Migrating Naturalist: Sunset Drums

Each Sunday evening, a phenomenon occurs on the South side of Maui. A stream of vehicles trickle into the parking lot at Makena beach, and crowds of people of every age are seen climbing over the rocks, towards the area known as Little Beach. As you turn the final corner towards the water, the sound of drumming begins to drift through the warm air. Shapes of people splashing in the calm waves are visible in the half-light, and as you remove your slippers and feel the soft sand between your toes, you notice the crowd at the far end of the beach. Some of them are dancing, some are drumming, many have embraced the “clothing optional” status of Little Makena, but all have broad smiles across their faces.

This scene is not known to most that visit Maui, and may not be for everyone, but everyone is certainly welcome. Each week people both young and old, from nations worldwide, will gather on this beach to celebrate. They rejoice in the moment, they celebrate the week gone by, and thank the gift of another to come. It begins with a slow gathering, and as individuals bring in their drums one by one, a steady rhythm begins. Many will start to dance, and some will begin to sing or chant just as the sun sinks slowly below the horizon. Then, as darkness descends, a circle begins to form, and the fire dancing begins. It is a spectacle unlike most you will ever see, as men, women, and even children step forth to weave fire and air with their chosen instruments. Staffs, poi, hula hoops, lassos, and even hats are set afire and spun daringly into the electric night air, all to the steady drum pulse. And although the protection of Makena State Park necessitates that this celebration is brief, the positive and welcoming spirit of the evening is certain to leave a lasting impression.

My name is Diana, and for the past two years, I have been travelling between my naturalist position in Tofino with West Coast Aquatic Safaris, and my research intern position with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation. Throughout my second season with HWRF, I am writing regular blogs, describing my experiences on the water and here in Maui.

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