Due to Hawaii’s isolation and tropical climate, there is a lot of biodiversity on each of the islands. There are many endemic plants and animals on the islands. Unfortunately, many of the animals found on the islands today were introduced at some point and, because of this, many of these species are engendered. Most of the Hawaiian sea birds were ground-nesting and with the introduction of mongoose to help with the rat population, sadly, many of them are now considered extinct because their nests were so easily accessible by hungry scavengers.
Hawaii has the highest number of endangered species in the U.S. and the agricultural and animal laws are very strict to prevent introducing any new species that could put those endangered species at risk. More than 20 percent of our 700+ species of Hawaiian reef fishes are found nowhere else in the world. Several are especially common and easily recognized by snorkelers and divers while others are rare. Similar to other animals, fish have preferred environments and tend to make their homes in those environments.
Kailua Kona is located on the west coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. It is a popular tourist destination and many divers find their way to dive in Kona at least once throughout their lifetime. There are other interesting sea creatures that can be seen year-round, including the famous coastal resident manta ray population. If you dive in Kona during the humpback migration from Alaska, you may be fortunate enough to see a mother and calf on the surface interval, or if you’re extremely fortunate, you may even get a quick “flyby” while exploring the drop-off at any one of the dozen or so dive sites with that type of underwater topography.There are 18 different species of toothed whales in Hawaiian waters. Not all of them are commonly seen, but researches have photographed Sperm Whales, Pygmy Whales, Melon-headed whales, False Killer whales, and the even rarer Orcas and Beaked Whales. Other dolphin species encountered year-round include the resident Rough-Toothed Dolphins, Pilot Whales, Spinner, Bottlenose, and Spotted Dolphins. Diving in Kona provides the opportunity to check off “diving with dolphins” from your bucket list. Though it is not commonplace to see them, it is not impossible. Spinner dolphins are nocturnal. After feeding in deep water at night, the animals return to sheltered, shallow bays to rest during the day. Fortunately, some of the dive sites provides the desired conditions for dolphins to rest which gives YOU the chance to see them during your dive!If you’ve been diving in other parts of the world, you know that octopus are not always a common site. Hawaii has a species of “day octopus” which means they are spotted frequently at nearly all of the dive sites. Octopus prefer rubbly bottom topography so they have a lot of options when they like to hunt and hide from predators. If you have “tako eye” (tako is a Japanese word for octopus) you will likely find this magical cephalopod on each dive. Here’s a hint: look for the goatfish. They commonly hunt together so if you see a goatfish swimming around with an expression like “nothing to see here, folks, move along” there is a good chance you’ll find a squishy hiding underneath the rubble.
If you like smaller things, diving in Kona provides the perfect environment for nudibranchs and flatworms. With its many arches, caves and lava tubes, there are endless opportunities to go scavenger hunting for the tiniest of invertebrates. Even though many nudibranchs are colorful, they are often quite small and can only be spotted if you look in the right place at the right time. Big things are easy to see, but the smaller the critter, the most praise you will receive for finding it. Bring an underwater magnifying glass (yes they do exist, and yes they are a great tool for diving in Kona. Some reef fish are seen in all parts of the Pacific Ocean. Some reef fish are seen in different oceans but in different colors. Take the Yellow Tang for example. While diving in Kona, it is pretty much a guarantee that you will see what guides refer to as “a yellow fish”. If you head southeast and find yourself diving in Cozumel, you’ll see a similar fish in blue. You guessed it, the Blue Tang is a frequent visitor in the reefs in the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’ve been to Hawaii, you have undoubtedly heard the name of the Hawaiian State fish. The humuhumunukunukuapua’a, or “humu” for short because let’s be honest, unless you live in Hawaii the chance of you being able to pronounce it or even remember the full name is unlikely. Actually, even if you do live in Hawaii it’s still a hard name to pronounce! Despite the very Hawaiian flavor of its adopted name, that environment of the humuhumunukunukuapua’a’s is not, in fact, originally Hawaiian Island waters. The humu is actually indigenous to the south and central Pacific (such as Australia, the Red Sea, the Philippines, and the coast of Africa). To be deemed the state fish when it isn’t even endemic is pretty spectacular! And, if you’ve ever seen one while diving in Kona, you’ll know why. The humu is vividly striped, has a sort-of pug shaped nose, and a voluptuous blue mouth (thanks to teeth of the same color that are set close together). It actually kind of looks like it’s wearing blue lipstick.
Whether you choose to dive in Kona or snorkel, you are bound to see many beautiful reef fish, the occasional turtle, perhaps some dolphins, and if you’re very very lucky a small white tip reef shark cruising along the reef looking for a nice sandy patch to rest on. Kona Diving is truly a magical experience. If you want to go scuba diving in Kona on your next dive vacation call Kona Honu Divers and we’ll take you on some of the best scuba diving Hawaii has to offer! We also offer free nitrox! (808)324-4668