Maui’s unique biodiversity can enrich the vacation of any visitor who appreciates wildlife. The isolation and size of the Hawaiian islands made them an ecological hotspot for speciation ever since their formation, and despite the human impact influencing the populations of these animals, many can still be seen by those looking in the right places. Here are the top five animals you won’t want to miss seeing on your Maui vacation.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Honu) – This beloved marine reptile is a favorite among visitors, residents and Native Hawaiians. The honu can be spotted at many popular snorkeling spots around Maui, and sightings are common on many of our boat tours. You’ll often find them grazing on algae and seaweed near coral reefs. It’s important to give these animals their space. Chasing, touching or trying to ride these animals will cause them stress and sometimes result in a painful bite. Just sit back, relax and enjoy watching them from a respectful distance.
Spinner Dolphin (Nai’a) – Spinners are common sightings off Maui’s shorelines, and they will sometimes pop up in large pods on our Molokini Snorkel and Lanai Snorkel Tours while traveling to or from our destinations. These are relatively little dolphins, named for their tendency to fly out of the water while spinning like a top. Sometimes they’ll put on a really great show. This is a sighting you won’t want to miss.
Nene Goose – Small groups of Nene can sometimes be seen at Haleakala National Park. With about 2,500 birds left, they are the rarest goose in the world, which definitely merits a sighting. Currently listed as a threatened species, keeping a respectful distance is important. While we’re on the topic of birds, you might just have enough luck to spot one of Maui’s rare honeycreepers at Hosmer’s Grove.
Humpback Whale (Kohola) – When humpbacks fill the waters off Maui’s shores, they’re quite hard to miss. You will often see spouts, breaches, spy-hopping and other acrobatic maneuvers right from shore. That’s why our Maui Whale Watch Tour is so exciting. There’s nothing quite like seeing these aerial displays up close from the vantage point of one of our decks. We hope you’ll take advantage of these sighting opportunities now while the whales are in our waters for their seasonal migration before returning to their summer feeding grounds.
Hawaiian Monk Seal (llio holo I ka uaua) – As far as Maui animal sightings go, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal is what you might call the unicorn of the group. Only 1,100 individuals are believed to exist, and it’s hard to know when or where they might show up because of their scarcity. That’s what makes these sightings so special. Since they sometimes lay out on the island’s beaches, great care is taken by officials to guard them, and when such a sighting is made, cones or other markers are laid out to indicate your allowable proximity, which an officer will enforce. That doesn’t mean you can’t snap some great photos with a good zoom feature.
We hope you’ll have the opportunity to see as many of these animals as possible during your Maui vacation. If you spot them while out on an ocean tour with us, then so much the better! We look forward to sharing that special experience with you. Mahalo!