With abundant corals, urchins, fish, eels, and turtles, Maui’s reef ecosystem offers a visual cornucopia just steps from the beach. Like many visitors to the island, Tony and I were in the not unique position of wanting to spend some time exploring Maui’s coral reef. In the course of a week, amid other excursions, we fit in four solid snorkeling trips, and I squeezed in a short fifth outing while we relaxed on Hana’s red sand beach.
Snorkeling is one of those activities that looks easy – and can be – but is often more difficult than people expect. Coral is both delicate and sharp, so avoiding it is not only kind to the reef, but also kind to your body. Add in the unbelievable number of stinging sea urchins, and the reef really becomes a “look but don’t touch” place. If you’re new to snorkeling, I’d recommend going out on a boat for your first outing. They’ll help you avoid shallow reef and some of the surge associated with it, which can toss you right into those corals and urchins you’re trying not to harm – or harm yourself on.
One thing about the reef that always surprises me, even though I know to expect it, is how noisy it is. It is a cacophony of crackling and snapping. It’s like being in a bowl of Rice Crispies. Apparently loads of water-dwellers communicate through sound, including snapping shrimp and the reef fish – not just the notorious whales and dolphins. Sound travels faster in water rather than in air, so I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. And it’s something that we don’t hear much of in northern Michigan, so it’s a nice treat. Well, so is the warm water and color display.
I’ve guessed at some of the things I labeled in the picture names, but only generally. I assume very little knowledge of the actual names of these creatures. If you happen to know, please chime in. You might notice that some of these pictures are not exactly in focus. It’s hard to focus well when you’re surging to and fro on a reef, chasing fish that you don’t think should be so skittish, but then you remember you are chasing them and perhaps they’re not so illogical after all. Feel free to ask any questions, but be prepared for an “I don’t know” response. Hope you enjoy our underwater adventure even a fraction as much as we did!
All photos are clickable for the larger slideshow view.