Basking Data

2024 January-April, YE 2023 & Historical Basking Data

2024 January-April -- Basking Narrative

In January, we had 30 basking occurrences (last year 28), in February we had 37 basking occurrences (last year 50), in March we came back up and had 68 basking occurrences (exactly the same as 2023), but in April, a month that many times has launched us toward stellar years of numbers of turtles hauling out onto the beach, GREATLY disappointed by falling far short of last year’s total by fully 50 basking appearances (2023 saw 109 v. 59 last month) by our treasured `Ohana! That was the lowest number of basking occurrences in April since 2017 AND that total was a harbinger of the lowest number (507) we have ever experienced in a calendar year!  While the year of 2023 showed an increase of 11.7% in turtles that came out at Laniakea, getting us well above the 700 mark (which we missed in 2022), with 771 turtles hauling out onto the sand, we’re 61 appearances behind last year at this point with some serious questions out there.  Through April, Maka Nui has NOT basked at all in 2024, Makana (recently one of our TOP baskers) has not been seen since January and Kaipua was a “no-show” through March.    

Undeniably, basking at Laniakea has fluctuated over the years that we have kept records.  From 2009 through 2013 we averaged over 1,000 (actually 1,066) basking occurrences per calendar year, with our high mark in 2011 of 1,239 occasions when a turtle hauled out.  The next 5 years (2014 through 2018) saw a significant decline, with the “average” dropping to 620 and a “low mark” of 507 total appearances in 2017.  That huge and sudden drop in basking at Laniakea (42%!) can be accounted for in LARGE part to the disappearances of Brutus in 2014 (normally basked 200 or more times per year) and Kuhina in 2015 (normally basked over 100 times per year).  It is rare that any turtle today basks 100 times or more in a single year, though Makana eclipsed the mark in 2022 with 106, Kulihi got there also in 2022 with 102 and JP just missed last year coming out on 98 different days.

January saw 15 empty beach days (almost half), February saw 9 of its days without a Honu, March was honu-less for 7 days in 2024 and April was without a turtle on the beach on 5 different days.  That empty beach total was 36 over 4 months, 9 more than was experienced in 2023.

During January there were 9 different named turtles that came ashore at least once, February saw only 7 different ones come out of the water, March saw 10 named turtles exit the water and April got to 12. Every month last year saw more different turtles come ashore (10-11-15-15) during this period.  Details on this later.

Our “top” basker over all 4 months was JP with 36 appearances. He was also the monthly leader for the first three individual months of 2024, appearing in January 8 times, February 10 times and March 14 times. He fell to 4 times in April but that was still a considerable amount of beach time in only 4 months. Oakley led the pack in April with 9 basking occurrences but didn’t figure in the leadership over the entire period (missing 2 months entirely!).  Kanoa tied for second place overall (in the top 3 in January, March and April) with Kulihi (top 3 in January and March) with 23 total basking appearances.  Kanoa showed up on the sand 3 times in January, 4 times in February, 9 times in March and 7 times in April.  Kulihi hauled out 6 times in January, not at all in February, 12 times in March and 5 times in April.

For the 12-month period May 31, 2023 through April 30, 2024, turtles hauled out onto the beach 710 times on 281 days (76.8% of the days).

January had multiple turtles out on only 8 of the month’s 31 days, with the greatest exodus from the water happening on the 20th, when 5 different turtles hauled out.  In February, multiple turtles hauled out on 11 different days, with the greatest number, 4, coming out 3 different times, on the 10th, 12th and 24th of the month.  In March, we had 20 days (the most in this 4 month period) with multiple turtles basking on the beach. A total of 6 hauled out on the sand on the 12th of the month. Finally, in April there were 17 days with more than one turtle on the beach and on the 15th, 7 different individuals graced us with their presence that day (the most in one day in 2024 so far).

The 9 different named honu that appeared on the beach at least once in January were Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Punahele, Kekoa, Kulihi, JP, Kaimana, Makana, and Kanoa. 

The 7 different named honu that appeared on the beach at least once in February were Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Punahele, Kekoa, JP, Kaimana, and Kanoa. 

The 10 different named honu that appeared on the beach at least once in March were Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Oakley, Wooley-Bully, Punahele, Kekoa, Kulihi, JP, Kaimana, and Kanoa.

The 12 different named honu that appeared on the beach at least once in April were Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Oakley, Wooley-Bully, Punahele, Kekoa, Kulihi, JP, Hilahila, Kaimana, Kaipua, and Kanoa.

