddy Turnstone. If you want to make it into a project you could google and print out the pictures of these birds to take with you and then make the adventure into a game of spot the bird. There is also informational signs along the way if you are not that prepared.
Now if bird spotting isn’t your thing, I fully recommend watching, ‘The big year’ starring Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin. This is a funny movie about bird enthusiasts living in the cutthroat world of a year-long bird-spotting competition, which actually occurs every year. This will make it a lot more enjoyable for you, as you may be more excited about all the beautiful and rare birds you are seeing.
It does get hot during the day so it is better to be a morning or mid afternoon activity, and remember to take water for the kids and sunscreen and hats, if they keep them on. Incase you get too hot, bring the beach gear as you can always check out the beach that runs parallel and has access to the boardwalk. This beach also boasts to be one of the only sites on Maui that is a nesting ground for the endangered hawksbill turtle.
It is a free activity and you get there by driving from the Ma’aleae end on North Kihei Road (Route 31). If you are coming from Kihei, you have to pass the boardwalk and come back from the other direction. It is open 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Mon – Fri. But you can call 808-875-1582 or check out their website for more information.
Image Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services – Kealia Pond