Lanai is one of the best places for snorkeling in Maui County. The nicest spots are much less crowded than those surrounding Maui, and the coral reefs are full of delightful marine life, such as native fish, crabs, urchins, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and much more. You may have heard this before, but what many adventurers forget to mention is that there are often some exciting marine life sightings on the journey to Lanai and back, from Lahaina Harbor, where we operate our Maui ocean tours.
If you’re visiting Maui now, in February, you can experience the delights of peak whale season. There are often so many of these gentle giants in our waters this time of year, they can be hard not to spot, especially on the trip to Lanai. Luckily for us, humpbacks are the most acrobatic of the baleen whales. They routinely perform all kinds of maneuvers above the surface of the ocean. The best way to track them is by watching for spouts, which looks like a misty spray of water that rises straight up as they exhale and take a new breath. Keep an eye on those, and you’re much more likely to see an exciting behavior, like a breach, which is quite a thing to see, considering humpbacks reach up to 45 feet in length.
One of the most common sightings on the Lanai trip is the spinner dolphin pods that prefer to roam those waters. The nice thing about these charismatic little mammals is that, unlike the humpbacks, they stick around throughout the year. This particular species of dolphin isn’t very big, reaching a maximum of 5-6 feet, depending on the individual. What they lack in size, they often make up for in number. Pods range from as few as 15 to as many as 300 individuals. The playful spinners also tend to be very aerial, which is how they earned their name. Their signature move is leaping from the water in a corkscrew spin. In fact, they have been observed spinning up to seven times in a single jump.
Last but not least is the most diminutive of the creatures that you may spot along the journey to Lanai. That is the Hawaiian green sea turtle. It may be smaller than the other members on this list, but this marine reptile is one of Hawaii’s most celebrated animals. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for this sighting, as they will often just pop their heads up for a breath before descending back into the water. You may see a flipper, a bit of iconic shell, a pair of big eyes, and then just a ripple in its quiet wake. The nice thing about the sea turtles is that although they can be challenging to spot during the trip, you may get to watch them when you arrive at our chosen snorkeling site. They feed off the algae and other greens that grow on and around the reefs, so they are regularly spotted on snorkeling trips all over Hawaii, including Lanai.
When it comes to wildlife, you never really know who is going to show up, or for how long, but that’s half the fun of the journey. If you’re very lucky, maybe you’ll spot all three of the animals on our list: humpbacks, spinner dolphins and Hawaiian green sea turtles. If you want to snap some pictures, have your camera at the ready, just don’t drop it overboard! We hope to see you aboard our Lanai Snorkel Tour soon. As a reminder, you will save 10% on your trip if you book online! Mahalo!