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Year End 2023

 In 2023, we saw 771 basking occurrences (a turtle hauling out onto the beach 1 or more times on a given day) and 826 “incidents” of basking (includes multiple appearances by the same turtle on a single day).  Included in the above numbers are 18 sightings of unidentifiable turtles (not named and deemed unrecognizable and, hence, not part of the `Ohana (i.e. family)).  One of those turtles hauled out twice in one day.  Therefore, officially, the “`Ohana” experienced 753 basking occurrences and 825 incidents of basking during 2023.  (See the 1st, 2nd & 3rd charts in the “Historical” section of charts for details on individual basking.)

In regard to “unidentifiable” turtles, we had one (1) addition to the `Ohana in 2023.  In 2022, we twice had activity that we indicated “could” signal a possible addition in the future (Several times in our history a turtle has stopped by a couple times in months previous to becoming a consistent basker at Laniakea.).  Back in 2020, Kanoa did the same thing, basking once in June 2020 and twice in July 2020 but did not become a “regular” basker until April 2021.  This year we added Kai to our ‘Ohana after appearing in 3 different months in 2022, then skipping any beach time for 5 months before becoming a “regular” at Laniakea in March 2023. Unfortunately, Kai has again been on hiatus for 5 months as of January 2024 but we hope to see L-37’s return to our beach soon!

Overall in 2023, 9 turtles basked more, 6 basked less and 1 basked exactly the same number of times as he did in 2022…once (both years in March). Every Honu that basked at Laniakea in 2022 also hauled out here in 2023 but no turtle that has been on hiatus made a return to our beach.

The `Ohana members falling short in beach appearances (6) during 2023 were Hiwahiwa (-8), Olivia-Dawn (-9), Kulihi (-37), Kaimana (-7), Kaipua (-9) and Makana (-24) Those shortages equal -94. Of these turtles, only Hiwahiwa and Olivia-Dawn were in the negative column last year too.

The 9 turtles contributing to the 11.7% upturn in basking for 2023 were Oakley (+20), Wooley-Bully (+25), Punahele (+17), Kekoa (+3), JP (+44), Hilahila (+1), Maka Nui (+13), Kanoa (+31) and Kai (+11).  Overall, these turtles increased their beach appearances a total of +165 more basking occurrences this year.

Our statistics also take into account the distinct differences in the basking habits between the turtles that bask on the “beach” at the north side of the venue and the turtles that bask on the “shelf” on the south side near the lifeguard station. (See the 4th through 9th charts for graphic details regarding times hauling out and duration of time spent on the beach.)

The “beach” turtles as a rule noticeably come out of the water later in the day and stay on the beach longer than the honu that bask on the “shelf.”   This observation is also borne out statistically.  The average daylight time spent on the beach by the 11 beach turtles in 2023 was 3 hours and 19 minutes during 625 incidents of basking. (There were actually 629 separate incidents of basking but 4 started after sunset and, as such, don’t figure into the “daylight” on the beach calculation.)  In comparison, the 5 shelf turtles spent only 2 hours and 24 minutes on the beach in 196 incidents of basking.  In addition, only 14% of the beach turtles exited the water before noon while 36.9% (more than 2 ½ times as many) shelf turtles hauled out in the morning hours. 

The 11 “Beach” turtles (Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Oakley, Wooley-Bully, Punahele, Kekoa, Kulihi, JP, Maka Nui, Kanoa and Kai) accounted for 110 more basking occurrences in 2023 than the “beach” turtles did in the prior year.  The 5 “Shelf” turtles (Keoki, Hilahila, Kaimana, Kaipua and Makana), came in at -39 baskings for 2022, for a net difference of +71.   Overall, including the Unidentified turtles that visited Laniakea during the year, we had 75 more turtles bask at our beach in 2023 than in 2022.

In regard to the full spectrum of time, 62.4% of beach turtles started their basking between the hours of 1:00 pm to 3:59 pm (62.3% in 2022) and shelf turtles hauled out 61.4% of the time between 11:00 am and 1:59 pm (60.0% in 2022). 

With respect to the duration of time “beach” honu spend on the beach in a single incident of basking, they ranged from 1 minute for Kanoa (came out and immediately turned around and went back in the water…then came back 20 minutes later and stayed for over an hour!) to 10 hours for JP (had stayed overnight then sunrise to sunset). For shelf turtles, those single basking incidents ranged from 10 minutes for Kaimana to 8:15 for Makana.  The range of “average duration of time out of the water” for our “beach” turtles is 1:15 for Maka Nui (in 34 incidents) to 4:26 for Wooley-Bully (in 49 incidents).  On the “shelf,” individual basking incidents ranged from 1:06 for Hilahila (11 incidents) to Makana who had an “average” of 3:06. “Old timer” Keoki, for the second year in a row, basked only 1 time, in March, for less than half an hour. He’s included in overall statistics but not on an individual basis.

