10 Fun Facts About Jellyfish

There are two schools of thought when it comes to jellyfish. When seen in an aquarium, like the fabulous Maui Ocean Center, they are stunningly beautiful. Watching them glow and glide is a sight to behold. On the other hand, when you’re wading waist deep in the ocean and spot a jellyfish, your first thought is usually to high tail it out of the water like you’ve just seen Jaws. It’s true the sting of some jellyfish can be nasty. Generally, though, Maui’s waters are pretty clear of the largest stinging jellies. On the Hawaii Ocean Project Lanai Snorkel and Dolphin Tour, we avoid snorkel locations with stinging jellyfish. Here are 10 fun facts about jellyfish…

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Top 10 Romantic Things To Do On Maui

Just being on Maui can be pretty darn romantic. All you need to do is step outside and all five of your senses will light up. Hearing the ocean, smelling the flowers, seeing the palm trees, touching the sand and tasting the ono (delicious) food sets you up for a romantic vacation that you’ll never forget. Here is our breakdown of the top 10 most romantic activities on Maui.

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Where to Snorkel on Maui

Maui holds some of the worlds best beaches. These beaches are a place for numerous fun activities, and one of the most popular is to explore what is going on underneath the water. Of course, some spots are better than others when it comes to snorkeling. Here’s our list of the best snorkeling locations on the island.

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Fishing on Maui: HOP to it

Some people come to Maui for the beach, others for the hiking, most for relaxation. But if you’re coming to Maui and want to try your hand at fishing, there are some things you need to know. In this article, we’ll talk about regulations, where you might want to fish and finally, what you may be catching. Please note, this article is by no means comprehensive. Rather, it’s a place for you to begin your research. Let’s dive in…

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10 Facts about Sharks in Hawaii

When you visit Hawaii, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time in the water. Visitors often ask about sharks, as in “should I be worried about them?” The fact is, many more people run into personal health-related issues while in the ocean (shortness of breath, increased heart rate) than shark-related issues. That’s not to say you should ignore the dangers of sharks. Most sharks around Hawaii’s shores are safe, but sharks are wild creatures and like all animals in nature, must be respected. Here are 10 facts about the sharks in Hawaii.

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Five Turtles You Could See on Maui

Turtles are the rare creature you can see both underwater and on shore. While you’re more likely to spot turtles, on Maui at least, in the water, if you know where to look you can see the largest of them, green sea turtles, resting on the beach. Hawaii is home to three native sea turtle species and has a total of five sea turtle species in its waters. Here are the types of sea turtles you may find while wandering and snorkeling around Maui, listed in order of the likelihood of you spotting one.

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Sunset Dinner Cruise – Huaka’i Luau Combo Package

This month, we introduced a new combo package featuring our sunset dinner cruise and a new partnership with Hauaka’i: Journey Through Paradise luau at the Kaanapali Beach Club resort.

First, enjoy a sit-down, three-course meal with table service, drinks, live music and dancing all while enjoying a magical night on Maui’s largest and most comfortable cruise vessel, the Maui Princess. The cruise departs nightly from the Lahaina Harbor, famous for its calm winds and gentle seas.

The second half of the combo is an evening at Maui’s newest luau, Hauaka’i: Journey Through Paradise. The luau features a buffet dinner, complimentary mai tais and juices and an ocean front show that includes an exciting fire knife dance and cultural dances and the music of Hawaii and Polynesia. Let’s go back to the buffet dinner, because buffets are made for return visits! Included in the meal are kalua pork, shoyu chicken, seared mahi, bbq shortribs, fried rice, lomi salmon, ahi poke, salads and plenty of gluten-free options. The luau is only performed on Wednesday nights, so plan accordingly. Click to official Hauaka’i website for more information.

If you book online on our website, you’ll save 10% over the retail price.

10 Facts about Rays in Hawaii

One of the most exciting fish to see while snorkeling in Hawaii is a ray. A distant cousin of the shark, rays can often be seen in Maui’s waters fairly close to shore. Highly photogenic, seeing rays is always the highlight of any snorkeling adventure. Here are 10 facts about these lovely fish.

