Last Thursday, my BIOL 301 lab section went to the Waikiki aquarium and answered lots of questions about the organisms and environments in each exhibit, such as the Hawaiian Turkeyfish blending in with some coral on a reef. It was great to be able to look at what nature has to offer in such an easy and convenient fashion. Who doesn’t love a trip to the aquarium? I certainly do. However, I much prefer getting out into the ocean with a mask, either a regulator or a snorkel, and some fins. The underwater world just beyond Waikiki beach is in reach to any of the thousands of people walking the stretch every day, and has so much to offer. Many of the marine species featured in the aquarium are literally on the other side of the fence. My first Green turtle and moray eel encounters were snorkeling outside the Natatorium. I have witnessed thousands of fish fry taking shelter behind the pumps that provide seawater for the aquarium, and got to tickle a spotted pufferfish in “the pools” to get it to let go of a swimsuit, and that was just at Waikiki.
Volunteering at Hanauma bay has given me the opportunity to explore the protected reef and really take advantage of this natural aquarium. The diversity of life that has colonized the reef (including tourists) is fascinating. Every time there, something new, like an encounter with an unfamiliar fish, coming face to face with a turtle, or finding out where the sharks sleep, is likely to happen.
While the aquarium is an outstanding resource, the waters around O’ahu, and any of the Hawaiian islands, give a first hand experience that can only be felt by hopping in the water.