Protesters stall but don’t stop American Safari Cruises

| November 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Safari Explorer arrives at a pier on the Big Island recently where they received a traditional Hawaiian protocol welcome. Photo courtesy of Dan Blanchard


American Safari Cruises originally planned to dock its 145-foot yacht, the Safari Explorer, at the Kaunakakai Harbor on Saturday. Instead, the cruise company sailed in on Sunday out of respect for those protesting this new tourist venture.

“We held off one day at the request of the protesters,” said Capt. Dan Blanchard, CEO of Alaska-based ASC, during a recent phone interview. “We are trying to meet them halfway.”

For some local residents, a community meeting last Friday and ASC’s extensive efforts to build relationships with the Molokai community didn’t change their mind. A contingent of protesters waived signs on Sunday morning at the harbor asking the cruise ship to “Go Home!”

“I respect the protesters,” said Blanchard. “A couple of years ago I would have been out there with them too.”

At the meeting on Friday in Kaunakakai — which Blanchard feels “went well” — ASC presented what the cruise ship will do and “what we don’t do,” said Blanchard.

When the maximum of 36 passengers arrive every 7-10 days, what they won’t do is participate in beach landings, kayaking or any other potentially invasive activity. The plan is for the upscale yacht to sail 24 voyages between Maui/Lanai and the Big Island through May 2012.

“For the most part this is a cultural tour,” said Blanchard.

A typical visit will involve a landing at the harbor on Saturday followed by a tour of Halawa hosted by Lawrence Aki. He will guide the group to the moa’ula waterfall in Halawa Valley. Along the way, guests spend time with Aki and his family talking story, listening to the land and absorbing the spirit of the natural world and ancient cultural practices passed down through generations of native Hawaiians.

After spending the night on the ship, the group on Sunday will visit the western half of Molokai, seeing the Purdy Macadamia Nut Farm, the Molokai Plumeria Farm and finishing with a traditional pa’ina at the Molokai Museum and Cultural Center, featuring local cuisine including fresh fish and poi, seaweed, Molokai sweet potatoes and pork from the imu. Local musicians will join in the celebration along with a kumu hula dancer. ASC is working with Kumu Farms, Coffees of Hawaii, Permaculture farmers, and the Livestock Cooperative to supply local items.

Blanchard compares it to an Elderhostel tour where senior citizens visit a place in order to learn about and be immersed in the local culture. “We will learn about invasive species and other local concerns,” he said. “The main thing is the spirit and the culture.”

Blanchard and his wife have been visiting Molokai since 2005 developing relationships with local residents and businesses. “Introducing our guests to the traditional culture and history of the Hawaiian Islands is a key component of the trip and crucial to our philosophy of authentic travel.”

A Hawaiian blessing for the yacht and crew took place on Oct. 25 on Molokai. Hawaiian cultural advisors from Maui, Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island were invited to attend. The blessing celebrated the beginning of operations in Hawaii. Traditional Hawaiian protocols are also being arranged at each island to ask permission for entry.

A failure to follow Molokai protocols, in the opinion of members of the ‘Aha Ki’ole, was the cause for the protest. Blanchard said he is in conversation with local activist Walter Ritte and ‘Aha Ki’ole moku representative Mervin Dudoit to make sure that all future activities are truly pono.

“We followed the protocol that we knew at the time,” said Blanchard. The problem, said Blanchard is that, “they (‘Aha Ki’ole) felt they weren’t brought in on it.”

Blanchard said that as he entered into various conversations with Molokai locals, there was “not an absolutely identifiable protocol … It is not our intent to hoodwink anyone.”

Blanchard met with the Molokai Chamber of Commerce and Lawrence Aki as far back as 2005. Blanchard said he respects the desire of the ‘Aha Ki’ole group to maintain local control over the type and quantity of visitor coming to Molokai.

“We are waiting to hear back from Merv and Walter about meetings,” said Blanchard. “We are hoping that next week or the following there will be meetings. We will let the dust settle and we will come back and talk. We are always willing to come back.”

And what if future meetings turn negative? “If the community doesn’t want us we will reconsider,” said Blanchard.

Blanchard emphasized that ASC will continue to be sensitive to local desires. For example, the company had originally planned to visit areas along the North Shore as well as Hale O Lono Harbor. When he learned the history, sacredness and local connections to these places, the plans were quickly withdrawn.

