The first thing we noticed about Maui were the many sea turtles in the water. The main species you can find here are Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), which are known to spend their whole life in the waters around the Hawai’ian islands. Over 90% breed and nest on the six small islands which comprise the French Frigate Shoals, approximately in the middle of the northwestern Hawai’i islands, which are part of the big marine protected area.

We knew that there is a cleaning station for turtles somewhere close to our first anchorage. But the reef area is pretty big and it is hard to tell where to look first. We could see that there are a lot of turtles around because we saw many coming to the surface to breath around our boat. So we just went into the water and started looking around. After a short snorkel we found a place where there were a few turtles lying on the sandy bottom. When we looked closer we saw some cleaning fish on their shell. We found a cleaning station! We were able to observe five different turtles getting cleaned and just relaxing on the sandy bottom while not caring about us. So we were able to get really close and not frightening them.

A number of sea turtles species often carry huge numbers of epibionts. Those are organisms which live on the surface of somebody or something else. It can be an animal or a plant. The most well known are the barnacles (Balanidae), most of which filter feed and use the turtles shell as an attachment point. They look like small volcanoes and grow on all surfaces with strong currents. One particular barnacle - Chelonibia caretta – is known to grow “roots” through the turtles scutes and even into its bones, forming a very firm anchor against dislodgement. Also a lot of algae tend to grow on the turtle shells. So a few species of fish have specialized in cleaning the shells. Mostly they are herbivorous fish (plant eating) like surgeon fish, which we were able to observe at the cleaning station. But on some other places in Hawai’i one can also find carnivorous (eating animals) fish like the endemic Saddleback Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey). These fish are thought to remove barnacles attached to the turtles shell and skin.

One day I saw a huge male Green Turtle which was checking out our boat. The turtle was staying close to our boat for a while and I was able to go into the water and observe it for a while. How amazing!

In the north of Lahaina on Maui we found a place the turtles use for relaxing and sleeping under water. While doing some dives at the old dock of Mala Wharf Tom was able to count 30 turtles on just one dive! They use all the holes, cracks and beams of the structure to rest and stay safe. But not only turtles can be found here, we also saw a Giant Frogfish (Atennarius commerson) on one of the beams.

A visit of the half sunk Molokini crater is one of the highlights for every visitor. In the mornings there are quite a lot of boats on the moorings and usually hundreds of people in the water. But when you arrive around noon you can be the only boat there. The water is clear and we could observe an octopus as well as some big mackerels and other fish. The wall on the outer side is a great diving spot where you see lots of gorgonians, corals and other organisms growing on the crater. If you are very lucky you might even see a manta ray swimming by.

 

project manaia

Krüss Mikroskope