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A Marine Biologist’s Trip to the Hawaiian Reefs

Cory here. I traveled to the Hawaiian Islands in June of 2008 for my honeymoon, and thought I would take Dave’s lead and tell you all about it. I have always wanted to go to Hawaii and thought that a honeymoon trip would be a perfect reason to do so. There are 8 major islands in the chain, any of which would have been an excellent choice. Since Maui is considered the “honeymooners” island, we decided to go there. We stayed 8 days and 7 nights at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa on Maui’s famous Ka’ anapali beach. The Resort was amazing with dozens of shops, restaurants, and even penguins it seemed to have it all. However, Maui had so much more to offer.

There are no longer any active volcanoes on the island of Maui, but the landscape told the story of Maui’s volcanic and violent past. Huge, volcanic mountains, covered with lush rain forests that were dotted with majestic waterfalls. Sadly, our time did not allow us to drive up to the summit of Haleakala. Haleakala is a 10,000 foot mountain with a huge crater. This will definitely be in the plans on my next visit.

I didn’t really come the whole way to Hawaii to see waterfalls, rain forests, or volcanoes. I came to see the aquatic life (and of course, to celebrate my recent nuptuals). My deep fascination for the oceans is always calling and was one of the best reasons for wanting to visit Hawaii. I have to say that 7 days was not enough time to snorkel the island. There are too many aquatic “hot spots” that needed to be investigated and we just ran out of time.

The first day took us to Honolua Bay, located on the Northwestern shore. Who would have thought the first location we visited would be the best! Honolua Bay does not have a sandy beach, only small rocks and pebbles, but we spent most of the time in the water so it didn’t matter. We spent nearly 5 hours in the water and still had to come back a second time to take in all of the amazing fish and coral. I think the most amazing thing I saw that day was a school of Convict Tangs (Acanthurus triostegus). There were over a hundred of them, caring more for the algae that they were eating than how close I was. There were Naso (Naso lituratus) and Orange Shoulder Tangs (Acanthurus olivaceus), Thread fin (Chaetodon auriga), Ornate (Chaetodon ornatissimus), and Yellow Long-nosed (Forcipiger flavissimus) Butterflies, along with dozens of other fish. Wrasses such as the Orange Saddled Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey) and the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus) were everywhere. I could go on and on listing the fish I saw, just amazing.

I am a coral junky and was really excited to see some wild colonies. I was however, slightly disappointed in the amount of coral diversity. I knew in the back of my mind that the Hawaiian coral diversity is no match for the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the coral was unlike anything I have seen in the ocean, which has been limited to the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. There were huge colonies of blue Montipora, Yellow Porites, and a large pallet of Pocillopora colonies. There was almost always a Hawkfish inhabiting the Pocillopora colonies, guarding them with ferocity. Huge Black Longspine and Orange Pencil Urchins dotted the reef cape with color and caution. I went through sensory overload on my first day and couldn’t wait for what the second day would bring.

On the second day, we took a boat trip to Molokini Island, which is located about 3 miles off the southwestern side of the island. The Island was formed from volcanic activity millions of years ago, since then erosion has caused one side to wear away, leaving a crescent shaped island. The inner portion is for snorkeling, which is where we went. The outer half has a dramatic drop off of over 250 feet where only divers venture. This is where you can find sharks and other open water fish. However, the inside portion was amazing. We were dropped off in nearly 200 ft deep, calm water, where the visibility allowed us to see the bottom. We were welcomed by dozens of Durgeon Triggers and Blue Jaw Triggers. Once on the reef, there was so much to explore, huge colonies of stony corals. There were large eels, Yellow tangs, a school of Adult Naso Tangs, and a fight between three Achilles Tangs. From Molokini, we took a short boat ride to an area called Turtle Town where they guaranteed us to see Sea Turtles. Sure enough within 5 minutes of being in the water, the first turtle was spotted. It was an amazing experience, and one that I will never forget.

The entire visit did not involve us and the water, one day was spent traveling the road to Hana. This is a very slow, winding drive through the eastern coastline of Maui. Along the way are lush, tropical plants, dozens of waterfalls and pools. I was amazed by the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees and the black sand beach. The trip took the better part of the day, but was well worth every minute. The photos in the blog are only a sampling of those we have to remember the trip.

Everywhere we went on Hawaii was amazing, from the coral reefs to the rain forests, and even the resort. We fell in love with Hawaii and plan to return very soon.

Check out the rest of the picture’s at our Facebook page here, and be sure to comment :).

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About Cory Shank

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Cory is one of our Staff Marine Biologists and has been with the company since 1999. He has always had an interest in fish and inverts started soon after his employment began, and laid the path for him to earn his Marine Bio degree From Millersville University just a couple of years ago. Since graduation, Cory has been propagating many different corals including LPS and SPS and maintaining both his own reef aquaria and several at our retail store. His interests besides propagation include snorkeling, environmentalism, travel, and anything relating to reefs and oceans.