Wild pigs on the Big Island of Hawaii – friend or foe?

Wild Pigs Hawaii Tribune Herald 2020
Wailoa State Recreation Area, Hilo. Photo credit: Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

In the first months of 2020 wild pigs caused significant damage to orchards and crops at Horizon Guest House. The pigs, who live in the surrounding forest of McCandless Ranch, were in the habit of making regular raids on our property. Our gardening efforts, and attempts at protection, were left in disarray as they carved a trail of destruction.

Unfortunately, feral pigs on the Big Island of Hawaii have become a widespread problem. Wild pigs are attracted to a wide variety of food sources. On the Big Island these include crops such as macadamia nuts, bananas, avocados and pineapples. Our banana and pineapple plants were almost all destroyed over a period of months. Significant rooting damage was also done to the garden.

Wild Pig Big Island Hawaii KITV4 Island News
Photo credit: KITV4 Island News

Where did the pigs come from?

It was originally thought that the feral pigs in Hawaii were the direct descendants of those brought to the islands by Captain Cook in 1778. Captain Cook arrived with pigs, chickens and other animals. However, a 2016 study found that most of the feral pigs alive in the islands today are in fact the descendants of those introduced by Polynesians in approximately 1200 AD. [1]

That the origins of the feral pigs are not solely European will be helpful for future discussions about conservation on the islands, as well as their role in Hawaiian cultural heritage.

Wild Pigs Hawaii News Now
Photo credit: Hawaii News Now

Impact on forest ecosystems

Wild pigs also have an impact on the forest ecosystem. A study by the University of Hawai’i found that soil macroinvertebrate communities (organisms that do not have a spine but can be seen with the naked eye, such as snails and insects) remained unaffected by the presence of feral pigs in the environment.[2] However, earthworms and beetles may benefit from association with sites rooted by wild pigs.

Another study found that the absence of feral pigs over time led to increased bacterial diversity in the soil and that there was an overall increase in the ‘ecological resiliency’ of the soil.[3]

WIld Pigs Tribune Herald 2017
Corner of Komohana and Mohouli streets, Hilo. Photo credit: Tim Wright, Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

How to combat feral pigs

Pigs don’t like dogs and will tend to avoid an area if they sense or smell their presence. Culling the invading pigs is also another option, but in the case of Horizon this won’t stop the arrival of more pigs as they breed at such a rapid rate in the adjoining forest. The feral pigs are resourceful and have found creative ways of digging under the boundary fence in order to gain access.

Horizon Guest House Garden
Horizon's new garden fence

Instead we decided on a new approach. We fenced a section of the garden off completely. This area, currently housing the existing vegetable garden, will now also be where we grow the crops most vulnerable to pig invasion. New banana and pineapple plants have been planted and the existing vegetable garden has been expanded. The fence itself has been engineered to be as pig-proof as possible. Additional fence posts have been positioned close together to ensure that the fence is as tight as possible and therefore difficult for even the tiniest of pigs to burrow under.

Feral pigs might appear to be cute and relatively harmless but they continue to cause problems on the Big Island as their numbers in populated rural areas continue to rise. Creative solutions are the best way to try to mitigate their impact on a local level, while perhaps a concerted effort on a state level is needed to combat the issue further.

References

Linderholm A., Spencer D., Battista V., Frantz L., Barnett R., Fleischer R.C., James H.F., Duffy D., Sparks J.P., Clements D.R., Andersson L., Dobney K., Leonard J.A. & Larson G. (2016). [1] A novel MC1R allele for black coat colour reveals the Polynesian ancestry and hybridization patterns of Hawaiian feral pigs. R. Soc. open sci. 3, 160304. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.160304

Wehr, N.H., Kinney, K.M., Nguyen, N.H., Giardina, C.P. & Litton, C.M. (2019). [3] Changes in soil bacterial community diversity following the removal of invasive feral pigs from a Hawaiian tropical montane wet forest. Sci Rep 9, 14681. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-48922-7

Wehr, N.H., Litton, C.M., Lincoln, N.K. & Hess, Steven C. (2020). [2] Relationships between soil macroinvertebrates and nonnative feral pigs (Sus scrofa) in Hawaiian tropical montane wet forests . Biol Invasions 22, 577–586. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-019-02117-3

Authored by

Springtime gardening on the Big Island

Spring is the perfect time to get organised with the vegetable garden here on the Big Island. We’ve turned the vegetable and herb gardens into special lockdown projects (no doubt like many of you) and have spent the last couple of weeks prepping the gardens for planting, raising and transplanting seedlings, and protecting our new plantings from outside invaders! (namely slugs…)

(Check back for updates! We’ll be updating this post as the garden grows. Click the links below to see our progress!)

