Super Bowl not your style? Soak up the sun, save an ancient Kaua‘i fishpond this Sunday

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Volunteers gather for a group photo at Nōmilu Fishpond in December 2023. Photo Courtesy: Hoʻomalu Ke Kai

It’s safe to say many on Kaua‘i have already made plans for this Sunday. It’s the date of Super Bowl LVIII, after all, when the San Fransisco 49ers are set to challenge the formidable Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas.

Imagine the scene at Rob’s Good Times Grill on the day of the big game. The popular Līhuʻe restaurant – a de facto headquarters for the Garden Isle’s 49ers fans – will overflow with scores of San Fransisco supporters chanting their beloved team toward victory.

Those who’d prefer to spend their Sunday in the Hawaiian sunshine, rather than in front of a TV, should consider joining ocean conservation nonprofit Hoʻomalu Ke Kai during its latest Loko I‘a Workday on the South Shore of Kaua‘i.

“If football is not your thing, come on down,” said Hoʻomalu Ke Kai Director of Operations Tim Leichliter. “It’s fun and family-friendly with really good vibes.”


The communal workdays – held on the second Sunday of each month – host up to 30 volunteers and take place at the ancient Nōmilu fishpond in Kalāheo, the home of commercial aquaculture business Kaua‘i Sea Farm. After two hours of work removing invasive weeds and otherwise restoring the fishpond, participants are treated to a lunch provided by Hoʻomalu Ke Kai.

“Over the past few years, our collective efforts have focused on clearing the perimeter of the pond from invasive plants and rebuilding sections of the walls of the two ‘auwai [canals],” Hoʻomalu Ke Kai said in a recent social media post. “This year, we are excited to maintain the positive momentum by completing the final quarter of the pond’s clearing and reintroducing native coastal species to the spaces we’ve tackled so far.”

Tim Leichliter picks up debris at Ahukini Recreational Pier in Līhuʻe in 2022. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

Nōmilu fishpond rests at the bottom of an ancient cinder cone said to have been created by the volcano goddess Pele as she traveled across the Hawaiian Islands. She sent two enormous eels – Puhiʻula and Puhipakapaka – to protect the site after her departure, and the supernatural guardians can still be seen today as two snaky rock formations near the cinder cone’s rim.

Leichliter said the gradual removal of invasive plants like pickleweed – and their replacement with native counterparts – has appeared to affect Nōmilu in surprising, and welcome, ways.


“You see the changes around the pond. The mangrove muck is going away, the tilapia are actually going away and the native fish populations are coming up,” he said. “We’re seeing all kinds of cool stuff.”

The workdays have grown in popularity since they first began 16 months ago, according to Leichliter. Volunteers are now required to RSVP and an attendance cap of 30 individuals has been put in place, due to limited access to bathrooms and running water at the site located on the makai side of the Kaua‘i Coffee Company estate.

“We get people from all walks of life … We have a lot of repeat volunteers. It feels like an ʻohana down there,” Leichliter said. “But we have new people every time, too, and it meshes. The old people are excited to see the new people and that makes the new people feel more comfortable.”

To RSVP for this Sunday’s Loko I‘a Workday, click here. Participants will meet at the Kaua‘i Coffee Visitor Center’s grass parking lot at 9:30 a.m. before traveling to Nōmilu. The day will conclude with a convoy back to the parking lot sometime between 2:30 and 3 p.m.


For more information about Hoʻomalu Ke Kai, click here. For more information about Kaua‘i Sea Farm, click here.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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