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Staying out under the stars has new meaning in Hawai'i. Moloka'i Ranch has created upscale shelters on decks, perched on Maunaloa (the Long Mountain of Moloka'i), which offers clear skies and excellent stargazing. Enjoy dark, starry nights away from city lights and see Hokulea, the Polynesian navigation star that guided voyagers to the discovery of the Hawaiian Islands.

Moloka'i Ranch accommodations are sophisticated tents and yurts where adventurers overnight. All meals and many activities are included in Moloka'i Ranch packages, including mountain biking, hiking, snorkeling, and visiting the wildlife preserve, complete with giraffe and zebra. Take in nature and cultural educational sessions. Other exciting adventures are available for an extra fee, including horseback riding, Zodiac rafting, sailing, seasonal whale watching and the famous Moloka'i Mule Ride to Kalaupapa Peninsula. Staying at Moloka'i Ranch is an exclusive experience, as its 53,600-acres becomes the private playground for ranch guests.

The accommodations are comfortable, with queen beds and screened openings. A solar system brings you warm showers and soft lighting. A round table on the deck becomes the setting to enjoy the Hawaiian custom of "talk story" with your companions. Groups, individuals and couples enjoy the cuisine of the Moloka'i Ranch Chef Cameron Hiro, served under deer antler chandeliers in one of the ranch pavilions.

The fare can include hearty ribs, range fed beef, chicken and Hawaiian fish for dinner. Breakfast may consist of ranch style eggs, cereals, pancakes, fruits and juices. There is always home baked bread and special vegetarian meals can be prepared.

Night time sounds of Moloka'i Ranch include some calls of the wild. You may hear the cry of an axis buck, or the rustle of an axis doe foraging in the distance. After a good night's sleep in the clean Hawaiian air, native birds sing to the beautiful dawn rising over Maunaloa. As you look toward the sea, the ranchh wildflowers may be in bloom, the cattle will be stirring, and the ocean will be a bright blue, as the ranch invites each guest to enjoy a full day of exploration.

The people of Moloka'i Ranch, many of them from several generations of families working there, are happy to share their natural hospitality. They live on an island without one stop light, where people are used to caring for one another.

They all love to share their stories, their legends of old Hawai'i and their knowledge of nature. That is why they call Moloka'i "The Most Hawaiian Island" and "Friendly Isle."

Lyle Otsuka, who grew up on Moloka'i, recently returned to become the vice president and general manager of Moloka'i's new lodging and recreation division. He oversees the day-to-day operations of The Great Moloka'i Ranch Trail, which links the network of outdoor activities with the series of campsites.

Raised in Ho'olehua, on Hawaiian Homestead lands on Moloka'i, Lyle says he is excited to be back home. "The ranch's camping and recreation program allows people to experience Moloka'i in a way that is in balance with the environment. " He says that in addition to providing visitors with the local knowledge of his staff, the program is providing much needed jobs on the islands that take advantage of the local skills.

For example, the Moloka'i Ranch Outfitters are prepared to take visitors into the outback on horseback adventures. In the Paniolo Roundup they learn Hawaiian cowboy skills, such as herding and sorting cattle, in the ranch's own arena. The Paniolo Trail Adventure includes a warm up in the arena and a ride on the range, climbing a mountainous trail to incredible overlooks onto the Pacific Ocean and other Hawaiian islands. The guides at Moloka'i Outfitters have an abundance of ocean skills and take visitors snorkeling, outrigger canoe paddling and sailing, whale and dolphin watching and Zodiac rafting to remote beaches. Special fishing expeditions can also be arranged.

Hikers can walk or cyclists can ride top-of-the-line mountain bikes, pedaling their way through the countryside either alone or on a guided tour.

Moloka'i Ranch has created its accommodations and offerings for singles and small parties, couples and large groups, even corporate groups who want to get away from the glitter of resort life for conferencing and strategic planning. Thecost of accommodations includes all meals and many activities. Groups can tailor-make their adventure.

For more information, call Moloka'i Ranch Outfitters Center, 808-552-2791; toll free, 1-800-254-8871. Write to Moloka'i Ranch Outfitters Center, P.O. Box 259 Maunaloa, HI 96770.


 

Talk Story with Uncle Bill of Moloka'i Ranch

Everyone knows Billy Buchanan as "Uncle Billy." He is everyone's uncle as he rides the fences of Moloka'i Ranch and ponders the future of the ranch and the people of Moloka'i.

"We are fortunate the ranch is open to visitors and hires our local people to share their special knowledge and aloha with the world," he says. "The hundred-year old ranch has been in cattle for many years, but is expanding to include campsites on the Maunaloa mountainside, and down towards the longest sandy beaches in Hawai'i.

"To share this 'aina-the land with our visitors, who better to show the spirit, beauty and history of our land and culture than Moloka'i's own Hawaiian people?" Uncle Billy asks.

Moloka'i Ranch has a program to train young people to guide ranch visitors. Uncle Billy plays a large part in matching the talents of Moloka'i residents with opportunities at the ranch, since he knows almost everyone on Moloka'i and cares about each one of them being appreciated and developing their gifts.

Some are excellent story tellers and become entertaining guides for the Wildlife Safari, horseback riding and crossing the ranch to the ocean in four-wheel drive vehicles. Others have excellent water skills and are training as ocean guides for whalewatching, snorkeling, kayaking and outrigger sailing. Some are great entertainers or burgeoning chefs of Hawaiian cuisine. Still others are cattle and horse wranglers - important to the ranch's Paiolo programs.

Uncle Billy knows and encourages them all to stay on Moloka'i, to "spread the aloha of the island to people from everywhere so that Moloka'i, too, will be widely appreciated."