Story by John Giordani | Photography by Ben Ferrari
With a tight grip on the string of the bow, my target in sight, I let the arrow fly and it pierces the leathery hide of a dinosaur. I haven’t travelled back in time, nor am I dreaming. My prehistoric prey is right here on Lāna‘i. Let me back up to this morning and explain.
When it comes to adventure, I keep my thrills low-maintenance — slow and quiet. Yet here I am in a souped-up, roll-caged 4×4 that resembles something out of a Mad Max road race. Fast and loud, the Polaris RZR XP1000 is a 107-horse powerhouse. This off-road tour, one of the latest offerings from Four Season’s Lāna‘i, entices hotel guests to experience something beyond mai tais by the pool. Luckily for me, the resort offers it to day-trippers too.
The 9 a.m. Expeditions ferry from Lahaina Harbor got me and photographer Ben Ferrari to Lāna‘i in plenty of time for the 12:30 p.m. tour. Taking my notion of adventure further (literally across the Au‘au Channel) seemed like a good way to reset my senses. After a fifteen-minute ride up from the harbor along picturesque, Cook-pine-lined Mānele Road, we reached the middle of Pālāwai Basin. Until 1993 this vast, flat landscape produced row upon row of pineapple; it’s now filled with opportunistic greenery thanks to a wet winter. An enormous bench of earth called Hi‘i (to cradle) rises in the northeast, dotted with more pines along its ridge.
We’re greeted by our guide Alan Amby — born and raised on Lāna‘i and fresh out of college on O‘ahu. I’m about to learn that his friendly, youthful smile belies an inner daredevil. He reviews the Polaris’s safety features, then outfits Ben and me with heavy-duty helmets that double the circumference of our heads. I squeeze into the back seat so Ben can get the best angle of the road — and off we go, with the engine roaring and foliage whizzing by. Looking up, I see a whirl of treetops, and a wonderful feeling of disorientation ensues. Or is that dizziness?
Alan proves to be an informative guide. On scenic stops he gives an overview of the island’s natural history. Centuries of four-legged grazers — goats, cattle and deer — wiped out the vegetation on Lāna‘i until few trees were left standing. Alan describes how the plantation planted those aforementioned Cook pines and eucalyptus trees to help draw rain and mist to restore the soil and nurture a fertile understory. Unfortunately, the eucalyptus turned out to be invasive; its fast-growing and self-propagating characteristics keep the forest from achieving greater biodiversity. I breathe in the minty air and think, it’s hard to hate a tree with built-in aromatherapy.