The "Show Turtles Aloha" Campaign


The information presented here is not current. It is retained here for archival purposes. The Show Turtles Aloha project is no longer operating at Laniakea. Please do not use any contact information from this page in connection with Show Turtles Aloha.

The basking honu at Laniakea have attracted so many admirers that traffic in that area is now often congested. Plan your trip accordingly. Since basking is becoming common throughout the main Islands, consider finding an alternate place to see them.

This is an introduction to "Show Turtles Aloha" from George Balazs, a founding member and original leader of the campaign. It is intended for prospective volunteers interested in becoming Honu Guardians at Laniakea Beach on the North Shore of Oahu, and for anyone who wants to learn more about the project.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of December, 2007 anyone interested in volunteering should refer to the Malama Na Honu Foundation website:

References to George Balazs and Joanne Pettigrew are retained for historical archival purposes only.

Dear Prospective Volunteer:

Thank you very much for seeking additional information about the "Show Turtles Aloha" campaign here in the Hawaiian Islands. We certainly welcome your interest in volunteering as a "Honu Guardian" at Laniakea Beach on Oahu's beautiful and historic North Shore. If you continue to have interest in volunteering after reading this and other materials available on the web site, please contact me directly by email ( Please provide some background information about yourself and your potential availability to volunteer. Please also copy your email to Joanne Pettigrew (email address redacted) in the event that I am on travel away from email access when you send your message. Joanne is a co-founding member of the Show Turtles Aloha campaign who has lived near Laniakea Beach for many years.

Learning to do the duties of a volunteer at Laniakea involves a period of "shadowing" an experienced volunteer for on-the-job training. If you live on Oahu, after contacting Joanne you will be invited to come to Laniakea on any day that you can between 11:30 am to sunset, seven days a week. On each of these visits you will stay as long as it is convenient for you to do so. You will introduce yourself to whomever is on duty as a volunteer. That person (or persons) will be prominent by the badge label worn that says "Honu Guardian and Naturalist--Questions? Please ask me." On certain days that person will be me or Joanne Pettigrew.

The Honu Guardian sticker
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Once at the beach you will be invited to spend time watching and listening and talking to the volunteer while she or he does the things we do. "Shadowing" the person for the learning experience will help you to decide if this style of work is the right thing for you. Several shadowing (teamed-up) training visits will be needed before you are eligible to be assigned a day, or a half day, volunteering on your own. Our volunteer days most often run from 11:30 am until sunset. Or, when there are two daily shifts- usually 11:30 am to 2:30 pm, and 2:30 pm to sunset. However, flexibility is always possible to meet the individual needs of the volunteers. And shifts are modified with the coming of the summer months when the days are longer, sunnier, and more folks visit Laniakea for recreation and to see the turtles

We have no special qualifications for volunteering except that you 1) like people, 2) like talking to and appreciate a diversity of people, 3) like the honu, and like to spread the Spirit of Aloha to both the people and the honu. And of course 4) you must be dependable, law abiding, a decent person of sane mind, and drug free.

What we want to be sure of, and what you want to be sure of yourself, is that your style, preferences, and personality are conducive to the Laniakea setting and needs and philosophy of the Show Turtles Aloha campaign. You have to enjoy talking, enjoy giving gentle requests for cooperation, enjoy answering questions--lots of questions. Nearly all the answers to questions are in our handouts made available at Laniakea (see the Laniakea page. The answers to questions that aren't in our literature will come to you easily with the learning experience received during training from us.

It's very important to be aware that we are not enforcement agents. There is no "force of law" in the routine things we ask people to do in order to be well behaved in the presence of the honu. We are strictly "educational outreach" people promoting the message of respectful sea turtle watching. We teach and promote the practice of showing good manners around the turtles. We have several tools and techniques we use, including laying out red ropes in the sand when a turtle first starts to come out, and later when the turtle has come to rest and is basking--warming its body.

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The red rope allows close observation without disturbing the basking honu

We ask for the public's cooperation in being respectful. (I.e "Please don't walk over the red ropes, please don't touch the turtles, and please don't try to feed the turtles as they will become aggressive and bite people in the water.") We sometimes have to urge cooperation in a diplomatically friendly but firm fashion. 99.5% of the time we get what we are reasonably seeking--cooperation. However, in a small number of cases consisting of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, and socio-economic groups, we get... non-compliance. What we do in those cases is to restate our objective for being there ("to watch over the turtles with Aloha--please do not touch, crowd, feed, or chase"), say "Thank you for listening to what we said," and then... excuse yourself and politely walk away. Without being angry and upset (though perhaps disappointed a better outcome was not immediately achieved).

I believe that the Laniakea experience is a great and wonderful "learning and teaching arena " for the right persons interest in volunteer work. Useful lessons are constantly being learned and taught that will last a life time. For you, and for thousands of others. We look forward to hearing from you.

With Best Regards and Aloha,
George Balazs

George H. Balazs is Leader of the Marine Turtle Research Program, NOAA, National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. Contact him at:

2570 Dole Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-2396 USA
Tel:(808) 983-5733
Fax:(808) 983-2902

Laniakea, Oahu Laniakea, Oahu: A magical place where the honu bask along with the tourists.

Last modified 13/09/12
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