It's normally pretty hard to get me enthusing about a visit to a botanical garden, but today on the Big Island I had my most enjoyable horticultural experience in 12 years of cruising.
From Hilo, we drove about 20 minutes to the excellent Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden – a lush Garden of Eden wedged into a valley jam-packed with all kinds of exotic flora that plunges down into the ocean. The great thing about these botanic gardens is that they were obviously extremely well-planned and cared for, yet they still managed to feel like they were as nature intended.
This side of the island receives prodigious amounts of rain (although we were lucky enough not to get rained on during our visit), plus the volcanic soil is extremely fertile, which means that the foliage was dense with tropical plants from all around the globe. From prehistoric-looking ferns the size of a small house, to delicate orchids sprouting off trees; from super-size plants with leaves the size of a refrigerator, to colourful heliconia, the sheer variety on offer here was almost overwhelming.
If our time in the resorts of Oahu and Maui were proof that man can occasionally take Mother Nature for granted, then the Big Island is a perfect antidote to that. Here, it's the natural side of things that takes over – whether it's gardens or volcanoes – Mother Nature is the biggest force on the Big Island.
PS. Tracy did a hike around the awesome crater of the Kilauea Volcano, so we've included a couple of pictures of that too.