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ON A BUDGET

Hawaii's Outdoors as Nature Intended

March 12, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

Money can't buy the experience of standing on a volcanic Hawaiian mountain and surveying the endless expanse of tropical green below, nor can it pay for the school of tropical fish that darts past you on a snorkeling excursion. Money can, however, pay for a guide to lead your hike up the mountain, and it can obtain for you the equipment necessary for snorkeling. But by taking advantage of the Hawaii Rainforest Foundation's outdoor activities, you can avoid most of these expenses and enjoy the great outdoors as Mother Nature intended--for free (or close to it).

The Hawaii Rainforest Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the island of Oahu's fragile ecosystem and promoting environmental awareness among residents and visitors. To that end, the organization has begun to offer "free" (small donations are suggested) outdoor adventures that immerse participants in Hawaii's majestic natural surroundings while educating them about the importance of eco-preservation.

You can snorkel, hike, kayak, mountain bike and go fishing or body boarding. All equipment and professional instruction are provided for you at each adventure. Suggested donations run from $8 to $20 per activity, but because this payment is voluntary, you could (theoretically) partake of these offerings for free.

Each adventure lasts at least three hours, and groups are limited to 17 participants. Transportation to each activity's starting point is provided from three convenient, centralized pickup points around Oahu.

All the adventures immerse you in the island's lush tropical vegetation. Hikes, for example, take place on the Koolau Range, where 90% of the native flora and fauna are exclusive to that region. Informative guides narrate along the way, pointing out exotic flowers like orchids and plumeria and inviting participants to sample the mangoes and strawberry guavas that flourish in the mountains. Hikers may even stop periodically to refresh themselves at waterfalls.

At the end of your trip, you'll have experienced the glory of Hawaii's rain forest, and you also will have contributed to the foundation's educational programs.

To get more information or to book an adventure: Hawaii Rainforest Foundation, 400 Hobron Lane, Suite 1708, Honolulu, HI 96836; telephone (877) 624-8669, Internet http://www.hawaiirainforest.org.

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