CRITTER: Meet the Lumahai Cave Sponge and Gargonians

If you have ever driven a car from Hanalei Bay in Kauai to Ke’e Beach you have driven right over underwater caves that are just packed full of amazing colorful creatures! Kauai North Shore has giant surf in the winter that crashes onto the lava cliffs carving caves.

CRITTER: Meet ‘ama’ama the striped mullet

I you surf here in Hawaii you have more than likely paddled your surfboard right over dozens of these large silver fish that can grow to about two foot long and were a prize seafood for Hawaiian royalty in the past. The Striped Mullet lives in schools right in the shore break and their silver color blends in with the foam and bubbles created by the waves hitting the shoreline.

CRITTER: Meet laenihi the Peacock Razor Wrasse

This 5- to 10-inch long wrasse is quite common in Hawai‘i but most divers don’t see them because they live out on the sandy seafloor. The adults are solid grey and their Hawaiian name means “sharp forehead.” The young ones are a beautiful golden brown and have a huge dorsal filament fin that sticks out from the top of their head like a unicorn.

CRITTER: Meet maneoneo the Sailfin Tang

Out on the Hawaiian coral reef bigger is better! Most fish species try to look larger than they are when threatened by a predator and the Sailfin Tang is a master at changing its size when danger appears.

CRITTER: Meet mamo the Sergeant Fish

Most scuba divers and snorkelers have seen this common, six-inch-long Hawaiian fish, but few people know that the male mamo does not like divers! The Hawaiian sergeant females lay thousands of purple eggs on the flat surface of rocks out on the reef, and the male protects the eggs from predators.

CRITTER: Meet mano the Sandbar Shark

This eight foot long shark is one of the most common sharks in Hawai‘i but is rarely seen by divers or swimmers. This is a deep water species that normally lives offshore in deep blue water but near the Islands of Ni‘iihau and Lehua divers see them often in shallow water. The Sandbar shark is easy to recognize by its large pointed first dorsal fin that is far up on its body which makes it look like a military fighter jet when it zooms by in the deep blue water.

CRITTER: Meet ‘opule the Pearl Wrasse

Unless you really know your Hawaiian fish you would think that these two fish are completely different species. One is red and black with white dots that look like a string of pearls and the other is blue-green with fine blue lines. They grow to about a foot long and we normally see them on rocky reefs in shallow water.

CRITTER: Meet awa the Milkfish

Shark! That is what I often hear surfers yell when we are surfing out at Hanalei Bay in the spring because they see on the surface a big dorsal fin coming right at them. The Milkfish lives most of its time out at sea where it filter feeds on plankton and shrimp.

CRITTER: Kauai’s Most Unique Marine Creature : The Plate Coral

Yes, this is an animal, even though it looks just like a concrete patio deck with flower pots on top growing weird plants in them! Very few people in Hawai‘i have ever seen this coral even though there is a huge colony of it growing right out in front of the St Regis Hotel in Kaua‘i.

CRITTER: Meet the Varicose Phyllidia Nudibranch

Out on the Hawaiian reef, we have many different types of sea slugs and nudibranchs and the Varicose Nudibranch are the most commonly seen by divers and snorkelers. These three-inch-long slugs stand out on the brown reef because they are yellow, black and blue colors and look like a little pile of scrambled eggs on the reef.

CRITTER: Meet ponuhunuhu the Stareye Parrotfish

Most of our parrotfish species here in Hawai‘i are called uhu but one species has a totally different Hawaiian name. Uhu feed mostly on coral, biting off chunks then digesting the soft coral polyps while pooping out the crushed coral structure.

CRITTER: Meet ‘ala’ihi the Goldline Squirrelfish

This eight-inch-long fish with huge eyes and forked tail are common out on the Hawaiian reef but divers and snorkelers rarely see them. They are usually found in caves and only venture out at night to feed on small shrimp and crabs.

CRITTER: Meet makua-o-ka-lipoa the sleepy sponge crab

The first time I saw a giant foot wide Sleepy Sponge Crab while scuba diving I had no idea what I was looking at. I was just shooting video of a white sponge growing on top of a brown rock back in a dark cave and all of a sudden the rock stood up and slowly walked away! Turns out it was not a rock but a huge round crab covered in brown fuzz with a live sponge on its back and huge white-tipped pincers.

CRITTER: Meet the snowflake coral

Scuba diving on an outer reef at Sharks Cove Oahu one day in the winter I made a coral discovery by accident. There was some surf so no one else was out diving that day but I was out beyond the waves in relatively calm water but the swell was creating an underwater surge that was like being in a washing machine, but at 40 feet deep!