Snap peas

We’ve grown snap peas in the past and they are always a delicious addition to the garden. First we started out by growing the seeds in individual pots, then we transplanted them to the garden beds. Peas were easily the quickest to grow from seed and grew noticeably every couple of days.

Before and after

It had been a while since we’d last grown peas and the garden bed was looking a little sad! It was time remove the weeds, pull out the wire frames and start again from scratch.

Before After

Then it was time to transplant. We managed to get four viable pea plants grown from seed. However, we lost two of these a couple of nights after planting due to an attack of slugs… 

Peas trellis 13:5 Horizon Guest House Big Island
Progress update May 13th

Lettuces, arugula, beets and radishes

Lettuces Big Island Gardening

We wanted to make sure we had a good variety in this garden so planted out lettuces, beets, arugula, radishes and spinach.

Lettuces Horizon B&B

Lettuces were slow to come through but finally the baby lettuces appeared!

Lettuce4 Horizon B&B Kona

Radishes quickly flourished from seed and most of what we planted grew. It wasn’t the same for the beets (only two grew from seed, bottom right in the photo) and only a couple of spinach plants came up (top left in the photo).

Progress updates:

Radishes 9:5 Horizon B&B Big Island
Lettuces/Radishes May 9th
Lettuce bed Horizon B&B Big Island 9:5
Lettuces/Radishes May 9th
Radishes 13:5 Horizon B&B Big Island Hawaii
Radishes May 13th
Beets 9:5 Horizon Guest House Big Island
Beets May 13th
Lettuces 22.5 Horizon BnB
Lettuces/Radishes May 22nd
Tomatillos 22.5 Horizon BnB
Tomatillos May 22nd

Herbs

Garden herbs Big Island Horizon

It was trial and error with the herb garden. Initially we planted basil, thyme and cilantro from seed but after 10 days… nothing appeared. We decided the fault was the age of the seeds (pro tip: if the seeds look like they’re ancient then they probably are and they probably won’t work). For our second attempt we decided to plant a mixture of seeds and small plants, just to give ourselves a head start. 

Herbs Horizon HGH

Basil, dill, cilantro, thyme and spearmint plants were planted, as well as seeds of dark basil, thyme, cilantro and sweet basil in the hope that the combination would yield some lasting results. But then disaster struck again! The same night the slugs made their appearance and decimated the transplanted peas they also launched an assault on our thyme and cilantro. We used citric acid to kill the slugs but in the process also terminally damaged the thyme and cilantro…

What is dark basil?

Dark opal basil is a basil variety created at the University of Connecticut in the 1950s. It has dark purple leaves and a stronger flavour than sweet basil.

Herbs 2 HGH Kona

Third time lucky! This time we replaced the damaged thyme and cilantro and used slug bait to form a defensive perimeter! This seems to have stopped the slugs for now.

Herbs Horizon Big Island

Progress updates:

Dark Basil 9:5 seedlings Horizon B&B
Dark Basil May 9th
Cilantro 9:5 Horizon B&B Big Island Hawaii
Cilantro May 9th
Cilantro 13:5 Horion B&B Big Island
Cilantro May 13th
Sweet Basil 22.5 Horizon Guest House Hawaii
Sweet Basil May 22nd

Pineapples

Pineapples B&B Horizon Guest House

We transplanted some smaller pineapple plants from another area of the property to this garden. In order to suppress weeds we had already covered unused beds with a ground cover. By slicing a series of cuts into the cover we were able to plant a row of pineapples and also continue to stop the weeds from returning.

Seedlings

We were also quite successful growing okra, peppers, tomatillo, yellow tomatillo and roma tomato seedlings. We started the seeds off in recycled fruit containers and then moved them to peat pots.

Seedlings Horizon B&B Kona
Step 1
Seedlings2 Horizon B&B Kona
Step 2
Seedlings Horizon B&B
Step 3

Moving the seedlings to peat pots was a delicate operation, especially for the okra and roma seedlings. They had to be carefully moved, and any roots untangled before planting.

