Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rare Unicornfish Spawning Event

 Incredible Discovery Channel type action out at Molokini today! First I spotted a massive school of bait fish, mackerel scad, schooling up and eating plankton. This is not something I usually see, in fact the water around Molokini is usually devoid of much plankton. So it piqued my interest. I started my reef tour by taking my mostly beginner snorkelers out to see the bait 100+ ft of water!

   After snorkeling a little ways down the reef I started seeing more and more large Sleek Unicornfish. Until finally I came to a spot where hundreds were gathered together in a rare spawning event. This is where the plankton was coming from that was feeding the mackerel scad. Male unicornfish were displaying beautiful courting colors and patterns as they chased females around trying to impress them.

I took a video of the unicornfish in action and you can see the change in coloration and patterns on the courting males. I was amazed to see them change from all dark to yellow fins, blue markings on the face, and an iridescent bar over their eyes.

You can see the video here:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bottlenose Dolphins Bowriding

Today while working out on the wildside trip we were greeted with  mother and calf bottlenose dolphins around the backside of Molokini Crater. They seemed uninterested in us until they met up with two more adults, then the fun really started. They began riding the pressure wave our bow creates as we plow through the water like effortless surfers. The calf looked so little hugging closely by its mothers side. The water was beautiful and the light perfect. It was another magical experience here in Maui.

Check out a video of the dolphins bowriding:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kayak to Molokini

Today was a throwback to the E.M.A.C. (Early Morning Adventure Club) of Catalina. My goal, to paddle out to Molokini from Maui, then circumnavigate Molokini by snorkeling, before paddling back to Maui. I would not suggest this to visitors coming out to Maui for vacation. The current in the channel can be treacherous and the weather unpredictable. I travel this area by boat all the time and can judge the weather fairly well. Today was supposed to be a very calm day, although the wind did kick up more than I expected. 

You can check out the video of this adventure at 

I made it out to Molokini in a little over an hour after stopping to see a few turtles along the way. After paddling across the open side of the crater I dropped in the water at Reef's End and snorkeled all the way to Enenue, the other tip of the crater along the back wall. It is always amazing to see the sheer vertical wall dropping over 300ft into the blue abyss along the backside of Molokini. 

    Fighting some rough current and windier and windier conditions on the way back I safely arrive back at Makena Landing around noon, 4 hours after I left. This has been an adventure I've been wanting to do for a long time. It always feels good to start your day by checking a big one off your list. Although I definitely see myself doing this trip again in the future...maybe by stand up paddle board...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Frogfish at Molokini Crater

  Working out on the ocean always gives you something to be excited about. You never know what you will see. On our snorkel trips I will jump in at one of the spots and lead a guided tour of the reef. Molokini, a submerged volcanic crater is our usual first stop and today on the Wildside trip I jumped in to the beautiful water to see what we could find. I had no idea that we would find this!
     A frogfish! I usually have to seek out underwater wrecks in order to find these guys. The are so well camouflaged that you can lose them in a second if you take your eyes off them. This little guy was quite active. He swam/glided down the reef slope and actually ate a little on his way down. Frogfish have huge mouths which they use to suck in nearby creatures small enough to eat. This was the first frogfish I have ever seen at Molokini crater.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Surfing Honolua Bay, Maui

 9-21-11, the surf kept building at Honolua Bay. Jonathan, Jeff, Mike, and I arrive around 3pm and paddled out to a crowded lineup. Luckily there was no shortage of waves. Many waves lined up perfectly for peeling rights as they wrapped around the point. We stayed until sunset when we were too tired to continue.

In the picture to the left you can see the wrap effect out towards the point. The waves were much bigger off to the left where we were.
I had only been here to snorkel before so this was a new spot for me to surf. It is world famous though and rightly so after what I saw today. It ranks very high for waves that I have ridden.

I thought I would throw in a couple of artsy pictures as well. Surfers in the lineup in the setting sun to the left and a surfer just making it out of a big close out waves to the right.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shipwreck Dive: St Anthony's Wreck

 Maui is a place that is never short of adventurous options. So this day off I grabbed a tank and headed off to a nearby beach armed with a compass, directions of 240 degrees, and a mind set to find a new shipwreck, the St. Anthony's.
The wreck is 65ft long in 70ft of water. It was sunk in 1997 as an artificial reef. Tires connected to cement blocks were sunk around the wreck to add to the reef and I hear that fish do use them as spawning grounds. You can see the tires lined up beside the wreck which is slightly tilted on its port side. You can penetrate the wrecks cargo hold and helm area although I was surprised to find a lack of invertebrate life which usually inhabits wrecks around the area. Maybe with more time the wreck will acquire more life.