An additional point on the length of time the individuals stay on the sand is that 8 of 11 of our “beach” turtles (that’s ½ of our total `Ohana) stay on the beach at least 2 hours when they come out.  That’s 77% or three quarters of the time!  Even when you include the other half of the “family,” the number comes out to just under two thirds at 63.2%...lots of viewing time!

For turtle viewing purposes, it is also interesting to note that more than half of the turtles that exit the water are still on the beach when the sun sets.  Overall, 58.5% of basking incidents result with the turtle still on the beach at sunset.  It comes out a little different when the stats are broken down between “beach” and “shelf” turtles.  Beach turtles stay out past sunset 67.5% of the time while Shelf turtles only stay out 28.9% of the time.

Another interesting aspect of turtle basking is to see more than one turtle out on the beach at the same time.  In every month of 2023, we had at least one day with 3 or more turtles up. We also had 4 months with at least one day of 6 or more up, 4 months with at least one day with 7 turtles or more up and 1 day with 9 turtles resting peacefully on the beach.  

Individually, 3 turtles stayed overnight at least once. Kulihi stayed the night 4 different times during the year, Wooley-Bully stayed twice and Hiwahiwa once. Kanoa was also recorded as exiting the water AFTER sunset on 4 different occasions.

Several additional items of interest occurred during 2023. 

Only 16 of our turtles actually basked during 2023, including a newly named member of the `Ohana.  In March, April and July, 15 of those turtles came out of the water to bask (that’s 93.6% of this year’s active turtles in 3 different months). 

None of our Honu reached 100 basking occurrences in 2023, although JP got really close with 98.  However, if counting multiple appearances in 1 day, both JP (100) and Kanoa (112) got to the hundred mark and Makana got really close with 97.

Kekoa and Keoki are the ONLY turtles in the `Ohana that did NOT make multiple appearances on the beach on ANY day of the year (and Kekoa did not make multiple appearances during the YEAR since he only basked once!).

Finally, this was the 1st time since 2013…that’s a Decade ago…that we had 2 whole months (April and July) with no empty beach days!

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Historical Basking Narrative

(see the “Historical” section of the Basking Charts for graphic representation of some of this info)

After a “time out” from being able to compare the year-to-year activities of our Honu `Ohana in 2020, a full year of statistics from 2021 will at least allow us to compare the current activity of our turtles back to 2019, the last year for which we have a full year of stats and the year during which we “officially” had the most basking occurrences since 2014, the last full year Kuhina had basked (107 times) at Laniakea (that year, Brutus’ last partial year, he also had basked 64 times in 4 months).  Prior to 2014, yearly basking regularly had numbered over 1000 occurrences as Brutus normally basked over 200 times per year and Kuhina over 100.

The year 2019 had represented a major upturn in Honu basking (741 baskings) since Brutus’ and Kuhina’s departures as we experienced an increase in basking occurrences for the second year in a row. This was the first time in our reliable recorded history back to 2009 that this had happened! That record still stands (“officially”) as the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 and Laniakea Beach (as well as all other beaches on the island) were closed for all or part of 5 months (March, April, May, August and September – a total of 123 days), preventing Mālama i nā Honu from fulfilling not only its educational mission but also its monitoring and recording of basking activity during those periods of time. Hence, though it is entirely possible that basking numbers exceeded 741 in 2020 (we believe they did!), any records to actually confirm this do not exist.

We can speculate all we want (and we will do so directly) about the degree of basking that took place in 2020 and whether or not it would have resulted in a third straight year of increased on shore appearances of our turtles; pandemic beach closures for what amounted to over 1/3 (one third) of the days of the year prevent us from really knowing for sure.

So… let’s digress and relate some conjecture for a moment.  For 2020, we have complete monthly records for 7 months (January, February, June, July, October, November and December).  During those months, 417 basking occurrences were recorded by volunteers.  If we look at the “unrecorded” months (March, April, May, August and September) and use the average basking occurrences of those months from the year before and the year after 2020, (i.e. 2019 and 2021) and add them to the 417, we get 806 basking occurrences!  Considerably more than 741!  If we were to use the same procedure for both the 5 years before 2020 and the 5 years before plus the 1 year after, we’d calculate that out to 764 and 769 respectively.  Hence, it seems extremely likely that had we been able to record basking activity for all 12 months of 2020, that we would have indeed achieved an increase in basking occurrences for a third year in a row.

