There is a humble tourist attraction on Hawaii’s Big Island called the Painted Church. It is one of my favorite Hawaiian spots with its quiet presence and tropical landscape, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
When we visited last month, a house finch and gecko were together in this papaya tree on the church grounds.
This bright and exotic gecko lives on three of the Hawaiian Islands. Gold Dust Day Gecko.
This is not a pair you usually see together, but it was easy to see why.
The house finch had found a lusciously ripe papaya and had used his strong bill to open the fruit. The gecko was taking advantage of the opened fruit, called in the gang.
Geckos feed on fruit, nectar, and insects, and you can see the smorgasbord they were enjoying that day.
There are 1,500 species of geckos in the world. This particular species, Phelsuma laticauda laticauda, is diurnal, active during the day. They are native to Northern Madagascar.
Many birds came into the papaya trees that day.
There are always many butterflies and birds visiting the fruit trees and flowering plants at The Painted Church. I have never seen a lot of tourists visit the church–it’s out of the way–and those who do visit go inside the church, stay five minutes, and drive away.
It is so named for the interior that is painted with a unique combination of biblical and Hawaiian themes.
The church is more formally named St. Benedict’s Catholic Church, built in 1899. Belgian Catholic missionary Father John Velghe painted the frescoes. They still hold regular Sunday services here.
The adjacent cemetery shows the black lava that is so prevalent on this volcanic island. Every time I visit, it is dancing with butterflies.
This juvenile gecko in the cemetery was the length of my thumb.
For over a hundred years people and butterflies and birds have been visiting this tranquil spot on the hill. Thousands of people have stood on the lava sidewalk looking out over the Pacific Ocean. I’m glad to be one of them.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.