The big find of the dive came at the very end. After checking the outside hull, cargo bay, helm, and decks, I glanced at some exposed beams rising above the roof and saw the biggest frogfish I had ever seen. The fins and tail were unmistakable. It is a fish I look for everywhere but hardly ever find. Wrecks are great places to find them. My first frogfish was on the wreck of the Carthaginian off Lahaina. Masters of camouflage, only the flash of my camera brings out the vibrant orange colors. With a huge mouth and lightening fast reflexes their stationary nature hides their predatory ability. Two large frogfish occupied the St. Anthony's Wreck.

Butterflyfish like these long nose butterflyfish scoured the wreck for food as giant spiky sea cucumbers (picture on the right) scoured the sand around the wreck for detritus and organic material for its sustenance. The long nose butterflyfish gains fame with the longest fish name in Hawaiian, lauwiliwilinukuo'io'i. And I was interested to find out that this spiky sea cucumber, while long known to divers, has yet to be described scientifically. Cucumberus daimaracus, has a certain ring to it....don't you think?

 Finally a few green sea turtles swam over to rest on the wreck. I noticed they were also being cleaned by some of the gold ring surgeonfish in the area. One turtle resting on the ceiling was a little disturbed by another diver and lifted off vertically rubbing its face with its flipper which is a odd sign of annoyance. The act made the turtle look strangely human-like. But nothing is quite like seeing a turtle close to the surface with the sunlight glittering off its beautiful shell.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Five Graves Night Dive, Maui

With a few free hours this evening I decided to head out to see what nocturnal creatures were inhabiting one of my favorite dive sites. The reef changes so much at night with animals like crabs, lobsters, moray eels, and other nocturnal creatures emerge. The sun was setting as I picked my way through four sea turtles feeding in the shallows. They didn't seem to mind me too much although they all did keep an eye on me as I kicked out of the small entry channel. It is always surprising how quickly the darkness takes over after the sun sets. I had my small underwater flashlight ready as I descended into the first cave.

Red soldierfish scattered as I broke up the darkness with my light. Red reef lobsters peeked out of crevices and two kinds of slipper lobster reflected my light back at me with their night vision capable eyes. The toughest thing about this dive was being a shallow dive, 20-30ft deep, the surge really moves you around. With a full wetsuit I wouldn't worry too much about glancing off a rock or boulder but as the coral here was covered with toxic spiny sea urchins I couldn't afford the tunnel vision that comes with using an underwater light. I managed to avoid the one on the cave ceilings, walls, and opening but did overlook a rare fine-spined urchin which I unfortunately found with my thigh. Not to worry, it looked like the urchin was undamaged. It quickly scurried off into a recess (well quickly for a sea urchin).

Navigating is another issue at night but I found my way alright through the familiar site. After spotting a few sleeping parrot fish and avoiding many more urchins I found a small octopus sucked onto the ceiling of another cave. I avoided the sea turtle leaving the cave to capture some more images of the beautiful octopus that was small enough to hold in my hand. Shortly after leaving the octopus I found an undulated moray eel, one of the nastiest eels around and then a tiger snake moray, which hunts and feeds on other morays!

Then came the strangest nocturnal creature I have seen yet. What looked like a tiny moray, about the diameter of a pencil, was snaking its way down the reef wall. I was looking at the head but when I tried to find the tail I was shocked to see the animal was over five feet long! It turns out this animals is called a ribbon worm. One specimen was found to be over 60ft long!
So after this encounter I was pretty satisfied, not to mention running low on air. So I headed back towards my entry point. Admiring the stars in the moonless night I was dismayed when my flashlight dimmed and went out. This is not what I would want as I am trying to find a small channel lined with lava rocks. Luckily a house on the shore was hosting a wedding party and had set up lights, casting just enough to show the opening to the channel. What a relief and what a dive!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Nocturnal Octopus

Feeling adventurous on a warm Maui evening I drove down to the local dive shop to pick up a tank for a night dive at one of my favorite scuba spots, 5 Graves. I was treated to incredible sights, many of which were first for me.
I will put up another update with most of the photos from this dive but I couldn't resist posting this nocturnal octopus picture first. This octo started off dark brown on the ceiling of a cave about thirty feet down. After I spooked him he fanned out and turned a starry white before eventually turning brown again and fading off into the dark.
Sometimes I wonder what percentage of people have donned a snorkel mask or scuba gear and experienced the underwater world. And of those people how many have done it at night...