In 2021, 733 occurrences of basking took place at Laniakea, 717 by named members of the `Ohana and 16 by random “visitors” that stopped by as they passed through the area.  That represents a -1.08% decrease (a net total of 8 less) compared to 2019 but still 11.4% more than appeared in 2018.  We currently “track” 19 turtles (there were 20 in 2019), 14 that bask primarily on the “beach” (north side of Laniakea) and 5 that bask primarily on the “shelf” (south side of Laniakea near the lifeguard station).  There have been exceptions to this “separation,” but they are few and far between.

Overall, 9 turtles basked more in 2021 than in 2019 and 11 basked less (yes, that’s 20 but one of the 2019 turtles is currently on hiatus at this writing!). Of those on the plus side, 6 were with us in 2019, 1 that had been on a long hiatus starting before 2019 (for over 2 1/2 years) and 2 new turtles that joined the `Ohana in 2021. Hao, formerly one of our more frequent baskers, returned in May after an absence of 31 months.  More on her later.  Kanoa joined the `Ohana in April (but with recorded appearances back to June of 2020) and Ho`omaka in September (based on reliable information from NOAA that this turtle has basked at Laniakea and other beaches for some period of time). One turtle, Missy, that basked in 2019 has not shown up since May of 2019 and is now included on our Hiatus list.

Since there are distinct differences in the basking habits of turtles that bask on the beach side of the venue and those that bask on the shelf side, we’ll next discuss some individual turtles’ 2021 activity based on where they bask.  On the “beach” side of the venue, Hao, our returnee from a hiatus, registered the biggest increase in basking appearances over 2019 (when she didn’t appear on the beach at all) with 67. Kulihi basked 56 more times in 2021 than in 2019.  Kanoa, in this honu’s first partial year of basking, hauled out 20 times. Hiwahiwa, Sapphire, Wooley-Bully, and newbie Ho`omaka also recorded increased activity during 2021.  On the “shelf,” Keoki (17) and Hilahila (12) were the only turtles that increased their basking activity in 2021. (See the first 3 charts under the “Historical” section of charts for details on individual basking).

Our statistics also tell us about comings and goings and the duration of time on the beach.  Looking at the `Ohana overall, of the turtles that haul out, more than half (58.3%) do so between 12:00 noon and 3:00 pm.  This is the same time period during which most turtles hauled out back in 2019 (50.2%).  When broken down between beach and shelf groups, the beach group matches the “overall” time period for exiting the water but the shelf group comes out most of the time beginning with the 11:00 hour and reaches 60.3% of its water exits by 2:00. These are also the same time periods for this breakdown recorded in 2019.   (The 4th, 5th and 6th charts in the “Historical” section specifically details this analysis).

Another interesting aspect of turtle basking is to see more than one turtle out on the beach at the same time.  Every month in 2021, we had at least one day with 5 or more turtles up, 7 months with 6 or more and one day in May with 9 turtles resting peacefully on the beach.

Individually, 4 turtles stayed overnight at least once 6 different times during the year (Wooley-Bully 2, Kulihi 2, Kekoa 1, & Hao 1).

In regard to the duration of time individuals spend on the beach, they ranged from 5 minutes for Hiwahiwa to 11 hours and 2 minutes for Kekoa (sunrise to sunset). The range of “average duration of time out of the water” for our “beach” turtles is 1:30 for Kanoa (in 20 appearances) to 4:55 for Kekoa (in 59 appearances).  On the “shelf” they ranged from 47 minutes for Hilahila to 3:35 for “old timer” Keoki.

While we cannot reasonably monitor a turtle’s time on the beach after dark, we do measure how often a basking turtle stays past sunset.  During 2021 there were 717 separate appearances by members of our `ohana and 16 unidentified turtles.  Discounting the unidentifieds, there were 380 times that a turtle that had hauled out (no matter what time of the day) was still on the beach at sunset.  That was more than half the time (52.9%) and very similar to 2019’s percentage (50.3%).  At least one turtle was on the beach at sunset on 220 separate days.  Even though over half of the turtles that haul out onto the beach are still around at sunset, nightfall DOES NOT trigger them to suddenly go back into the water.  Mālama i nā Honu’s records show that less then 1.1 percent (that’s a single digit number) of the turtles on the beach at sunset return to the water before it gets dark!