Transplanting

And finally the seedlings were planted in the garden. Followed by a good watering and a measure of liquid fertilizer to help them on their way!

Seedlings Horizon Guest House
Transplant 2 Horizon B&b
Roma tomatoes

Progress updates:

Lima Beans 9:5 Horizon B&B Hawaii
Lima Beans May 9th
Lima Beans 22.5 Horizon Guest House
Lima Beans May 22nd
We’ll keep you updated on the garden as it (hopefully) flourishes! Have you found yourself in the vegetable garden more during the lockdown? What have you been planting?

Authored by

It’s a lockdown life: dispatches from the Big Island

ATV Horizon Kona Hawaii

It’s early spring and like much of the rest of the world we’re adjusting to life in lockdown. Tourists have all but fled and the residents are hunkering down as we all do our best on the Big Island to flatten the curve. Like the rest of you we’ve been grappling with the new normal here at Horizon, so we decided to turn our blog microscope to life behind the scenes at HGH.

On March 25 everyone in Hawaii was required to stay at home or in their place of residence. The next day the state of Hawaii mandated a quarantine period of 14 days for all visitors to the island. Cancellations came thick and fast. But while we might not have any guests due to the lockdown it doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of chores and projects to work on.

Coffee Clem HGH
The day always starts better with coffee!

Then on April 1, all persons traveling between any of the islands in the state of Hawaii became subject to mandatory self-quarantine.

Arrived just in time...

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the south in New Zealand, Clem’s partner Angus was trying to get to Hawaii having just had his immigrant visa approved. After many flight changes, and frantic packing, Angus caught one of the last flights out of New Zealand before the government announced the country was going into lockdown.

Almost exactly four years after they first met, and after time spent in both countries, Angus arrived in Hawaii as a newly-minted permanent resident. 

Finally! It was time to get on with their lives together. Unfortunately, Angus arrived just before the lockdown was enforced. After careful deliberation it was decided it was sensible to quarantine, just to be on the safe side (luckily he was fine).

Clem & Angus
Angus and Clem, New Zealand, 2019

With contact not allowed (not even a hug!) and social distance mandated at all times, Clem whisked Angus back to Horizon and into 14 day quarantine.

Alone together was the new normal. At least for the following two weeks! But spring was in the air, the weather was good, and it was perfect timing for some landscape gardening. 

Around the house

Before After

First up, landscaping and weeding around the guest rooms. Garden maintenance is always done on a regular basis but with more time it was a great opportunity to tackle the bigger jobs.

Datura HGH Big Island Hawaii

Angus works on cutting back the overgrown datura to the level of the rock wall in front of the guest rooms. Hedges between the guest rooms are trimmed and sculpted. 

Datura Big Island Hawaii

After mowing the lawns it’s time to rake up the clippings.

Pro tip: use grass clippings to cover any sections of your lawn that are struggling.

Grass clippings are good for your lawn because they act like a natural fertilizer since they contain water and nutrients (like nitrogen) – all the good things to keep your lawn in a healthy state. Left on the lawn the clippings decompose and release water and nutrients back into the soil.

Pond Life

Pond Horizon Guest House B&B Hawaii HGH

Overgrown weeds cleared, and ferns cut back. The garden around the pond is weeded and the red anthuirums once again emerge, taking pride of place! 

Garden Hawaii Big Island Horizon HGH

Pineapples and lizards

Next, the pineapple grove. A good crop of pineapples has grown well in this part of the garden and with a harvest not to far away it was time to clear the dead branches from the papaya tree and get to pulling weeds.

Joining the gardening team was this little lizard. At first suspicious, it soon appeared to like hanging out with (and on) Clem! 

A visit to the upper pastures...

Sunny Horizon Guest House
Poncho and Sunny

Poncho & Lefty (the donkeys) and Sunny (the horse) were curious onlookers to all of this activity. A midday break for lunch and a visit with the gang was in order.

Next on the agenda, a change of pace – down the driveway to the warehouse.

Cleaning up around the warehouse

Rubbish run Horizon Guest House Hawaii B&B

Everyone accumulates clutter and Horizon is no different. The warehouse, on the lower slopes of the property, was in need of a spring clean and then a run to the refuse station down the highway for a rubbish drop off.

