Compromise Reached in Cruise Company’s Return To Molokai

December 20, 2011, 12:05 PM HST · Updated December 20, 3:44 PM
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By Wendy Osher

Molakai Mule excursion. Photo courtesy, Sarah Scoltock, American Safari Cruises.

American Safari Cruises plans to resume regularly scheduled visits to Molokai on January 21, 2011.

The cruise company said “an amicable agreement has been reached” with local groups, as well as state and federal authorities.

The announcement comes on the heels of a water blockade in November in which a group of about 14 protesters, led in part by resident Walter Ritte, temporarily stopped the vessel from docking at Kaunakakai Harbor.

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Opponents had called for community input into decisions over tourism on the island, expressing concerns over impacts on the island’s lifestyle and resources.

“It was always the goal of the protestors to create a process for community input,” said Ritte in response to today’s announcement.  “It is too bad it had to take such extreme measures for this active community to be heard,” he said.

A meeting was held on November 30, after the protest to gather community input.  Another meeting has since been scheduled for January 17, 2012.

One tour on Molokai features a visit to a pristine waterfall in Halawa Valley. Photo courtesy, Sarah Scoltock, American Safari Cruises.

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Ritte called the new meeting the “first phase of the community process,” saying, “The protesters decided to allow visits after January 17 as a compromise to ensure a fair and amicable community process during phases two, three and four.”

“Our goal was never to shut down the cruise ship, or to stop tourism on Molokai, our goal is to make sure Molokai had a say about the future of their Island,” said Ritte

The agreement, company officials say, is a result of many long hours of “spirited discussions” about tourism and development on the island.

In a statement released today, company officials said participants in the discussion shared an “underlying desire to preserve Molokai’s unique character, history and traditions.”

Supporters of the operation maintain that the 36-passenger Safari Explorer yacht supports local business, and helps to address the island’s historically high unemployment rate.

The company advertises its seven day circuit as an “un-cruise” with a travel philosophy that strives to educate guests about responsible stewardship.  While on Molokai, the company purchases fresh produce, meat and coffee, and contracts tours with local businesses.

Expert naturalists provide interpretation on guided excursions ashore and at sea. The unstructured itinerary allows time for viewing wildlife such as humpback whales and snorkeling tours are a highlight throughout the trip. Photo courtesy, Sarah Scoltock, American Safari Cruises.

The two-day visit to Molokai includes cultural tours to a pristine waterfall in Halawa Valley.  Guests may also choose to tour local farms—Moloka’i Plumerias, and Tuddie and Kammy Purdy’s Macadamia Nut Farm—and walk through ancient taro terraces.

The visit also inlcudes a stop at the Moloka’i Museum and Cultural Center, and a Hawaiian pa’ina celebration feast hosted by Auntie Noelani Keliikipa.  Company officials say the feast features locally sourced cuisine including fresh fish and poi, seaweed and Moloka’i sweet potatoes.

“We hold tremendous respect for their unwavering desire to preserve their traditional lifestyle for future generations,” said American Safari Cruises’ CEO Dan Blanchard of the people of Molokai.

“We are delighted to be able to share Molokai’s beauty and honest and untainted Hawaiian spirit with those guests,” said Blanchard.

The yacht will return to its regularly scheduled two-day visits on January 21-22, 2012.

Photo courtesy, Sarah Scoltock, American Safari Cruises.

Courtesy photo from Nov. 26, 2011 weekend water blockade at Kaunakakai, Molokai.

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