Meet the Oahu, Hawaii Tour Team!
Hawaii Turtle Tours prides itself in providing intimate, family-style tours to some of Oahu’s most beautiful locations. Turtle tours are kept small in order to offer guests incredible encounters with the island’s wildlife and natural beauty. Hawaii Turtle Tours offers an Oahu sightseeing tour that circles the island and includes snorkeling and the chance to swim with green sea turtles, making it the island’s one and only circle island “wet” tour. This Turtle Eco-Adventure is truly an adventure unlike any other!
Benjy Gilholm, co-founder and CEO of Hawaii Turtle Tours, moved to the North Shore of Oahu in 1990 at the age of 18 from Encinitas, California, to pursue his dream of surfing Pipeline and the challenging waves of Hawaii after his first visit at age 14 with team Quicksilver for the US champions at Sandy Beach. He has a long history of interesting employment positions since his arrival in Hawaii. Mr. Gilholm held positions with several major surf labels as team manager/marketing specialist, 5 years as a State lifeguard, 5 years at Turtle Bay Resort and most recently since 2008 as a highly accomplished realtor, selling 5 oceanfront properties and a 16-unit apartment building in Waikiki to add to his resume. In 2011, he decided it would be fun to build a tour company in order to share the beautiful island of Oahu with tourists and really show Aloha by offering intimate tours with small groups. He feels blessed to give back by offering free tours to the Make a Wish Foundation, helping Hawaii’s homeless by purchasing free bikes, food, and clothes for the less fortunate, and employing multiple local families.
Ernest Egan, Chief Operation Officer and co-founder of Hawaii Turtle Tours, was born in San Francisco, CA, in 1967 and moved to Pacifica, CA, in 1970. His back door neighbor was a Judo instructor, Fred Lee, from Ehukai Beach whose son Freddy Lee was an incredible surfer and surfboard maker. The Lee’s were like a second family, and at age 6 Ernest started Judo and by 10 became a top 3 state competitor, a state champion and top 5 in the nation for 6 years. At 11 Freddy Lee made Ernest his first surfboard. At a national competition held in Waikiki at age 14, Ernest stayed after with the Lee family and fell in Love with Hawaii and surfing warm water. At 16 Ernest became a Christian. At 18 Ernest left a swimming scholarship at USF to move to Kauai and surf “real” waves. Waiting tables nights at the Princeville Hotel gave a great background for high level hospitality and a chance to work alongside many amazing Hawaiian Legends in addition to surfing daily.
Those early days in Hawaii continued Ernest’s “school of hard knocks” surfing alongside Kauai’s world-class surfers and further learning about respect and aloha that started way back with the Lee’s. At 23 he was invited to the Triple Crown of surfing only to have a severe knee injury take him out. In 1994, Ernest went on a surf trip to Indonesia with friends. Although he almost died from malaria, the following year he started Good Sumateran Surf Charters, a liveaboard surf charter company taking surfers from all over the world to some of the best and most remote waves in the world on boats for 11-24 days from Sumatera to the Mentawai Islands. Ernest eventually grew to 3 boats and managed 2 others for local Indonesians. His passion for sharing these waves with all surfers was huge.
In 1998, he started a nonprofit “Saving the Reef, A Surfer’s Quest” and also was the first to help Surf Aid to distribute mosquito nets to the locals in the sparsely inhabited Mentawai Islands. He also lobbied hard for environmental protection for the locals and the Mentawai Islands. Years later approached by Benjy Gilholm to start a tour in Hawaii, Ernest was very happy to get involved and start a tour that taught about the local culture, aloha, wildlife, and an encounter while swimming with Hawaiian sea turtles.
We love being a positive part of the community and sharing our love and relationships in a way that teaches love and respect for all of Hawaii and Hawaiians. Getting people in the water with sea turtles is an amazing life experience that can change your heart and soul and fill it with Aloha. We also love providing jobs and giving back to the community through different nonprofits, foundations, and really anywhere we can share the aloha spirit to those in need.