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The Humpback Whale (Kohola) is a special kind of mammal that lives in the ocean, called a Cetacean. Cetaceans are a group of animals that include all the whales, and dolphins. Whales are mammals so they need air to breathe, and you can see them coming to the surface to catch a breath. When a whale breaks the surface and exhales, it blows water out of its blowhole, this is called spouting. When a whale jumps it is called “breaching”. Humpback whales live in Hawaii part of the year, The official Whale season in Hawaii is December 15 to May 15th each year. But they sometimes arrive early or stay later. During this time you can see whales swimming between the islands and sometimes close to shore. Humpbacks come to Hawaii to have their babies (called calves) in the warm water. Then the calves drink milk from the mothers until they can grow big and strong enough to swim to Alaska for the summer. When you see a whale in the water you should not try to get close to it. Whales are protected and you should stay back at least 200 feet. When you are swimming you can sometimes hear their “whale song” underwater. To hear the song click HERE.

Dolphins (Naia) are marine mammals that give birth to live young. After birth the mother has to push the baby up to the surface to catch its first breath. Baby dolphins drink milk from their mother until they are old enough to catch and eat fish. Mother and baby dolphins stay close together, and mother dolphins protect their babies from all dangers even sharks. Dolphins are very social animals too. They will often stay in small groups called pods, which include their extended family members and friends. Sometimes dolphins will get together in mega-pods that can contain hundreds of individuals. Dolphins are very smart and like to play, they are active and intelligent. And they can even put their brain to sleep one half at a time. A dolphin cannot totally fall asleep or they would drown. So if you see one swimming slowly it could be in a resting state, and it does not want to be disturbed. Dolphins eat fish and other creatures. Dolphins do not eat people, but they can bite people. In Hawaii Dolphins are protected, so you are not allowed to touch them or annoy them. In Hawaii there are several types of dolphin. One species that is common off Maui is the spinner dolphin which is small and likes to jump out of the water and spin.

Manta Rays (Hahalua) are related to stingrays and sharks. Manta rays do not have a sting. They are totally harmless to humans. They eat “krill” (small shrimp and small invertebrates) and they have big wide open mouths so that they can swim along a scoop up their food. In Hawaii manta rays can grow up to fifteen feet across or more. Manta Rays can swim together in groups, and are also very active at night. Sometimes manta rays will jump out of the water, an you can see their distinctive outline shape. Manta rays are found in all Hawaiian waters, and are a special favorite of scuba divers. Manta Rays are great to watch underwater because they are supremely graceful swimmers. Large manta rays can often be seen with accompanying remora fish (sucker fish) that cling onto or swim close to the manta. Manta rays are also very active at night, and can be seen during night dives when the diver’s lights attract the plankton that the mantas love to eat.


a close up of a book

The Hawaiian Monk Seal (`Ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua) is a mammal that lives in the ocean, but they also likes to go on beaches, and sometimes they will even swim in fresh water pools and streams too. Monk seals breathe air so they will occasionally stick their heads out of the water and catch their breath. they can dive underwater and hold their breathes for a very long time. Monk seals eat fish, eels, and octopus, and invertebrates, and they like to play too. Monk seals can grow to be big and heavy, and they are great swimmers. They can be seen in all Hawaiian waters, and can also show up on any beach. If you see a monk seal, tell an adult, or the lifeguards. Do not get too close because they could bite you if they get scared. Do not attempt to feed them or engage them. Just watch them from a safe distance and take some nice pictures. Monk Seals are endangered and protected. Please let monk seals rest, and do not let people or animals annoy them. If you see anyone annoying a monk seal call 911.

Turtles (Honu) are marine reptiles that spend most of their time in the water. They occasionally haul themselves out of the water to rest on the beach. You should not disturb any turtle that is resting on the beach. Females turtles can come ashore to lay eggs. They bury the eggs and swim away. Some time later the eggs hatch by themselves, and the little turtles climb out of the nest and run into the water, and begin their lives in the sea. Baby turtles probably never get to met their mothers which is sad, but eventually they will meet other turtles and form groups and have friends. Eventually they fall in love and want to make babies of their own (eggs anyway) and the cycle begins again. Please respect turtles in the water and on the land. Do not disturb any turtle laying eggs, or any turtle nest. There are several different sea-turtle species found in Hawaii; the Green (Honu), the Leatherback, and Hawksbill (‘Ea). All Hawaiian sea turtles are endangered and are protected. We need to protect them too. When snorkeling it is not good to stay above a turtle because they need to surface to breathe. Stay to their side and do not chase them. Turtles do not eat people, but they can bite.

Sharks (Mano) are very famous group of fish. Sharks are related to stingrays. Sharks are in lots of movies and TV shows so they are like movie stars. Some roles in the movies make them out to be mean and aggressive, but this is just a character they are playing in the movie. In real life most sharks are just like ordinary fish, and go about their lives doing their own thing. Sharks can eat all kinds of fish and animals, but will prefer to eat slow fish, sick fish or dead things. So sharks are good to have in the ocean because they are cleaning up all of the biological garbage. Sharks can bite you, especially of you tease them or bother them. They can sometimes bite you if they get scared, or if you are mistaken for a fish. Many scuba divers love to go and find sharks to swim with, because sharks are exciting and interesting to look at. There are many types of shark (over 400 species), and in Hawaii some (40)species can be found. Common species include: the cookie cutter shark (small one), white tip reef shark (mano lalakea), tiger shark (mano niuhi), hammerhead (mano kihikihi), mako, white (mano niuhi), and whale shark. The most common type of shark that you might see while snorkeling is the white tip reef shark.