Recycling was also sorted. Cans, bottles and cardboard were put aside for a separate trip to the recycling plant in Kona.

Rubbish cleared. Check. Progress made. Check. Staying hydrated in the heat? Check.

Mowing and more mowing...

Rideon mower Horizon Guest House Hawaii HGH

Staying on top of all the mowing that needs to be done on the property is almost a full-time job. However, it’s made significantly easier by the use of both a ride-on mower and a tractor with a mower attachment – to tackle the rocky pastures that need to be cleared.

Fun fact: Wild Pigs. Normally cute, especially the piglets, wild pigs can cause havoc on the property. Whether rooting about in the garden devastating crops of bananas or pineapples – or anything remotely edible – pigs are tough to keep out (finding ingenious ways to dig under the boundary fences to get in). By keeping the pastures clear of long grass it makes it easier to hunt the pigs and protect the Horizon crops from being plundered.

Tractor closeup Horizon Guest House Hawaii B&B
Clem about to mow on the lower pastures

Whether with guests or without, a day at Horizon wouldn’t be complete without another sunset. Tools down, gloves off, and dinner watching the sun disappear over the Pacific Ocean on the Kona Coast. A pretty good reward for a day’s work keeping Horizon Guest House in shape. Look out for details on our spring planting in the vegetable and herb gardens in the next lockdown dispatch.

Sunset Horizon Guest House Kona Hawaii HGH
How have you been spending the lockdown? In the garden? Spring cleaning the house? Keeping busy with arts and crafts? Baking? Let us know what you’ve been up to in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Authored by

The Keitt Mango

Last Updated on September 17, 2020 @ 8:18 pm
Keitt Mango tree

If there’s one fruit that’s most associated with the tropics, it’s the mango. The Keitt mango is the super-sized variety – a giant serving of delicious, natural sweetness. There are 5 different mango varieties grown at Horizon, and our favorite, by a long shot, is the Keitt.

Mango harvest

Some 40 different varieties are grown on the islands, and of these there are about 10 which produce the bulk of the mango crops. The Keitt is a late harvest variety. It generally ripens from August through October, or even into November. The other mangoes here on the property, and state-wide in general, are usually finished by July or August.

Keitt Mango Sliced Open

The Keitt mango

The Keitt mango is huge, easily weighing in between 2 to 4 pounds each! What’s a little unusual about this variety is that it doesn’t change color to indicate that it’s ripe. In years past, we would wait for the expected color change before picking – the Keitt’s green skin will stay green, even if it’s ripe – and then unfortunately the fruit would fall to the ground, turning to mush from the bruising.

Keitt Mango Big Island Hawaii

Ensure the mango is ripe by pressing gently on the skin – it should give slightly. The mango may need to sit for a few more days after picking to ensure it has ripened enough. Don’t store mangos in the refrigerator as they don’t like the cold. The best way to prepare a mango is to slice around the seed, cutting the flesh in a cross-hatch pattern.

Keitt Mangos fruit bowl Big Island Hawaii
Keitt mangos, bananas, lemons, limes, avocados and rambutan (red & spiky)

History of the Keitt

The Keitt mango originated from a seedling of the Mulgoba cultivar and was named for Mrs J.N. Keitt who planted the first seed in Florida in 1939. By the mid-1940s it was being grown commercially, the variety praised for it’s ease of growing, flavor, and low fiber. This variety is also found throughout Central and South America as well as Hawaii.

Mango bread with cranberries

Keitt mango trees grow to a medium size, allowing them to bear the heavy fruit they produce. The flesh itself is sweet, with low amounts of fiber, a thin seed, and the skin is mostly green with a purple or red tinge. This variety is anthracnose resistant, meaning it is resistant to a fungal disease causing dark lesions. The fruit also has a long shelf life.

The versatile mango

Just like a peach, the versatile mango can be used to flavor pies, jam, chutney, ice cream, sorbets, relishes, preserves, juices as well as being used in a wide array of baked goods. Of course, just like a really good peach, nothing beats the fresh fruit, especially when it’s chilled. A fresh mango topped cheese cake, or served alone with spoonful of vanilla ice cream… yum! Here in Hawaii, mango bread is widely popular as a fruit substitute for banana. When mangos are in season we often make mango flavored bread (with cranberries, pictured above) and mango muffins – a great addition to the breakfast menu.