During 2021, several noteworthy events took place.  The most important was the return of Hao!  No other `Ohana member has ever disappeared for over 2 ½ years and returned to the fold.  Not only did she return, but in the process basked more times during the month, on 23 days, than she had ever basked in a month before.  Her previous high was 20 times.  In June, she continued her return tour with another 18 appearances, continued her prolific return with another 20 basking appearances in July and stayed around for 6 more beach visits through August 13th.  Now she’s gone again!  During her brief stay of 102 days, she was on the beach 87 different times on 67 different days and stayed to sunset 35 times.  Hao has a history of going on hiatus.  She was away for 9 months June 2016-February 2017 and for 14 months June 2017-July 2018.  She’ll be back…we’ll be watching and waiting!

During July and August, we noted aberrant behavior in our O`hana overall, in that far fewer than the normal number of turtles began their basking activity during the morning hours.  Over the past 10+ years, over one quarter (27%) of our basking turtles have appeared before noon.  July of this year was an aberration, with only 9.5% of the honu coming ashore in the AM hours.  This was the lowest percentage of morning baskers since September 2013 when only 7.9% emerged from the ocean in the morning.  An exodus from the water of less than 10% in the morning hours has only happened 5 times over this period.  The same thing happened again in August when only 5 turtles emerged from the ocean in the morning, amounting to only 7.5% of the turtles that basked.  Only once, in September 2011, has a smaller percentage (6.0%) of our baskers been “morning turtles.”  In addition, it is only the second time during this time period that less than 10% of our baskers avoided the morning hours for 2 months in a row.  On both of those occasions, the percentages of morning exits over the 2-month period were almost identical (8.60% this year and 8.55% in August/September 2013).  After a return to the “normal” range of morning water exits in September, the numbers again fell back in October but not under 10%.   Since then, the numbers have again returned to a more normal range of over 20%.

December saw 16 days without any turtle on the beach.  The 16 “turtle-less” days were the most we’ve suffered since January 2018 when there were 18 days without a turtle exiting the water.  The worst basking months in Mālama i nā Honu’s recorded history (since 2009) were January and November of 2016, when 24 days of each month saw no basking activity (i.e.  a turtle only came out of the water on 7 days in January and 6 days in November)!  It should also be noted that even with the dearth of turtles appearing in these two months, 2016 was far from our worst basking year overall.  In 2016 we saw over 150 more basking occurrences than our absolute worst year (2017) when a turtle only appeared on land 507 times.

For calendar year 2021, turtles hauled out onto the beach 733 times on 275 days (75.3% of the days). The previous equivalent period for which we have statistics that we can report is calendar year 2019, which saw 741 basking occurrences on 287 days (78.6% of the days).

Overall, even though total basking was down ever so slightly from prior years, 2021 was nevertheless a positive year for the Laniakea `Ohana.  A turtle long on hiatus (Hao) returned for a short, but basking intensive, visit and two new Honu (Kanoa and Ho`omaka) were added to the `Ohana during the year.  We’re anxious to see what 2022 has in store.

In 2022, we saw 690 basking occurrences (a turtle hauling out onto the beach 1 or more times on a given day) and 758 “incidents” of basking (includes multiple appearances by the same turtle on a single day).  Included in the above numbers are 14 sightings of unidentifiable turtles (not named and deemed recognizable and, hence, not part of the `Ohana (i.e. family)).  One of those turtles hauled out twice in one day.  Therefore, officially, the “`Ohana” experienced 676 basking occurrences and 743 incidents of basking during 2022.  (see the 1st, 2nd & 3rd charts in the “Historical” section of charts for details on individual basking).

In regard to the “unidentifiable” turtles, while we had no additions to the `Ohana in 2022, we twice had activity that could signal possible additions in the future.  Several times in our history a turtle has stopped by a couple times in months previous to becoming a consistent basker at Laniakea.  Kanoa was the last turtle to do this, basking once in June 2020 and twice in July 2020 but not becoming a “regular” basker until April 2021.  This year we had one turtle bask 3 times in one month and another bask three times in one month and twice in another.  Neither has been seen in the last couple months BUT…we’re watching!!

Overall, 7 turtles basked more, 8 basked less and 4 that basked in 2021 did not bask at all (i.e. that’s 12 that actually basked less).  That explains right there why we had fewer total basking occurrences this year compared to last year. 

Hao was the most significant non basker.  Having returned in May 2021 from a 31 month hiatus, she basked on 2 out of every 3 days she was around (87 different times on 67 separate days) but left again in August.  She has not returned.  Sapphire, one of the “original” regulars to bask at Laniakea, was last seen on December 3rd, 2020 and is now on Hiatus.  She accounted for 17 fewer basking occurrences.  Mana, a somewhat irregular basker over the last few years, that is known to hang out between Mokuleia and Ka`ena Point when away from Laniakea, was last seen basking on March 2nd, 2021.  She basked only 7 times in 2021 and not at all in 2022.  Ho`omaka, the last addition to the `ohana and only added at the request of NOAA, has only ever been recorded as basking 2 times at Laniakea in September, 2021.  She has not returned since.  Those 4 turtles alone account for 93 or over 40% of the shortfall in basking for 2022.

