Categorized | Environment, Featured

Turtle Independence Day at the Mauna Lani Bay

Kumu Larry Ursua lowers a turtle into the ocean in what likely will be its last photo opportunity. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Seven young green sea turtles swam to freedom Sunday from the beach fronting the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows.

The 21st annual Turtle Independence Day celebrated releasing the honu, which were born at Sea Life Park Hawaii on Oahu and raised for two years at the saltwater ponds on the resort’s property.

The celebration drew an estimated 700 people, who watched as the procession moved  the ponds to the beach and the turtles were honored with a traditional Hawaiian ceremony.

A young honu is ferried to the water by keiki volunteers. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Kumu Larry Ursua and his Halua Kupaaina opened the festivities, followed by remarks from Sen. Daniel Akaka and George Balazs, leader of NOAA’s Marine Turtle Research Program.

Then, invited guests ushered the honu to the water’s edge and they were released into the wild.

Most honu were more than happy to be released into the crystal clear blue ocean, however a couple appeared to prefer the luxurious confines of the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and had to be coaxed into independence.

Getting ready to go. (Hawaii 24/7 photo courtesy of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows)

Over the years, Mauna Lani has released 206 honu and remains committed to preserving Hawaii’s resources, environment and culture.

This year, the lightest honu was around 17 pounds and the heaviest around 24 pounds. Adults grow to measure more than three feet in length and can weigh up to 450 pounds, although their life span is not yet known.

The green sea turtle is a threatened species and is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

One last wave good-bye. (Hawaii 24/7 Photo courtesy of the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows)

This year’s invited releasers included Parker School headmaster Carl Sturges, author Sophie Uliano and her daughter Lola, and long-time Mauna Lani guests.

The names of the honu were:

* Hoaliona, or omen
* Kahiwahiwa, or precious, beloved, favorite
* Moeuhane, or dream
* Opio, or youth
* Panana, or compass, pilot
* Malaee, or clear, calm, serene
* Kulewa, or moving slowing through space (as clouds)

— Find out more:
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows: www.maunalani.com
Sea Life Park Hawaii: www.sealifeparkhawaii.com

Halau Kupaaina. (Hawaii 24/7 photo courtesy of Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows)

2 Responses to “Turtle Independence Day at the Mauna Lani Bay”

  1. Guest says:

    Beautiful !!! The Honu are so blessed to have ppl who do so much! I Miss Home!!! :(

  2. Roger Myers says:

    We attended our first, (and last) honu releasing event a few years ago. We were in shock as to the handling of the honu upon their release. As they were carried to the water in the net, I assumed that the net would be submerged, allowing the honu to swim out. When one of the “dignitaries” picked it out of the net and held it above his head while the honu was flapping it’s fins, I could not believe what I was seeing.
    The “warning signs” that are posted around some beaches and what we witnessed at the “release ceremony” are quite different.
    In a letter to WHT a visitor voiced concern that she has seen people disturbing the honu at beaches. Apparently though, after viewing your release day ,it is ok to pick them up and spin around while they flap and shake?

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