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From Fishing Village to Jungle to Bioreserve

In the early 1800's, Onomea Bay was a fishing village called Kahali'i. Besides fishing, villagers grew coconuts, mangos, and other crops. Over time the bay grew to be a port for sailing ships bringing construction materials needed to build the Onomea Sugar Mill and then later, transporting the raw sugar for export. By the early 1900's, the sugar industry in Onomea was no more. As people left, the area became overgrown and turned into an impenetrable jungle.

Then came Californian Dan Lutkenhouse who, in 1977, retired from the trucking business and moved to Hawai'i. He purchased 17 acres around Onomea Bay. Gradually he and his wife Pauline transformed the jungle into a tropical garden. By 1984, Hawai'i Tropical Garden & Bioreserve opened to the public. (

The Lutkenhouse's collected 2,500 species from tropical and subtropical locations around the world. Today, many of those plants exist only in the Bioreserve. The garden is dense and lush. It was a dramatic change for me because for the past six days I've been looking at lava on the dry Kona side of the island. The Hilo side is rainy. I was lucky to visit the gardens when it wasn't raining.

I saw flowers, trees, ferns, vines of every variety. The variety of orchids was particularly impressive, as were the many plants with multicolored or variegated leaves. These images are just a few of the many wonderful things I saw. (Double-click an image to see a larger version, or to view the images as a slideshow.)

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