The only way to see active lava at our time of travel was from the air. The flow that had been coming from the volcanic area and leading to the sea is no longer going in that direction. We booked an afternoon helicopter tour that left from Hilo. It makes for a long day driving about 41/2 to 5 hours return trip to Hilo, but it cuts the cost of the helicopter price. If you leave by helicopter from Kona to see the volcano it will cost $400 or more per person.
We took off from Hilo airport and headed in the direction of the volcanic area. We flew over areas of macadamia and orchid farms. We made our way to a big ridge and once past it the volcanic area was beneath us. Our pilot continued to do large figure 8’s around the area so everyone could get a good look at the activity below. One of the couples that accompanied us in the helicopter had flown over the this area about 8 years ago. They could hardly recognize it as the same volcano. It lost about 600 feet in height during a collapse it had.
We left the active volcanic area and flew towards former residential areas now covered in lava. You could see roads that led to nowhere. The odd house roof or structure sticks out of the blackness.
Through the entire flight our pilot was narrating. He gave us information about the volcano and the area. He gave us a fact about the rain in the Hilo area that we could hardly believe. They have on record 39 inches of rainfall that was received in 24 hours!
The land that goes out to the sea is referred to as lava shelves. They are constantly eroded from underneath by the sea and eventually collapse under their own weight. Recently a land mass the size of 35 acres fell off into the sea.
As we flew back towards the airport we went over areas of rivers and waterfalls. Unfortunately the visibility was very poor. We didn’t get a very clear view of the falls. We did get a good overview of the town of Hilo below as we got closer to the airport.