Oahu Nature Tours was founded in October 1995 by Michael Walther. Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Los Angeles, California, he first visited Hawai’i in December 1972 for several months. In 1980, he moved to Kaua’i and while living in Poipu Beach, he became interested in the native honeycreepers that survived in the remote Alaka’i Wilderness. With a friend, he visited the swamp-like area and attempted to see the rare O’o, Akialoa, O’u, Nukupu’u, Puaiohi and Kamao. Unfortunately none of these endangered species were found, but he was able to observe the beautiful I’iwi, Apapane, Amakihi, Anianiau and Elepaio. In November of 1980, Michael returned to the mainland.
For the next 15 years he lived and worked in California, but the memory of the colorful and disappearing honeycreepers stayed with him. During his last year in college, the plight of Hawai’i’s native birds became the focal point of his research. He chose to return to Hawai’i, “The Endangered Species Capital of the World,” in 1994 to study the birds and do what he could to help them survive. For three months, Michael surveyed the native forest bird populations on Kaua’i to determine their status. His results were published in the Journal of the Hawaiian Audubon Society, Elepaio. Then he returned to California to earn his degree.
After graduating with high honors in March 1995 in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, he arrived on Maui and went to work as a volunteer for The National Biological Survey. Michael worked on a project studying several of the rarest birds on Earth. These included the Maui Akepa, Maui Nukupu’u, Po’ouli, Maui Parrotbill and the Crested Honeycreeper. He worked on a research team that was surveying the wild, wet and windy slopes of the world’s largest dormant volcano, Haleakala. He also participated in distributing poison bait to eliminate the large rat population in the area.
Michael is also a nature photographer, and by 1995, he had collected a large number of color slides of Hawai’i’s incredibly beautiful natural treasures. Michael is the author of five books on native Hawaiian flora and fauna, including: A Pocket Guide to Nature on O’ahu; Images of Natural Hawai’i; A Pictorial Guide of the Aloha State’s Native Forest Birds and Plants; Pearls of Pearl Harbor and the Islands of Hawai’i; A Guide to Hawai’i’s Coastal Plants and Extinct Birds of Hawai’i, as well as many articles in birding and nature publication. His photographs of Hawai’i’s rare honeycreepers have also appeared in “Hawai’i”, “Aloha”, and “New Zealand Forest and Bird” magazines. On O’ahu, he continued to photograph Hawai’i’s endangered plant and bird species and he studied Hawaiian geology, archaeology, mythology and history.
In the Fall of 1995, Michael, with the help of his brother, Mark, started Oahu Nature Tours. The company slogan is “Conservation Through Education.” The original tour van was a used, six passenger Dodge Caravan. Today Oahu Nature Tours has two 13-passenger, air-conditioned Chevy Express vans and five 25-passenger Ford minibuses.