The island of Lehua is one of the neighboring land masses of the Niihau territory. Lehua is a tiny island that has a crescent shape to it and appears to be a remnant of an extinct volcano. There are no people living on the island itself, but today, it’s a sanctuary for seabirds and marine life of the region.
Lehua Island is one of the region’s hotspots for experiencing Hawaii’s underwater world. Today, it’s possible to do an all-day snorkeling excursion by boat. The Catamaran tour boat departs daily from Kauai island. Niihau Island can be seen in the background, as the perched pieces of land are not far from one another.
Interestingly, not too many years back, things changed and the Robinson family decided to allow a limited number of visitors to the island every year. Slowly but surely, the settler family began to allow tourists to head over to the once-forbidden island for them to explore and discover the fascinating features and culture of the region. Since there isn't a public ferry that gets across, the visitors have to take a helicopter.
The whole ordeal of going there is quite expensive, but the tourists who can afford it are allowed to roam the beaches freely and do light snorkeling in the seas around the island. According to Robinson, the limited tourism that they are doing is helping with the island's costs. For them, it's all about low-impact tourism, and by only allowing small groups to visit the island at a time, they are strictly engaging in low-impact tourism.
Last Place on Earth
Robinson has given a few hints of what may be expected if one decides to visit the island. According to him, the first thing that tourists notice is the peace and quiet on the beaches since there are no people on them. There are also barely any foottracks around the shores, just open, empty beaches.
Robinson believes that their family's island is truly unique in that one gets an inner sense of peace and renewal that isn't easily found in the outside world. For Robinson, the Western world and the other Hawaiian islands have lost this aspect, and Niihau is the only place in the world where one can find this rarity.
Due to the restricted access to the forbidden island, along with the decades-long efforts by the Robinsons to preserve the natural state of Niihau, the island's native heritage is still thriving today. You could say that this island has the healthiest biodiversity numbers for most species compared to its counterpart islands since there has been minimal impact from humans visiting there.
The island's animal and plant species that inhabited the land all those years back are still alive and thriving today. Nowadays, the family is focusing on protecting the native Hawaiian monk seals, otherwise known as 'llio-holo-i-ka-uaua' in the local language. Currently, the animal is considered endangered on the island.
"Dogs That Runs"
The monk seal's Hawaiian name translates to "dog that runs in rough water" in English. But sadly, it seems like some waters may be a little too rough for this animal, which is believed to be one of the most endangered seal species in the world.
In 2010, there were only about 150 seals in the Hawaiian area, of which around 87 were found in the Niihauan waters. It appears that Niihau is the best place for these mammals to live, which probably comes down to the fact that the islands have been kept in their natural state for as long as they have.