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Snorkeling

Exploring the underwater world

The coasts of Hawai'i's islands are an underwater paradise for avid snorkelers, offering a bounty of fish, coral, turtles, dolphins, and other wildlife.

While in Hawai'i I learned to identify many species of fish, and I took an interest in observing their behaviour and environment. Hawai'i's coral reefs are truly a treasure to be cherished, and I encourage all visitors to do their part to preserve them. Remember when snorkeling that you should never feed the fish (this encourages changes in behaviour and leads to aggression among different species), don't stand on the coral (it takes years to grow and you can damage it), and above all, respect the reef. I spent an afternoon helping clean out a local beach near Hilo, Hawai'i, and in the space of about an hour I pulled over 50 beer bottles plus lots of other garbage from the bottom. Please take only photos, and leave only bubbles!

Fish

Butterflyfish are some of the most beautiful fish in Hawai'i's waters. While most species travel in pairs, sometimes large schools of raccoon butterflyfish could be seen hovering over the reef at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau.



Pair of saddleback butterflyfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (February '08)



Pair of teardrop butterflyfish
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



Sunlight filters through the water as raccoon butterflyfish and convict tangs swim by.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (April '08)



A pair of lined butterflyfish race across the coral
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



A pair of oval butterflyfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



Schooling raccoon butterflyfish near the cinder block "Aloha" sign.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



A lone ornate butterflyfish accompanies a school of raccoon butterflyfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)

Triggerfish and filefish are similarly shaped fish usually found traveling along the reef.



The beautiful lagoon triggerfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (April '08)



Barred filefish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (February '08)



A pair of barred filefish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)

The many species of wrasse are common in Hawai'i's waters. Christmas wrasse resemble painted ornaments working their way through coral gardens. The rockmover wrasse spends its time living up to its name, rearranging the rocky bottom. Juveniles are tiny and look like pieces of seaweed drifting with the tides, while adults look much different, with distinct lines radiating out from their eyes.



Colourful christmas wrasse
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (March '08)



Juvenile rockmover wrasse at the cinder block "Aloha" sign (approx. 30 ft)
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



Adult rockmover wrasse
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (May '08)

On this visit to Hawai'i I encountered some of the largest schools of tangs, moorish idols, raccoon butterflyfish, and mullets I'd even seen.



Piles of moorish idols lazily gliding by
Kahalu'u Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



A school of yellow tangs
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



A school of convict tangs working their way across the coral
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (April '08)



A school of sharpnose mullets
Kapoho Tide Pools, Hawai'i (May '08)



Several species of fish grazing on the rocks
Kahalu'u, Hawai'i (May '08)

Some of the more rare and unusual fish I came across included male and female spotted trunkfish, which are strange little cubic fish with tiny mouths, an unusually white "yellow" tang, a black variant of the longnose butterflyfish, a pyramid butterflyfish (rare), and the strange (and curious!) stripebelly pufferfish.



Male spotted trunkfish and female parrotfish
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



Female spotted trunkfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



Strangely pale yellow tang and a raccoon butterflyfish
Kahalu'u Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



Black variant of the longnose butterflyfish
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (April '08)



Pyramid butterflyfish at about 15 feet.
Carousel, Maui (April '08)



A particularly friendly raccoon butterflyfish gets in the way of my photo of a stripebelly pufferfish
Kahalu'u Beach, Hawai'i (May '08)

Eels and Octopus

Moray eels and octopus were hiding amongst the rocks and coral at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau. The camouflage octopus, able to change its colour to blend in with the background coral, was difficult to spot unless startled. Moray eels, on the other hand, didn't seem too cautious and would often sit with their heads poking out of a coral hideaway, awaiting curious passersby...



This octopus had had enough of posing for photos!
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (February '08)



Whitemouth moray eel
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (February '08)



Yellowmargin moray
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



An angry whitemouth moral eel on the move
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (March '08)

Honu: The Green Sea Turtle

The green sea turtle, 'Honu' in Hawai'ian, is one of the most amazing creatures on the reef, awkward on land but able to fly with ease through the ocean. These turtles seem to be making a comeback in recent years; some snorkeling spots were literally 'turtle soup' with turtles resting under every second ledge.



A smaller green sea turtle
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



Turtles could often be spotted hanging out under rock ledges at Richardson's.
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



Heading up for air
Richardson's Beach, Hawai'i (February '08)



The beautiful shell of this green sea turtle shines in the late afternoon sun
Black Rock, Maui (March '08)



This huge turtle braved the crashing waves to graze on algae
Black Rock, Maui (March '08)

Spinner Dolphins

Spinner dolphins visit Kealakekua Bay near the Captain Cook monument early most mornings, around 7am. If you're there on time, you can snorkel out a couple hundred yards into the bay and swim with these friendly creatures. Listening to their calls while being surrounded by these little dolphins, seeming happy to be near humans, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I got to do it twice!



Close up visit with a dolphin
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (April '08)



It's hard to keep up with these swift swimmers
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (April '08)



Coming up for air
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (April '08)



Swimming with the dolphins
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (April '08)



Dolphins at play
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (May '08)



Skimming the surface
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (May '08)



Gazing down on several spinner dolphins
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (May '08)



Seems like they are smiling
Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i (May '08)

Freediving

While in Hawai'i I started learning how to freedive, swimming below the surface on a lungful of air. This is a rewarding and peaceful experience. Without the bulk and noise of scuba gear and bubbles, and without being limited to the surface, you can get fantastic views of some of the reef's most beautiful coral and fish.



Freediving gives great views of underwater structure
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



Steep shelf dropoff filled with coral
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (April '08)



Freediving to get a closer look
Carousel, Maui (April '08)



Freediving to the cinder block "Aloha" sign at 30 feet.
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)

Snorkel buddies

Snorkeling is more fun with other people; you can point out interesting things and share your experience.



Dad goes snorkeling
Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, Hawai'i (May '08)



Mum gives a wave while snorkeling
Kapoho tide pools, Hawai'i (May '08)

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