Plunge into Earth’s most spectacular habitat.
Coral reefs are beautiful underwater cities that bustle with excitement and activity. Due to Hawaii’s isolation there are a large proportion of endemic species, those found nowhere else in the world. It is estimated that 20-30% of the fishes are endemic to Hawai'i.
The Humuhumu’nukunuku’apua’a (Hawai'i state fish), pufferfish, and the octopus are among hundreds of plants and animals that live on/in coral reefs, and create neighborhoods - big and small - throughout the reef system. Coral reefs are considered the aquatic equivalent of a tropical rainforest, since both support an incredible biological diversity of species. Our coral reefs are one of natures greatest treasures. Read on to find out why!
Zip up your wetsuit and take a ride with us under the sea!
Ocean life and coral reefs create a whole new world inhabited by strange wonderful creatures, which, through snorkeling…we can admire from above. Snorkeling is Maui’s window to the sea, and Maui Snorkel Tours guides you through the different “neighborhoods” to give you an opportunity to really look into this window and experience what lives within. We are eager to introduce you!
The colorful Butterflyfishes have very small mouths, but they are able to eat many things, like tiny coral animals or other small animals that float in the water. Many have a black stripe that hides the eye, and a false eye spot near the back of the body. These markings may confuse a predator about which head is the end and which is the tail.
Surgeonfishes (sometimes called Tangs) eat seaweed from the rocks. They have sharp spines near their tails that they use for protection.
The reef trigger fish is often seen in Hawaiian waters. It has the long Hawaiian name Humuhumu’nukunuku’apua’a. Triggerfishes slip into holes in the reef when threatened or when resting at night. They wedge themselves in tightly by raising a pointed spine above the eye.
The colorful Slate Pencil Sea Urchin wedges itself between rocks with its spines. If you look underneath, you can see that the mouth has 5 tiny teeth that are used to eat seaweed.
Green Sea Turtles are reptiles, related to snakes and lizards. They swim deep in the ocean, but need to come to the surface to breathe. They find their food on the reef.
Parrotfishes scrape small plants off the coral rock with their strong, sharp beak-like teeth. Coral, eaten along with plants, is crushed into sand by another set of teeth in the throat. This sand is then eliminated, adding new sand to the reef. Male parrot fishes are bright green or blue; females are not as colorful.
Some sea animals help each other. Small yellow and purple Cleaner Wrasses pick tiny animals and dead scales off the bodies of other fishes. The Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse eats parasites and diseased or damaged tissue it picks from other fishes. It sets up a cleaning station in a particular area of the reef, attracting fish in need of its services.
There are some long, skinny fishes on the reef. Trumpetfish look like sticks floating in the water. They use their long mouths like a straw to suck up tiny animals.
Goatfishes use a pair of feelers on the chin (barbles) for searching in the sand and around rocks for small animals to eat.
Hawaiian Monk Seals live on the small islands in the northwestern part of Hawai’i, where there are no people, although they are occasionally seen on the main islands. They are not found anywhere else in the world. Hawaiian Monk Seals feed on living animals among the reefs, one of them being the Moray Eel.