Molokini Snorkel Marine Life Guide

Molokini Snorkel Marine Life Guide

One of our most popular excursions is our Molokini Snorkel Tour, which brings you out to this charming little crescent island just 2.5 miles off Maui’s South Shore, so you can explore its vibrant reef. This little island is charming and full of character, boasting an astonishing visibility of up to 150 feet, thanks to its lack of beaches. With no sand to be kicked up by wave action, Molokini provides some of the clearest snorkeling and scuba diving anywhere in the world.

Molokini is home to around 250 species of endemic fish and marine life. That means those species can be found nowhere in the world but here. The reef is filled with interesting residents, like the curious black triggerfish, the docile parrot fish, the schooling convict tang and the flashy moorish idol. You may even see moray eels, manta rays, octopus and whitetip reef sharks. The many marine animals living around Molokini are well acclimated to the presence of humans, what with so many visitors, so don’t be surprised if you get a close up look at some of them.

If you happen to be snorkeling Molikini during humpback whale season, you’re sure to hear whale songs while in the water. The whales aren’t known to enter the waters within the crater’s encircling arms, but they are known to swim near the island. Since they come to Hawaii, and especially Maui, to mate and give birth to their calves, you are likely to see the whales and maybe even some babies on the way to or from Molokini.

Another fun facet about Molokini is that it’s also a federally owned and protected Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary. While the island seems barren above the waves, its rocky terrain hides nesting seabirds, which enjoy an environment free of the marauding predators found on Maui, like rats, feral cats and mongoose. Its most common inhabitants are the Wedge-Tailed Shearwater and the Bulwer’s Petrel. The shearwater hunts fish both near the surface and down at depths of up to 216 feet! The petrel feeds on planktonic creatures on the ocean’s surface.

If you want to learn more about the charming island of Molokini, check out this cool little website with its interactive map: Otherwise, feel free to ask our knowledgeable crew any questions you might have about the island, and the marine life you can find there. If you have any questions about booking a tour with us, you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

Cascadia Research Collective Studies Hawaiian Marine Life

Cascadia Research Collective Studies Hawaiian Marine Life

This week, we’d like to highlight some of the exciting efforts of the Cascadia Research Collective, one of the organizations that our Maui ecotourism business supports. Founded in 1979, this extraordinary non-profit specializes in scientific research and education, with a focus on marine life.

Earlier this month, Cascadia undertook a 7-day field project from Kawaihae, on the Big Island. They chose this location to help them explore further north of the island than usual, where they hoped to get higher sighting rates of two species in particular. These were the false killer whale and the melon-headed whale. Their primary goal was to get LIMPET satellite tags on members of both species, along with any other types of whales and dolphins they encountered.

Satellite tracking is an extremely effective way to collect data on all species, but especially those with migration patterns and broad habitat ranges. They can tell us many things, including where individuals spend the majority of their time, when they are most active, whether their movement patterns are consistent, and can also be helpful in discovering where and how they reach the end of their lives. All this information can help with crucial government policy decisions, conservation efforts, and the education of the public.

Cascadia’s efforts were fruitful on this trip, which began on May 31st. They encountered a group of false killer whales, which was the rarest out of three groups that comprise the endangered main Hawaiian Islands population. The group had last been seen in August of 2011, and just a couple of individuals had been spotted since May or 2013, so you can imagine their excitement at this rediscovery. Cascadia’s team was able to tag three of the individuals from this group, which was a triumph because none of them had been tagged before, so no one knew where they spent their time. Now they can begin to unravel that mystery.

The team also encountered the melon-headed whales that they were hoping to find. These came from the Kohala Resident population, which is believed to include less than 500 individuals. This encounter was their first with the Kohala Resident population since May 2013. They were able to photo-identify about 100 of the individuals that they encountered out of about 175 that were present at the time. One individual was tagged.

Some of the other species they encountered were short-finned pilot whales, rough-toothed dolphins, and a beautiful whale shark. Cascadia documented their experience with some amazing photos. You can take a look and read more in-depth notes about their journey at We are proud to support their incredible work through our Maui cruise activities. If you love marine life, just remember that booking one of our cruises will not only provide you with an amazing experience in the beautiful blue Pacific waters of Hawaii, but will also contribute to some of the research pillars in our scientific community. We hope you’ve enjoyed this entry! Mahalo!

Why Humpback Whales Come to Maui

Why Humpback Whales Come to Maui

By Captain Dave

As we all know, Maui is a premier destination for not just humans from across the globe, but for our friends the Humpback Whales as well. What many do not know however is exactly why these magnificent creatures choose to make the trip to Maui in the first place. Wonder no more, as we have three distinct reasons as to why our marine friends choose Maui for their migratory needs each winter:

  1. Warm Waters!
    Just as we like to take a dip in the refreshing warm waters off Maui’s coastline, so too do humpback whales. Migrating to the waters off Maui, which average about 75 degrees in the wintertime, allows humpback whales to keep their newborn calves safe and warm throughout these winter months as they grow in mass, and add layers of protective blubber, while enjoying the Maui waters.
  2. Increased Safety
    While humpback whales have very few natural predators to worry about, there is one species of marine life that can be particularly troublesome for these gigantic mammals: Orcas (aka Killer Whales.) Unlike humpback whales however, orcas tend to prefer the colder waters of Alaska over the tropical warmth of the Pacific: giving humpbacks an added layer of security when visiting our island waters.
  3. Comfort
    The unique placement of the islands of Maui County (comprised of Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kahoolawe,) creates a comfort zone of shallow waters which humpback whales much prefer over areas with deeper depths.

Want to learn more about humpback whales and other aspects of Maui’s marine life? Then book your Maui whale watch excursion with the Hawaii Ocean Project today.