The lure of the Hawaiian Islands was never stronger than when Patty was nine years old. Her grade five teacher returned from Christmas vacation with slides and stories from her Hawaii trip, and one awe-struck little girl was hooked. So began a childhood obsession with travel advertisements and brochures. In those days – long before we could click our way to information – Patty filled out those little forms that were invariably included in travel advertising. In due course the brochures and posters arrived, and Patty began her collection – all the while creating a kind of childhood bucket list. These days, as we move ever closer to those retirement years (a few years yet, though), together we’ve created our own list of places to go and things to do. Hawaii was on Patty’s early bucket list – and seeing the islands by helicopter was on our current one. Check off Kaua’i by helicopter!
This was our second trip to Hawaii. The first one was some fifteen years ago when we whisked ourselves and our then eight-year-old son Ian off to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. Oahu (Waikiki and Honolulu) and Maui were our destinations then – Oahu, Kaua’i and the ‘Big Island’ (Hawaii) were on the agenda this year.
When you head to the islands, you usually have some things that are must-do’s on the list. Fifteen years ago a luau was on the list (we accomplished that and found our little family threesome to be the only ones not on their honeymoons at a table of some 20 or so revelers that evening!). As more seasoned and discerning travelers at this point in our lives, we decided to forego the pig roast this time in favor of a few other delights – among them was the desire to do Kaua’i and the Big Island by helicopter.
Art has been in the offshore medical business for almost thirty (!) years at this stage. That means that over the years he has been required to undergo helicopter-ditching training. Among other things, this involves being strapped into a chopper’s seat while the training cockpit simulates an emergency landing on water. The general course of events in that kind of scenario is that when the blades touch the water, the helicopter flips so that the passengers are now under water. The situation is simulated in the training, but the water is very real. Art was actually required to be able to unfasten a seatbelt and shoulder harness and push open a window while the cockpit rapidly filled with dark, murky water, and then swim to the surface. It would be enough to make most people run screaming from offshore activities all together. But he didn’t, although he never did have to put this part of the training to use (thankfully). He did have occasion to fly in choppers to remote locations, however. Patty on the other hand, had never set foot inside a chopper. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters was to provide her with her first experience.
Like a well-oiled machine (pun intended), the Blue Hawaiian folks have their system down to a science. For us it started with buying the tickets (yes, it’s expensive) through the hotel’s concierge who asked us our weights. “They need it to calculate fuel etc.,” said the concierge. “Then they’ll weigh you again when you get there. It’ll flash up on a screen…” What horror!
She laughed and told us that she was joking. But when we arrived at the Blue Hawaiian office a few days later, they did, indeed, weigh each of us. It did not, however, flash up anywhere much to everyone’s relief. We’re an odd bunch about our weight, aren’t we? It’s a bit like asking someone how much money he or she makes – but we digress.
The weights were used to determine total weight for the individual choppers and the seating arrangements so that weight could be distributed.
We chose the bigger and nicer of the two types of choppers they offered. We flew in an Eco-Star that takes a pilot and six passengers with individual seats rather than bench seating. After the weigh-in, we watched a safety video and were then helped with our inflatable life vests that we were required to wear around our waists. Then, we were off to board the helicopter.
In Kaua’i (the office is in Lihue) we were loaded into a van and driven the five minutes to the airport where we awaited the return of the helicopters and were assigned our numbers. We would board without the helicopters even turning off their rotors and we each needed to be in the right place for boarding. We followed the instructions and were off.
The Blue Hawaiian pilot was extremely capable and personable as he expertly lifted the chopper from its pad and began his narration of the tour. It was clear that he loved his job and we were the happy beneficiaries.
They call Kauai the ‘garden isle’ and as you soar above the magnificent Napali Coast the reasons are clear: breathtaking mountains, verdant valleys, awe-inspiring waterfalls. There really is no other way to get any real sense of the island.
If you have five minutes, join us on our tour…