My wife and I only learned about this company at the end of our vacation on the Big Island this past week. So we only had one more day to do it before heading home. As a photographer, it was important to me to have some flexibility in how our time was spent, so I wanted a private tour. Luckily, we were able to book one. The price for group tours was $100 per person, but for a private tour, it was only $150 per person, so we booked that.
We had trouble finding the location (our GPS was slightly out of date), but we called ahead and they were very accommodating, despite our being 30 minutes late.
The hike out to the lava was about 1.5 hours. Our guide, Andrew, is also a photographer (had very similar gear to me), was willing to loan me a lighter tripod for the hike (his spare), but when he saw mine, which was of good quality, he recommended he carry it for me so I'd have a heavier one to work with in the windy location.
Andrew shared lots of history about the lava, and also stories about how the community had been affected over the hears. When he was a young child, the lava took his house. His Auntie's house, though, had been spared through three different flows that took most of the houses around it. As a lifetime resident, he was able to tell us what used to be in place of the lava as we hiked across it. Houses, streets, cemeteries, ranches, etc.. It really brought out the cultural cost of the magnificent landscape in a very personal way. Andrew even carried along extra provisions, like a headlamp (we only had one), a poncho to cover my camera bags, and spare water in case we needed it.
Once we got to the lava, it was truly spectacular. We even stayed a bit longer to take pictures, and I got some good ones. You can see a couple on flickr here:
So if you want a reasonably priced guide to go see the lava, I highly recommend this company. And if you're a photographer, you might request Andrew. He was definitely helpful in recommending how to prepare for the trip, as well as bouncing ideas off of during the shoot itself.
One thing to note.. their office is in a relatively noisy open market kind of location. This made trying to book over the phone a little challenging. I ended up contacting them through their website, and then communicated over email to complete questions and booking. That worked out great, especially since we were driving all over the island when trying to book this. So I'd recommend that over calling.
Thanks Kalapana Cultural Tours, and especially our guide Andrew, for a great experience!!
Bill & Peggy