Besides the questions about protocol, Blanchard said the only other concerns raised on Friday involved “opening Pandora’s Box” for future visitors and the potential impact on local real estate. Given the limitations of Kaunakakai Harbor and the feeling of the local residents, Blanchard does not believe his tours will be followed by “1,000-foot cruise ships.”

He also does not feel his passengers will snatch up prime real estate on Molokai after visiting the island. Most of the tour guests are folks in their 60’s and 70’s who already have retirement homes elsewhere.

“There are still things that need to be worked out,” said Blanchard. “We will meet soon with groups that have concerns. But so far the outpouring of support has been tremendous.”

A second protest against American Safari Cruises is planned for Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Kaunakakakai Wharf starting at 6 a.m.

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  1. mkklolo says:

    Dan needs to learn the lesson of some who have come before…you must pay homage and tribute to the capo. “Protection” is not a unique Hawaiian custom. It is as old as the first bully and the first gangs.

    • Finding the Balance says:

      But Dan did as instructed by Molokai Kupuna and follow protocol that they knew right. I just think that somehow no one really knows the correct protocol for the island.

      Do new airlines have to have a community meeting when coming to the island. Did Island Air, Mokulele, Pacific Wings and all the other private charter companies call community meetings? Did the ferry call for a community meeting when bringing visitors to the island? Did any of the groups that come to Molokai on a regular basis call a community meeting if it is OK to come or not? Did Alamo or National call a community meeting as they mainly cater to the visitors?

      Did any of the stores that opened up in town call for community meetings if it is Ok to sell their goods to visitors.

      Community meetings may be good for certain topics that have a negative impact to the entire island but come on this is not a cruise ship, this is a yacht that carries 36 persons.

      Perhaps those that are opposed to this boat should perhaps do their own research and wonder why there is so much support for this yacht and stop the bullying and threatening remarks to those that are trying to sustain a lifestyle that does not depend on welfare, grants, government money etc etc..

      • KEEPING THE PEACE says:

        The way to “FIND THE BALANCE” is not to start knit picking how many business there are on Moloka’i that opened “without a community meeting”. Obviously there is no requirement for businesses to hold meetings inorder to open up shop. BUT…
        Finding balance in a community that historically has opposed any ship remotely involved with the word “cruise” will be a difficult process when a handful of people, kupuna included, that begin a process,that they know the community would PROBABLY be against. Then, wait a few years and hana hou. In the words of one of that “handful” and I quote…. ” we tried this in the past and the community saw it as a cruise ship. This time, WE decided not to tell the community…” Where is the balance. Where is the trust. Please… lets talk about balance, not lies, greed ! This ship will do NOTHING for the economic stability for Moloka’i except leave a few dollars for postcards and refrigerator maganets !! Congratulations…. This little “Hui” as they call themselves, may very well have introduced our children to the beginging to the end of Moloka’i as they know it ! And, yes much larger ships can come…They don’t dock AT the pier. they park outside and tender in just like they do in Kona. So there is a REAL possibility of larger vessels coming to Molokai in the very near future.
        Mahalo nui loa

  2. steve says:

    the dispatch has a load of the usual back and forth, tired of that.

    my take is that the good people of molokai have spoken- only 25 of them showed up to protest.

    had i been on that sailing, i’d have thought the protest quaint…at best.

    and a big shaka to lawrence for taking the opportunity to share his knowledge.

    • Finding the Balance says:

      and so true is that…

    • To Keeping the Peace….. We all have a right too make a ilving on this island. I have fought many battles on this island. Economic times have changed and people in our community have choice to want to work or not! Cruise ships of 3000 or more is a big NO! Do you have a plan to creating jobs for people on this island? These local small business are trying to stay afloat to take care of their families. Do not take food off their tables. This small boat of 36 people is nothing.Unless you have a plan to employ people in our community I would be quiet.This new business is good fro Molokai and I hope more people will come out and support the visitors and economic development which we desperately need to support our families on Molokai…… Mahalo

      • Finding the Balance says:

