Hawaiian Monk Seal Encounter

A secret Kauai beach shelters humans and endangered species, both seeking seclusion.

Another beautiful day on Kauai’s north shore, in Kilauea town, and I wonder if you can ever get tired of perfection. A friend is taking Dan and I down a secret path to Secrets Beach. Secrets is known to be a place where nude sunbathing abounds because of its isolated location. As we gingerly make our way down the sheer cliff, conveniently paved with stairs, we hit the beach and find we are alone.

I look down a good half mile stretch of white sandy beach and rest my eyes on the lighthouse, a hopeful symbol perched on a peninsula. We walk along the shore, our feet grateful for the cool water.The pristine blue ocean is agitated by huge pounding surf and water rushes up the shore drenching us to our thighs. We run and play along the beach like children, laughing. Dan and I are in awe as we come upon a sleeping monk seal.

Hawaiian Monk Seals are an endangered species, the second most endangered seal in the world, a total of 1200 are thought to live in the Hawaiian Archipelago chain. These seals are considered prehistoric, as they have been living in the islands for millions of years. Kauai is a favorite island of these seals, I have seen them napping on the beach three times in the six months that I’ve lived here. The seals beach themselves to rest, conserving their energy to hunt and reproduce.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the seals are very sensitive to human disturbance and become agitated and sometimes aggressive if disturbed. Wanting to see evidence of life or maybe connect with something wild, people have been known to make loud noises, throw things at them, and have even been known to put their children on them for a photo! A mother seal may bite people and abandon her pup if she is disturbed.

If you come across a beached Hawaiian Monk Seal, please consider all of its struggles: threat of extinction, lack of food, entanglement in marine debris, shark attacks, infectious diseases, habitat loss, and fishery interactions. Admire from a distance of 150 feet, and please, don’t add to their problems..

Posted by: Bruce Fisher