Mango muffins

Mango wood

Mango wood has become a popular wood both for furniture and also art objects. Mango trees reach maturity for harvesting at between seven to fifteen years. The wood itself does not require intensive processing and drying. Another reason for its popularity is that it has a very similar look to teak.

Fun fact! Mango wood is sustainable. The wood is already a by-product of the industrial mango fruit industry and the trees are quick to mature compared to other trees. Once the trees have finished fruiting they are harvested for their wood and then replaced with the next crop of mangos.

Mango wood

Besides being an attractive tree, it produces a beautiful and useful wood. Local craftsman use mango (when they can get it) to produce wooden art work and beautiful bowls and boxes (as pictured). Mango doesn’t have the cache of koa, but because there is so little available, it ranks up there as far as desirability among the wood workers.

Mango wood boxes

If you’re in Hawaii during mango season, make sure you gorge on the tangy goodness of one the islands’ most delicious fruits.

Used mangos in your cooking? Tell us about your mango-flavored creation in the comments below.

Authored by

Wild Birds of Horizon: Part I

Kalij pheasant Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Kalij pheasants

It’s not just domesticated animals you’ll see at Horizon Guest House. We have abundant wild bird life here on the property and in this post, part I of II, we’ll feature some of our favorites.

Kalij pheasant

The kalij pheasant was first introduced to Hawaii in 1962. The males are black with grey and the females are light brown. The males have a distinctive red colouring around the eyes with a plume of feathers on their heads.

They grow to be between two to three feet in size. Originally from the Himalaya region in Nepal, it was the owners of Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch who first brought the kalij pheasants to the Big Island. You’re most likely to see these birds in forested upland areas, which is why we often see them here at Horizon due to the altitude – we’re at 1,100 feet.

Did you know? Despite it’s size the kalij is sometimes targeted as prey by the io, the Hawaiian hawk!

Cardinal Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
A friendly Red Cardinal

Red Cardinal

This colorful bird is fairly common on the Big Island. Also known as the northern cardinal, or redbird, it was introduced to Hawaii in 1929.

Cardinals are common in pairs and you’ll often see them in the garden at Horizon. The male is easily identified by his bright red color. The females are brown in color. When you hear birdsong first thing in the morning at Horizon it’s likely to be the cardinal as they are among the first birds to sing at dawn.

Zebra Finch Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Zebra finch on the lanai

Zebra finch

The zebra finch is a common bird on the property and it might take you a moment to see them. The zebra finch is very small. So-called because of its zebra-like stripes on its neck and chest, and also because of the coloring of its black and white tail.

There can be great variation in the coloring of zebra finches. Generally the male is gray with a black shading around its eye and patches of red on its cheeks as well as a red beak. The female’s beak is more of a pale orange.

Turkey Horizon BnB Kona Big Island
Turkeys in the garden

Turkey

You’ll often see turkeys at Horizon moving in herds. Turkeys were released on the Big Island at the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch in the early 1960s when some wild Rio Grande turkeys were introduced.

Turkeys like the higher elevations and their population has grown significantly since their introduction. Their numbers are estimated at more than 15,000.

Did you know? Turkeys are found on all islands but are more common on the Big Island, Molokai and Lanai than the other islands.

Saffron Finch Horizon Guest House
Bird in the hand!

Saffron finch

One of our favorites, the saffron finch is commonly found on the Big Island but especially on the Kona Coast. Often seen in large flocks, you’ll find saffron finches congregating around the pond at the entrance to the B&B.

The species of saffron finch on the Big Island are originally from Columbia/Venezuela and were introduced to the Big Island around the same time as the turkeys to the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Ranch.

Did you know? A group of finches has many collective nouns, these include a ‘charm’, a ‘company’ and a ‘trembling’ of finches!

Look out for part II of our feature on the wild birds of Horizon in the future!

Come see our amazing birdlife! Click the button below to book now.

Author: Angus Meek

Orchid Extravaganza!

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Kona 2

Guests at Horizon Guest House often ask me ‘what makes Hawaii so special?’ and the first answer that usually comes to mind is ‘the weather’.

The weather on the Big Island is consistent and doesn’t tend to change much throughout the year. The Big Island also has an added bonus – you can pick your weather within a tropical to subtropical range. Actually, you can technically find 10 of the 14 climate zones right here on the island.