The other `Ohana members falling short in beach appearances during 2022 were Hiwahiwa (-1, and she migrated to nest at FFS and was away over 3 months, so she was actually basking at an increased rate over last year), Oakley (-22), Wooley-Bully (-25), Punahele (-15), Keoki (-38), Kekoa (-17), JP (-14) and Hilahila (-4).  Those shortages equal -136 and combined with the non baskers’ total equal -229 for 12 turtles.

On the positive side of the ledger were, most notably, Makana and Kulihi.  Makana basked 78 more times in 2022 than in 2021, enough to earn this turtle the “most frequent basker” title for 2022 with 106 beach appearances.  Kulihi, the owner of that title in 2021, added 19 basking occurrences to his total to get to 102 times out of the water and also exceed the elusive 100 times basking mark for the calendar year.  During the year, in March, Kulihi for the first time exceeded the 100 appearances in 12 months mark and Makana first got to it in December.  Only 6 others have reached that mark in the history of Mālama I nā Honu, Brutus (was over 200 many times), Olivia-Dawn, Punahele, Kuhina, Hao and JP.

The other turtles contributing to the upside of basking were: Olivia-Dawn (+8), Kaimana (+21), Kaipua (+22), Maka Nui (+4) and Kanoa (+36).  Overall, there were 7 turtles with a total of +188 more basking occurrences this year.

Our statistics also take into account the distinct differences in the basking habits between the turtles that bask on the “beach” at the north side of the venue and the turtles that bask on the “shelf” on the south side near the lifeguard station. (see the 4th through 9th charts for graphic details regarding times hauling out and duration of time spent on the beach).

The “beach” turtles as a rule noticeably come out of the water later in the day and stay on the beach longer than the honu that bask on the “shelf.”   This observation is also borne out statistically.  The average time spent on the beach by the 10 beach turtles in 2022 was 3 hours and 14 minutes during 489 incidents of basking.  In comparison, the 5 shelf turtles spent only 2 hours and 34 minutes on the beach in 254 incidents of basking.  In addition, only 15.6% of the beach turtles exited the water before noon while 38.6% (almost 2 ½ times as many) shelf turtles hauled out in the morning hours. 

The 10 “Beach” turtles (Hiwahiwa, Olivia-Dawn, Oakley, Wooley-Bully, Punahele, Kekoa, Kulihi, JP, Maka Nui, and Kanoa) accounted for 120 fewer basking occurrences in 2022.  The 5 “Shelf” turtles (Keoki, Hilahila, Kaimana, Kaipua and Makana) mostly due to Makana’s miraculous increase in hauling out, came in 79 baskings ahead of 2021. Net difference…-41.  Most of the shortfall came from the beach group while the shelf turtles kept us from falling further behind in our yearly total.

In regard to the full spectrum of time, 62.3% of beach turtles started their basking between the hours of 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm and shelf turtles hauled out 60.0% of the time between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. 

With respect to the duration of time “beach” individuals spend on the beach in a single incident of basking, they ranged from 4 minutes for Kanoa to 11 hours and 13 minutes for Kulihi (sunrise to sunset). For shelf turtles, those single basking incidents ranged from 5 minutes for Makana to 11:03 for Kaipua.  The range of “average duration of time out of the water” for our “beach” turtle individuals is 1:30 for Kanoa (in 63 incidents) to 4:55 for Kekoa (in 59 incidents).  On the “shelf,” individual basking incidents ranged from 47 minutes for Hilahila (12 incidents) to 3:35 for “old timer” Keoki, though Keoki only basked once and hence his figure is not definitionally actually an “average.”  Next in line is Makana who has a real “average” of 2:39 in an `Ohana high 136 incidents of basking.

For turtle viewing purposes, it is interesting to note that, more than half of the turtles that exit the water are still on the beach when the sun sets.  Overall, 53.3% of basking occurrences result with the turtle still on the beach at sunset.  It comes out a little different when the stats are broken down between “beach” and “shelf” turtles.  Beach turtles stay out past sunset 61.8% of the time while Shelf turtles only stay out 34.9% of the time.

Another interesting aspect of turtle basking is to see more than one turtle out on the beach at the same time.  Every month in 2022, we had at least one day with 3 or more turtles up. We also had 5 months with at least one day of 6 or more up, 4 months with at least one day with 7 turtles or more up and 2 months with at least one day with 8 turtles resting peacefully on the beach.  

