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Puʻu Waʻawaʻa virtual tour offers new ways to explore

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Puʻu Waʻawaʻa Forest Reserve, Hawaiʻi Island, May 5, 2021. PC: DLNR Hawaiʻi.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources has launched a new virtual tour featuring the Puʻu Waʻawaʻa Forest Reserve on Hawaiʻi Island.

It’s the newest tour, in a growing collection of virtual tours offered by the state.

The Puʻu Waʻawaʻa tour highlights efforts to protect the dry forests of the Nāpuʻu region of Hawaiʻi Island. As the name suggests, the area is home to a number of puʻu (hills or cinder cones) that host rare dry forest habitats and some of the world’s most endangered plants.

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The larger Nāpuʻu area is managed by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife for multiple uses, including the Puʻu Waʻawaʻa Forest Reserve, the Puʻu Waʻawaʻa Forest Bird Sanctuary, and the Puʻu Anahulu Game Management Area. Modern and historic trails are also present in the area, and are under the management of the DOFAW Nā Ala Hele Trails program. 

VC: DLNR Hawaiʻi

Within the tour, a series of 360˚ photos provides immersive views at four sites: a botanical trail at the base of the largest puʻu, the summit of the puʻu, and two locations within a fenced forest restoration site within the forest reserve. 

Hotspots allow users to click on plants, animal habitats, and mountains to access videos, photos, and text with more information.

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“These tours are a way to bring nature to people,” said Josh Atwood, DOFAW Information and Education Coordinator. “Some of the lands managed are closed in order to protect native species, and other sites may simply be challenging to access. If an educator isn’t able to take their class on an in-person field trip, or a resident doesn’t have the physical ability to get to a mauka forest, we still want them to be able to appreciate and learn about natural areas in Hawaiʻi.”

Other tours in the collection include Kaniakapūpū, Kaʻena Point Natural Area Reserve, and Kawainui Marsh.

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