  1. Hawaii is home to three types of rays: manta, stingray and spotted eagle. The manta ray is the most common, especially near shore.
  2. The manta rays you’ll see near Maui’s shores average 5-to-8 feet, but can reach over 14 feet.
  3. Rays have been around in their modern form for at least 20 – 25 million years. Manta rays, however, have only been around for about 4.8 million years.
  4. Because manta rays can be identified individually by researchers because of the distinctive spots on their bellies.
  5. Manta rays have the largest brains amongst the 32,000 species of fish.
  6. The “stinger” on a manta ray does not work. So no fear of being injured (from the tail, anyway) of a manta ray. However, should you come across the aptly named stingray, watch out. Their tales are still very much venomous.
  7. The easiest way to distinguish a manta ray from a stingray is by color. Manta rays are black, while stingrays are brown. Stingrays also sport shorter tails.
  8. If you’re one of the lucky ones who sees a ray breach (leap from the water), the ray you’re most likely seeing is a spotted eagle ray. They are known for the colorful (white, yellow and green) dots on their backs, which contrast nicely against their black skin.
  9. Rays are distant cousins of sharks. Like sharks, instead of bones, their vertebra is made of cartilage. They also must constantly swim in a forward motion to pass oxygenated water through their gills. They cannot swim backwards.
  10. As of 2009, manta rays in Hawaii’s waters are protected against killing and capturing. Offenders will receive criminal penalties and fines of up to $10,000.

Please tell us about any rays you have come across in Hawaii in the comments below. Thanks!

Marine Life Guidelines: The Importance of Ocean Etiquette

It seems whenever people are near marine animals, they tend to lose composure. I mean, we get it. At Hawaii Ocean Project, we run all sorts of ocean charters that bring visitors within stunning proximity. We see firsthand how visitors react, most of them being their first time interacting with sea life, so all too often decorum is the first thing to go. Fortunately, ocean etiquette is easy to keep in mind. It maintains the safety of observation for visitors and protects the well-being of the animals. Safeguards may not sound like fun, but believe us, you can still have fun while being mindful of our ocean friends. Respect isn’t just a human concern. It’s necessary when interacting with nature.

The main thing we like to emphasize is distance. We do get visitors as up close to the phenomenon as possible, but never at the expense of the animal’s privacy or the safety of our passengers. Distance ensures the safety of both parties. Even on our Whale Watch tours, we will never chase down a whale like Captain Ahab. We could potentially disrupt their migration patterns or worse, get between a mother and her calf. That is a fury we’d like to leave to the imagination. In any case, humpback whales are in such high frequency in the surrounding waters of Maui that they tend to find us. When they do, we shut off our engines and let the spectacle unfold.

That’s what we stress the most on our tours. We are not out to disturb or provoke, and we pass this along to our passengers. When you’re in the water, don’t go searching for active phenomena. Let it find you. There are over 250 species to be found at Molokini Crater alone. Dolphins frolic alongside our Lanai excursions. Green sea turtles pop by on shore from time to time. The ocean is plenty active as it is. We are lucky enough to be able to interact with them the way we do.

You are guaranteed to see a variety of sea life on our snorkel tours. These charters are so frequent, the coral’s residents have become accustomed to our presence, but that isn’t something to take advantage of. Though it’s tempting, do not touch the animals. Just a slight curiosity can run the risk of injuring them. Fish are covered in a slimy coating that protects them from disease and infection. A pet, even a touch, is enough to remove the coating on their bodies and thus leave them vulnerable.

Chasing or prodding fish could agitate them, and an agitated fish will do a lot more than prod you back. The same goes for green sea turtles. Just because they’re slow, it does not mean you can chase them. They’re not ninjas, but they do bite. They are protected under Hawaii state law, as are Hawaiian monk seals – themselves protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is all the more reason for us to leave them be. We are not here to bother, just to observe.

We ask that you do not feed the animals either. It may seem harmless, but giving them food they’re not accustomed to can disrupt their feeding cycles and have serious repercussions for their health. Feeding animals conditions them to receive food as opposed to gathering for themselves, thus changing their natural behavior which they will pass onto their young. There’s an entire ecosystem down there that lives in harmony. We are not here to disrupt that.