Individually, 2 turtles stayed overnight at least once. Kulihi stayed the night 5 different times during the year and Kanoa did so once.  Kanoa was also recorded as exiting the water AFTER sunset on 2 occasions and there is reliable information that such has happened more often but not actually recorded (and 3 such incidents have already been recorded in 2023).  Long ago (her last appearance at Laniakea was in July of 2012, over 10 ½ years ago), we had an active member of the `Ohana named Mahina (that’s Hawaiian for “Moon”).  She was so named for her penchant for coming out at night, while the moon was out.  Can’t help but wonder if we’ve developed another “night” basker?!?

Several additional items of interest occurred during 2022.  First and foremost was Hiwahiwa migrating to the French Frigate Shoals to nest.  This was the 4th time she’s migrated, also making the over 1,000 mile round trip in 2002, 2010 and 2017.  Less time has elapsed between each nesting experience.  She left Laniakea Beach near sunset on April 9th and did not return until 1:15 pm on August 19th.  The full story of her migration can be found in her section under “Meet the Honu” on this website.  Unfortunately, Hiwahiwa must have misplaced her calendar in December.  She did NOT bask at Laniakea in December which was the very first time in our recorded history that she did not bask in a month other than one in which she was in the process of migrating to or from the nesting grounds!  She did return January 3rd, so all is well with L-2 again.

Only 15 of our turtles actually basked during 2022.  In both July and August, 13 of those turtles came out of the water to bask (that’s 86% of this year’s active turtles in 2 different months).  In July, we missed Hiwahiwa who was away nesting at the French Frigate Shoals and Keoki who only basked 1 time all year in March.  In August Hiwahiwa was back but Oakley failed to show (and of course Keoki missed again).

Makana and Kulihi were mentioned earlier as reaching the 100 appearance in 1 year plateau together in December (and that carried over into January 2023).  What helped them get there was a monster month of basking for each.  Makana basked on 18 different days in June. While this is not a record for 1 month (that’s held by Brutus at 25 on at least 3 different occasions and Isabella once).  However, 18 is A LOT OF BEACH TIME in a month.  Only 6 turtles (Brutus, Hao, JP, and Scallop multiple times and Isabelle and Sapphire once each) have ever basked more in a single month.  While Kulihi, also a prolific basker has never reached 18, he has basked on 15 separate days in a month in 3 years in a row!

Finally, December saw an empty beach on only 9 days.  December’s 9 empty beach days was the first time since 2013 that there were less than 10 such days in a December.

History of Basking at Laniakea

On the Ides of March, 1999, a solitary male green sea turtle hauled himself out of the ocean at Laniakea Beach to bask in the sun. Later named Brutus by Malama na Honu, he is part of the vanguard of a relatively small number of sea turtles that, for reasons yet to positively be determined, come out onto dry land to rest and get warm.

Individuals from no other species of sea turtle or any of the other 10 “discrete population segments” of green turtles (Chelonia mydas), engage in this activity in the same way it happens in Hawaii.  These turtles crawl out of the water of their own volition.  Turtles in a couple other places sometimes find themselves washed up onto shore by wave action and stay on dry land for a period of time before returning to the water, but apparently nowhere else do male and female adults, as well as subadult and juvenile turtles purposely exit the water because they themselves have decided to do so.  The sight is incredible!

Over the ensuing years, more green turtles (Honu in Hawaiian) have found their way to this and many other beaches in Hawaii.  Their presence on these beaches has become a legitimate tourist attraction. At Laniakea alone, over a half million people come to the beach to view these turtles basking each year.  This puts the turtles in jeopardy of being harassed and tormented by unthinking humans.

Subsequent to Brutus’ initial foray onto the beach, by 2003 there was a total of 9 honu venturing onto land (besides Brutus (m) there was Hiwahiwa (f), Sapphire (f), Olivia-Dawn (f), Isabella (f),

Oakley (m), Wooley-Bully (m), Mahina (f) and Squirt (m)).

By 2005, the Laniakea family (`ohana in Hawaiian) had added 7 more (Genbu (m), Missy (f), Mana (f), Pukalani (f), Scallop (m), Honey Girl (f) and Tripod (m)).  At that point there were 16 in all coming out.

Malama na Honu came into existence in late 2007 as a successor to a George Balazs initiative at NOAA called “Show Turtles Aloha” and “officially” took charge of recording, monitoring and protecting a total of 19 basking honu. (Punahele (f), Nohea Kamakana (m) and Kuhina (m) had joined the group by then.)