Orchid Big Island Horizon Guest House Hawaii

One result of this consistent weather is the ability to grow a huge range of plants and flowers. And one of my favorites is the orchid (orchidaceae).

Orchid Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The variety of flower formations is astounding. There are about 28,000 currently accepted species and about 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB

Developing new hybrids and cultivars is a huge endeavor on the Big Island – you can see a large number of varieties at the annual orchid show in Hilo sponsored by the Hilo Orchid Society. This year it was held on June 28-30th. I didn’t make it to this year’s show but I have been to many in past years and thoroughly recommend it. For more details check out their website here

Orchids Kona Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Fun fact! Another name for the Big Island is the ‘orchid isle’. This is because Hawaii quite quickly got a reputation for excellence in producing orchids. First grown commercially in the early 1900s, Hawaii was dubbed ‘the orchid center of the world’ when the Honolulu Orchid Society exhibited over 20,000 plants in St. Louis at the 1957 World Orchid Conference. Today, orchids are a multi-million dollar industry.

When seeing orchids out in the living room, guests frequently ask how I’m able to have them out all year. Easy – basically I feed and ignore. The weather does the rest!

Orchids Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

The vanilla orchid (not pictured here) is probably one of the most well-known orchids. It is the second-most expensive spice after saffron. That’s because it’s so labor intensive. Two thirds of the world’s vanilla is grown in Madagascar and Indonesia.

I did have a vanilla orchid here at Horizon Guest House, and yes, it did bloom. The problem is that there’s a very specific window when it’s possible to pollenate – and I kept missing the window. And in the end, a turkey ripped the plant off the tree – and that was the end of my vanilla production.

Orchid Kona Big Island Hawaii Horizon Guest House

Native Orchids

There are only three types of orchids native to Hawaii. These are Anoetochilus sandvicensis (the jewel orchid); Liparis hawaiensis (the twayblade orchid); and Platanthera holochila.

The best place to find these orchids in the wild is on a hike at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, or in the wet forests on the east side of the island.

Alternatively, for all things orchid, check out Akatsuka Orchid Gardens not far from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Jewel orchid Hawaii
Jewel orchid. Photo credit: G. Daida and https://bit.ly/2plDjgu
Twayblade orchid
Photo credit. Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://bit.ly/369rOct
Platanthera holochila
Photo credit. J.K. Obata

But sometimes all you need is an orchid and a sunset...

Orchid Horizon Guest House Captain Cook Hawaii

Book now by clicking the button below and then filling out our reservation request form. Or call us on 808 938 7822

Author: Angus Meek

Donkey Life: BFFs Poncho and Lefty

Donkey Big Island Hawaii B&B Captain Cook
Poncho and Lefty striking a pose

Over ten years ago we added to the Horizon animal family with the first of two donkeys. Poncho was the first addition and soon after we added Lefty. Both donkeys were born in the wild but were captured when they were young. They’re quite tame and love being fed with carrots by the guests.

They look so much alike that while we can’t be certain we’re pretty sure they’re twins! They’re inseparable and you’ll often find them grazing the pastures together at Horizon Guest House, with our horse Sunny not far behind. Sometimes Clem will let Poncho, Lefty and Sunny graze in the upper part of the garden where they like to come visit, keeping us company as we garden.

Donkey Big Island Hawaii
Lefty

Donkeys don’t need to be shoed like horses. Donkeys tend to have tougher hooves. This is most likely because of their wild ancestor, the African Wild Ass, that evolved in dry, mountainous environments. Studies have shown that walking causes less internal stress to the hoof of the donkey than it does to that of horses. Though this doesn’t stop Poncho and Lefty from coming to hang out with Sunny when she gets her new shoes.

Did you know? Donkeys are smart. Not only is a donkey stronger than a horse of a smilier size, but donkeys have an amazing memory – they can recognise environments, as well as other donkeys, from more than twenty years prior. And just in case you thought donkeys looked less than alert, they’ve been shown to be safety conscious too – tests have proven a donkey will not do something it thinks is unsafe. Although, there was that time that Poncho and Lefty… wait – never mind. After all it wasn’t Poncho and Lefty who ended up in the swimming pool like Buck did…

Donkeys don’t like dogs so much and this might be an evolutionary hangover. It’s been suggested that to a donkey a dog resembles a wolf and therefore remains a threat. Donkeys will often protect the herd from anything it considers to be dangerous, whether that herd includes other donkeys, horses, sheep or goats.

