Story by Kyle Ellison | Photo by Nina Lee
The new Kapalua Coastal Trail winds for 1.76 miles along Maui’s northwest coast. When completed, the trail will extend 3.5 miles, all the way to Honolua Bay. The scenery is stunning enough to lose oneself in.
But stay on the path. The trail runs past the island’s largest known nesting colony of wedge-tailed shearwaters, or ‘u‘au kani. Ground-burrowing birds that spend most of their life at sea, the colony is protected by the Maui Coastal Land Trust and by Kapalua Resort, which monitors traps for feral cats and mongooses that prey on shearwater chicks. The resort is also restoring an undergrowth of native plants to help keep predators—and errant joggers—away from the nesting burrows. It’s work that began nearly a decade ago, with retired Maui Land & Pineapple worker Isao Nakagawa.
“Every time I wen’ fish, I seen these big, beautiful birds dead on the trail,” says Nakagawa. “One day I wen’ see twenty-two birds on the ground. I knew something had to be done.”
That “something” was contacting Dr. Fern Duvall of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, who worked with Nakagawa to set traps. Before Kapalua stepped in three years ago, Nakagawa monitored the traps daily and helped band fledgling shearwaters. He’s seen the colony grow from 6 birds in 2001, to more than 250 juveniles banded at the site in 2009.