Ocean etiquette is a simple matter of respect. Everyone, even fish, deserves our respect. This is their home. We are guests. More importantly, we are stewards. It’s up to us. At Hawaii Ocean Project we are doing what we can to minimize our impact on the ocean. We never dump or litter; we take our trash with us. We tie our vessels down on mooring lines instead of anchoring. We immediately cease our engines if there’s a whale nearby and allow them the peace of uninterrupted passage. It’s all for the safety of these animals and their environment. This isn’t about saying what you can or can’t do in the ocean. It’s about being mindful of a place that millions of others call home.

Join us on one of our many ocean tours and discover for yourself what our wonderful ocean habitat has to offer! Mahalo!

Why We No Longer Support Full-Faced Snorkel Masks

We recently updated our policy to no longer allow the use of full-faced snorkel masks, on our snorkel excursions, to Lanai and Molokini. While there is still much-needed research to be done on these trendy masks, we are not comfortable allowing the use of them, on our boats, at this time.

If you are not familiar with the full-faced masks, rather than having a traditional mask, which is composed of two separate parts: the mask (that covers your eyes and nose) and snorkel (tube that clips, on the side, of the mask to deliver oxygen orally from above the water) combination, a full-faced mask covers your entire face with a fixed tube that extends out from the forehead-area for breathing. In theory, these full-faced masks create a wider viewing area, and are easier to operate as a person can breathe “normally,” with both nose and mouth, without needing to get accustomed to using a snorkel. However, we believe the dangers of full-faced masks far outweigh the benefits.

In January, 2018, nine people passed away while snorkeling, and diving, in Maui’s waters. It is important to note that, in Hawaii, the majority of snorkeling fatalities are visitors, who are inexperienced snorkelers,* and there are many factors to take into consideration, such as age and physical ability. However, at least two of the eight snorkelers (the ninth man was a scuba diver) died while wearing full-faced snorkel masks; a percentage, us locals, find to be alarming.

Fire Services Chief Ed Taomoto told the Maui News: “Recently, we have noticed that a number of snorkel-related drownings, or, near- drownings have involved these new one-piece masks, but it is too early to make any sort of connection to the use of this equipment and drownings. We’re not sure if the increase in incidents involving these new full-face type masks is related to a problem with this design or if there is just more people using this type over the traditional two-piece snorkel set.” Although there is an undeniable correlation, experts are still working on determining the exact causation.

As reported by Hawaii Civil Beat, Dr. Philip Foti, an Oahu physician who specializes in pulmonary and internal medicine, addressed a conference, regarding drowning prevention, in 2017, and stated this about full-faced masks: “…there is dead space ventilation in the device that seems greater than in the standard snorkel tube. That dead space can cause carbon dioxide buildup.” This CO2 buildup could cause a person to become disoriented, or, even lose consciousness.

Another issue with the full-faced masks is that they appear to be prone to leaking and fogging up. Rather than creating a tight seal using silicone, around just the eye area, like a standard mask, many (not all) of these masks use lower-quality PVC to create the seal around the mask. As the PVC must cover the entire face, rather than just the eye area, the number of potential failure points is dramatically increased. Some have reported the simple act of squinting may cause leakage.** Because the masks cover the full face, once they fill with water, the user, literally, cannot breathe. Whereas, with a standard mask and snorkel, if the mask fills with water, you can still breath through the snorkel. To compound the matter, with straps that go completely around the head, removing the masks can be difficult. In a panic situation, remembering the steps to remove a full-faced mask may be forgotten.

While full-faced masks continue to sell well on Amazon (and get generally good reviews), and there are activity companies on Maui that will rent them, until further research is done on the full-faced masks, we are not allowing our guests to use them. If you bring one on-board, rest assured, you can still go out using the gear that we provide.

Finally, as an aside, in all nine water deaths, the men were swimming alone. We highly recommend snorkeling with a buddy, whether you’re entering the ocean from the beach, or, out on a snorkeling tour with a licensed operator.

Please let us know your experiences with full-faced masks, and tell us what you think of our policy update in the comments below.

*As cited by deeperblue.com: data shows that tourists are 10 times more likely to drown than residents, and that the drowning rate on the islands is 13 times the national average.

**From Hawaii News Now