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Fairmont Kea Lani Plants The Seeds For Future Growth

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Voluntourism is alive and well at the Fairmont Kea Lani luxury resort on Maui.

In fact, I recently had the pleasure of a “Malama Maui” experience on the resort grounds – and it was firmly rooted in aloha!

Fred Rindlisbacher is the hotel’s landscape manager and I met with him to perform some fascinating “green” duties on the grounds, as part of my visit. “We want to give back to the community,” Mr. Rindlisbacher told me. “And we want to make sure it’s a green initiative – the Kea Lani is very active in reducing its carbon footprint.” He says that the program’s formal name is “Rooted in Aloha: A Reforestation Initiative.”

Mr. Rindlisbacher is a walking encyclopedia of all-things-botany, and, while standing on the meticulously landscaped grass at the front of the hotel, he gave me a quick history lesson.

As it turns out, he said the loulu palm and the ohia used to be the two most prevalent trees in Hawaii, historically, while koa trees made up a larger part of the landscape. He told me that the koa tree, which has sicle-like leaves, used to populate the area in Kula, up the mountain. It’s a “nitrogen fixer,” he explained, as the tree puts more nitrogen in the soil from drawing it out of the air. But, King Kamehameha allowed the sandalwood (‘iliahi) trees to be harvested and sold, many years ago, “And it changed the environment in a bad way,” he explained.

So what does the Kea Lani do? It retrieved the koa seeds from Kula, and then hotel guests can plant them in pots – before they are replanted every quarter “to re-forest the slopes of Haleakala,” he said with a big smile.

I “scarified” a seed, so that the water could enter it better, and put the seed in a dibble. It was then brought to the greenhouse and watered. Six months later, “The seeds will go home to Kula,” he added. “It’s our way of giving back and making the world a better place….And we have fun.”

Sounds wonderful, right? It certainly is. Here is a bit more about the Malama Maui program. In fact, here is some information I took from the website.

The Hawaiian Islands’ itinerary that can change your life isn’t found in any guidebooks. Because what makes the Hawaiian Islands truly special is not only the island’s stunning natural beauty or our vibrant culture - it’s the deeply rooted relationship that connects them.

That relationship between people and place grows stronger every time you malama (give back). When you give back - to the land, the ocean, the wildlife, the forest, the fishpond, the community - you’re part of a virtuous circle that enriches everything and everyone. Including your experience as a visitor.

Several organizations offer opportunities for visitors to pay it forward, like beach clean-ups, native tree planting, and more. When you engage in some of these volunteer opportunities you will, in exchange, experience Hawaii on a much deeper and connected level. Through the Malama Hawaii Program, you could also qualify for a special discount or even a free night from a participating hotel when taking part in in its dedicated volunteer activity.

“Rooted in Aloha” is a reforestation initiative created by Fairmont Kea Lani in partnership with Skyline Conservation. Its goal is to aid in the restoration the native forests on the slopes of Haleakalā and help to provide education about Hawaii’s precious eco-system to island guests. This visitor supported conservation program provides an opportunity for people to directly support the restoration of Maui’s damaged eco-systems, assisting in regenerating important watershed resources, and helping to provide habitat for Maui’s endangered forest birds and insects

Visitors to the island of Maui can make a donation that will be directly applied to planting native trees, which will assure establishment and expansion of native habitats for future generations.

Said Mr. Rindlisbacher with a giant, happy smile: “Who else gets to play with plants in Hawaii all day long?”

Make sure to pack your green thumb!

For more about my Wanderlust Travels, please Follow me on Instagram at @DebbiKickham.

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