Donkey Big Island Horizon Guest House
Lefty checking in with Gary the Goat

Origins of donkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii

Originally brought to Hawaii as work animals on coffee farms and agricultural plantations, their population soon increased and wild donkeys were, until relatively recently, a common sight.

Wandering over the Big Island unchecked for almost the last 40 years, it was only in 2016 that the Humane Society had a big drive to place the remainder of these donkeys into safe, happy homes, either here on the Big Island or even on the mainland. Wild donkeys can be challenging to train so it was a requirement that all those that adopted donkeys could provide ample space and social contact for the animal.

And the key requirement of adopting a donkey? You’ve got to have two! Donkeys are incredibly social animals, so if they can’t have another donkey to keep them company then another animal is a must.

Make time during your stay to visit with our farm animals – they love the company, a scratch under the chin and a friendly pat, and of course a vegetable snack! We always have something on hand to feed them, just ask Clem and he’ll be happy to introduce you to BFFs Poncho and Lefty as well as Horizon’s other domesticated residents.

Donkey Big Island Hawaii Horizon BnB
The whole gang! Sunny taking some time out while Poncho and Lefty stand by

For more details on how to book click the Book Now button below!

Author: Angus Meek

Geckos and Gecko Art at Horizon

Gecko Horizon Guest House BnB Hawaii
Gold Dust Gecko in the garden at Horizon Guest House [Photo credit Horizon Guest House]

Even though it was introduced from further afield, the gecko is now emblematic of Hawaii, and you can’t go far on the Big Island without finding them in the natural landscape, printed on t-shirts, made into stickers, or – as you’ll see in this post – as works of art on the walls of the Horizon B&B.

There are eight species of gecko in Hawaii:

  1. Mourning gecko
  2. Stump-toed gecko
  3. Fox gecko
  4. Common house gecko
  5. Tokay gecko
  6. Orange-spotted day gecko
  7. Giant day gecko
  8. Gold dust day gecko

Only the last three – orange-spotted, giant and gold dust geckos are active in the daytime. The gold dust gecko is one of the prettiest and so-named for the coloriation of its body. Their bodies are usually green, or a yellowy green, with yellow speckles.

Gold dust geckos can grow up to 9 inches long. They eat plants, insects and sometimes even other geckos! (And they love a sugar snack too). This species of gecko is the one you will most likely see during your stay at Horizon Guest House on the Kona Coast. Don’t worry, they are completely harmless!

Gold Dust Gecko having a snack at The Coffee Shack on the Kona Coast

Did you know? Geckos don’t have eyelids. Their eyes have a transparent membrane and they clean it with their tongue! Geckos are also able to vocalize, unlike other lizards, making a kind of chirping, clicking sound. The noises geckos make might be to scare off other geckos who have invaded their territory, as a means to avoid fighting, or to attract another gecko in order to mate. They can also jump a fair distance too when chasing their insect prey.

Contrary to popular opinion geckos don’t have tiny toe pads with suction cups. In fact, their toes are covered in hundreds of tiny microscopic hairs called setae. Each of these setae have hundreds of smaller bristles called spatulae. These tiny hairs get close enough to the contours of walls, ceilings and other surfaces that it causes what’s known as the van der Waals force to occur.

Fun fact! The van der Waals force is a physical bond that occurs when electrons from the gecko hair molecules and electrons from the surface of the wall, or ceiling, interact with each other creating an electromagnetic attraction. This allows the gecko to navigate smooth surfaces like glass, as well as walls and ceilings, with ease.

Sometimes you might see a gecko without a tail – as you can imagine this isn’t so good for the gecko. To regrow the tail involves a process that is taxing on the lizard, sapping them of energy. To make matters worse the tail itself is actually a place where essential nutrients and fat are stored for periods when food is difficult to find. If you see a gecko with a thick tail it’s a good indication of the geckos health, hence a thin tail could indicate poor health, or a lack of access to nutrient-rich food.

How did they get to Hawaii? We know the gecko was introduced and can probably assume that they made it across the vast distances in the Pacific by stowing away aboard Polynesian canoes.