For 9 years, the `ohana at Laniakea had grown steadily but 2008 saw tragedy strike.  Pukalani was apparently taken by a tiger shark at the nesting grounds at the French Frigate Shoals in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and humans maliciously butchered Honey Girl as she peacefully basked overnight on the beach.  Although Laniakea lost 2 turtles in 2008, Kaheka, a subadult, was added to the rolls to bring the basking total to18.

2009 saw one new turtle choose the rocky shelf area at the southwest portion of the beach to begin basking.  It was large enough to be an adult female so it was named ”Clawdette” for the claw shaped bite apparently taken out of the left rear flipper by a tiger shark.   Clawdette though, was large for “her” age and a late ”bloomer.”  After disappearing from the beach for over a year at the end of 2012, this turtle returned in March of 2014 with a long thick tail! The honu was quickly renamed Keoki (George in Hawaiian).

In 2010, 3 new turtles began their tenure at Laniakea, Kekoa (sub), Kulihi (m) and Hao`okanaka (sub).  Hao`okanaka was originally named “Ironman” for famous surfer Andy Irons who tragically died that year. When it was discovered that the turtle was a female, the name was shortened to ”Hao” or “iron” to preserve the honoring but make it gender neutral.  At the end of 2010, the `ohana was at its most populous point with 22 actively basking honu.

Beginning in 2011 the population began to thin out. This year saw 2 turtles leave Laniakea to bask elsewhere (Nohea Kamakana and Squirt…though Squirt stopped by for 20 minutes, we assume by mistake, in January 2014).  Mahina appeared for the last time in July 2012, Scallop in November 2013 (after being treated by a NOAA veterinarian for severe injuries from a boat strike), Brutus in April 2014 (which really affected our overall basking numbers because he had basked with extraordinary frequency—sometimes 24-25 days a month), Genbu in June 2014, Kuhina in March 2015 and Kaheha in June 2015. Those losses would have left the group with only 14 active baskers, less than the number that were gracing Laniakea with their presence 10 years before.

Fortunately, 2015 also began a resurgence in new baskers. That year 4 new turtles, all sub-adults or juveniles, began coming ashore between March and June.  JP, named for Joanne Pettigrew, the founder of Malama na Honu, first appeared in March, Hilahila in April, Kaimana in May and Kaipua in June.  Two years later in 2017, Makana (juv) joined the group and Maka Nui (juv), Big Eyes in English for its demeanor when it first appeared on the beach, began hauling out at Laniakea in August 2018.

As of the beginning of 2020, there are 20 turtles actively basking at Laniakea, 5 adult males, 8 adult females, 5 sub-adults and 2 juveniles. However, several have been absent for over a year and may soon have to be added to our hiatus list.

The overall basking total for 2019 (741 occurrences) for the Honu `Ohana was the highest since 2013, a year when our champion basker Brutus was still in residence. There were 1036 basking occurrences that year.    

The year 2020 was unconventional to say the least.  While basking started off with a "bang" in January (72 basking occurrences were recorded--far in excess of the norm), the COVID-19 Pandemic hit in March and disrupted humanity!

O`ahu's beaches were officially closed for 2 entire months (April and May) and parts of 3 others (March, August and September).  There were a total of 123 days when our volunteers could not legally monitor turtle activity.  Only 16 of the 20 turtles we normally expect to bask at Laniakea appeared during the times the beach was officially open.  In all, there were 473 basking occurrences among the 16 turtles that made appearances during the 243 days the beach was open.  Hence, it is likely that there were in actuality over 700 basking occurrences during 2020... but we'll never know for sure!

A return to some degree of normalcy beginning with beaches re-opening in September of 2020 allowed Malama na Honu to conduct its education and turtle monitoring programs for the full year in 2021.  While total basking was down slightly to 733 occurrences, anything over 700 at this time has to be considered a positive outcome for any year.  In addition to good numbers, we added 2 new turtles to the `Ohana, Kanoa in May and Ho`omaka in September.  Also in 2021, we welcomed back Hao, a turtle that began its tenure at Laniakea in 2010, suffered the trauma of a serious boat strike in late 2015 and began being absent from Laniakea for longer and longer periods in 2016.   The latest hiatus that lasted 31 months, ended in May 2021 when Hao returned for 102 days (she's on hiatus yet again now) and basked 87 separate times on 67 of those days.

2020 Basking- 1/1/20-3/15/20, 6/1/20-8/8/20 & 9/24/20-12/31/20 (beaches were closed to the public & Malama na Honu for 123 days when no activity could legally be recorded)