        To Keeping the Peace….we are all trying to do what is right…but wait…the Ferry’s name is Called: “The Lahaina Cruise Company”…Shall we start protesting the ferry because they call themselves a cruise company…….who knows they may start bringing in cruise ships as they put in cruise to their name like their parent company….and by the way I love most of the protestors as they have been involved in mine and my children’s life since before and when they were all born…But the issue here is where is the balance…and by a minimal few of protestors starting to targeting businesses is not the way to find peace..to point fingers and blame is not to find peace….To all those kupuna that want to cry when they hear the words from people protesting…to all the kupuna that want to hang their heads in shame…

        I know that many of the protestors are more mad at the fact at the protocol and not about the yacht coming to the shores…36 people is no where close to a cruise ship..More people fly in on a daily basis or come in by ferry and have no clue on the culture of the island…This boat brings education to the people…….Protocol was never really established and perhaps now is the time to formulate a protocol that we can all go by…

        Finding the Peace please help enlighten us on your occupation and if you have to worry about keeping a roof over your children’s head and food on the table…

        Perhaps if we can all come together as a community and figure where the money is coming in from that keeps State and county programs, and stores alive..You might be surprised..

        I do believe that we can find a solution as a community but every one has to take a step back and look at the BIG picture and find the balance when it comes to commerce in our community..

  3. Finding the Balance says:

    Finding the Balance

    If we ask the group of protesters to form a group and then ask some one to facilitate the following task, how many would be left standing?
    *Please all of those collecting grants which by the way the working people contribute taxes to these grants to step to the side
    * Please all of those collecting some kind of government help whether it is federal or state, which also means food stamps, help with housing, WIC, etc etc step to the side
    * Please all of those working for the State or Federal agencies/schools step to the side.
    * Please all of those that are retired and do not have to worry about making a living step to the side.
    * Please all of those that are depending on others to pay their bill step to the side.
    How many do you think would be left standing in front of the facilitator?
    My guess it would be ZERO…

    So the question that I have is then why is it that 36 visitors with a company that has been talking with community members/businesses for the past 6 years should be classified under cruise ships.

    I thought cruise ships were 800-2000 people, and no way can Molokai even come close to accepting cruise ships because of the infrastructure..
    How many days a week can a boat seriously dock at our harbor when you have to take in account the barge, gas barge and other community activities. MINIMAL…

    So in my mind this can only be a good thing for the community when a company such as this only goes places where cruise ships don’t go..
    Don’t you think that because this company is looking for cultural and enriching experiences for their guests, that they too would be fighting off the cruise ships..

    This is not about cruise ships as was tried once before…this is about our economy and helping small businesses survive on this island.
    Can you count on how many businesses went under this year? It’s scary..

    So why are these people protesting?
    Let us go back to how many people had to step aside?

    I am baffled about all of this despite hearing all the meetings both pro and against..I am baffled that not one person from the against the boat can realistically say they knew nothing about this.
    Please help enlighten me as some how we need to find the balance on our island. We need to find clear communication between the different groups. As some how the communication got muddled and opposition only mounted a week prior. From what I understand there were many opportunities to talk and discuss this months and even years ago but the confusion came about of what the right protocol is to the island.

    I am baffled when I see respectable Hawaiian people on both sides of the fence. I am baffled on why and how communication broke down between these people.

    But the bottom line is we need to find the balance and perhaps this group of protestors could for just a moment feel for the real working people that are trying to keep a roof over their families heads and not be living off the system.

  4. Kawailelemakalani_M says:

    Is the yacht really a bad thing? It’s Makahiki people…

    Okay there’s been talk about how the yacht is a bad thing but really its not. I would like to know one person who doesn’t lives on welfare or have a state or county job, or get grant money that is not a protester,

    There are many people on Molokai that depend on visitors…..
    Oh bye the way is it not Makahiki time? Is Makahiki supposed to represent peace… So why is war being declared with these protests during Makahiki time? What are we being taught at school about Makahiki? Perhaps we should be discussing in our class rooms more about why Makahiki is in place.

    I AM CONFUSED AS I AM TAUGHT MAKAHIKI IS PEACE BUT ALL THESE AUNTIES AND UNCLES SEEM TO BE DECLARING WAR..Help enlighted this young 11 year old Hawaiian Language student who is in the Hawaiian Immersion class of Kula Kaiapuni on Molokai..Now after reading this I want to know who is against the yacht and why the protests.. 😉
    This is my big question..

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