Gold Dust Gecko with Clem at Kona Coffee and Tea in Kailua-Kona

Geckos have a varied life span depending on the species but the average expected life span is approximately five years. If you manage to keep one as a pet they can live longer – they have been known to live for almost 20 years in captivity. We don’t keep them as pets here at Horizon Guest House, but you’ll be sure to see them in the garden or out on the lanai, and the occasional one that makes its way indoors. Don’t worry, all rooms have insect screens and doors to keep them, and other insects, out.

Hawaiian mythology

The mo’o are mentioned in Hawaiian mythology as a kind of dragon – their bodies forming a part of the landscape. Seen as the guardians of water, and also the family, they serve to warn or protect a person from an approaching danger. Over time the geckos have become a kind of manifestation of the mythological mo’o. Making the gecko a small but well-respected creature in Hawaiian culture. 

Gecko Art at Horizon

Over the years we’ve collected a lot of gecko-related art. These are currently displayed out on the main lanai of the house. Check out the photos below.

Author: Angus Meek

Summer fruit on the Big Island: from the garden to the breakfast table!

Mango Trees Big Island Hawaii

We’re well into summer here on the Big Island of Hawaii and with it comes an abundance of summer fruit grown right here on the property. Providing in-season fruit direct to the breakfast table for guests every day is our pleasure.

Organically grown in the gardens surrounding Horizon Guest House we currently have a bounty of mangoes, white pineapples, dragon fruit, lychees, and papaya.

Mangoes

Mangoes in Hawaii, is there anything better? We have a number of established trees on the property and this is a staple of our breakfast when in season.

Big Island residents love their mangoes, whether they’re lucky enough to have their own backyard tree or purchased direct from the local Farmer’s Market – the closest one to us is on Sundays in South Kona – be sure to make the most of the mango season from May to October, and come to love them as much as we do.

Did you know? Mangoes aren’t in fact native to the Hawaiian Islands, rather it’s widely thought they arrived here in the early 19th century from Manila.

Mangoes also make a great ingredient in a number of Hawaiian recipes – sauces, salsa, cheesecake, ice cream and even pickles.

 

White pineapple

What’s better than a pineapple? White pineapple. The sweet white flesh of the fruit itself is deliciously creamy, and is also low-acid. Even the core is edible! And it isn’t woody and stringy like other varieties.

Grown mostly by local farmers on the Big Island and available at the local markets, white pineapple also goes by the name of Kona Sugarloaf, Big Island White or White.

Did you know? It’s a myth that pulling a leaf easily from the crown of the pineapple indicates  ripeness.

Among other health benefits pineapple is a great source of potassium, vitamin C, and also fiber.

 

Dragon fruit

Believed by many to be a super fruit, dragon fruit is high in vitamin C, phosphorus and calcium. Red-skinned with red-flesh, orange-skinned with white flesh, and also red skinned with white flesh, it’s a sweet, juicy delight – tasting like a cross between a pear and a melon.

Similar to a kiwifruit because of its small, black, crunchy seeds, dragon fruit can also be added to deserts, smoothies, sorbets and salads.

Did you know? Its name comes from its appearance – like a fireball with its bright pink coloring and green leaves shaped like flames.

Lychee

We’re lucky enough to have a number of lychee trees at Horizon Guest House. When ripe lychees turn a bright red. The red rind conceals within a juicy, white, translucent and gelatinous flesh.

Lychees are a delicious treat – and taste even better chilled. A staple of backyard gardens all over the Big Island they are also naturally high in vitamin C and potassium.

Did you know? The first lychee plant was brought to Hawaii in the 1870s from China.

 

Papaya

Available year round in Hawaii, papaya flourish especially well from spring through to September. Enjoyed as part of the breakfast fruit platter they also make a great snack on their own. Simply scoop out the seeds and replace with a spoonful of yoghurt!

Papaya can not only be added to salads and stews but the black seeds found inside the papaya are edible. The seeds have a sharp, spicy flavor and can be ground and used instead of black pepper.

Did you know? Papaya are originally from southern Mexico but now grow in most tropical countries – of course we believe the best is right here at the bed and breakfast.

Book now and enjoy your breakfast at Horizon Guest House with fresh fruit from the garden direct to our breakfast fruit platter – available daily.

 

Author: Angus Meek