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Old 07/28/2018, 11:44 AM   #1
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Hanauma Bay, Oahu

I returned last week from a 17 day trip through the Hawaiian islands. I hopped from Oahu to Maui to the Big Island to Kauai and back. I try to visit Hawaii every other year, and I spend most of my time on the Big Island. For at least half of my trips, I usually snorkel for the majority of my time. The first time I snorkeled in Hawaii was at Hanauma Bay in 1990. I've gone back maybe half a dozen times over the years, but i haven't been to the Bay in the last 12 years, until this most recent trip. My heart broke. There was scantly a living coral that I could find. I spent 4 hours there, and saw 5 small pocillipora and 3 small montipora colonies. In contrast, I have underwater pictures taken in 1990 of a Hanauma Bay teeming with corals to the point that there was aggression between neighboring corals competing for space. The number of fish species has dwindled to a point as well, that I see more marine diversity in a Petco than in Hanuama Bay. The number of tourists there is staggering, each paying a $7.50 entrance fee, and then however much the vendors charge for snorkeling gear. It's plain to see that the state of Hawaii has sold nature out. They have the audacity to make people sit through a 15 minute video lecture about how much they do to protect the reef, while the lecture room itself is holding over 300 people entering the park, every half hour. Hawaii claims to care about their reefs, by passing legislation that bans collection of ornamental fish, and the sale of coral-killing sunscreen. Yet they don't dare question their own greed when it comes to allowing 3 MILLION tourists per year desecrate the reef. That's an average of 8,219 people a day. That equates to over $22 million dollars a year in entrance fees, alone. Hawaii's legislators should be absolutely ashamed. The mere swipe of a pen would apply a cap on the number of people allowed in the park every day, in order to allow the reef to heal. But no, they'd rather turn a blind eye and keep collecting millions, while touting themselves as defenders of the environment. Hypocrites.

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Old 07/28/2018, 01:19 PM   #2
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Old 07/28/2018, 10:16 PM   #3
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It’s truly very sad!

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Old 08/16/2018, 01:40 PM   #4
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Guess your lucky to have been part of the bigger picture.. :-) I was there in the late 80's and again in 2014.. night and day----Sad

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Old 08/24/2018, 03:41 PM   #5
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Yup...was there in 1971.....was pretty nice back then...

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Old 08/31/2018, 11:52 AM   #6
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I don't know is it has anything to do with the volume of tourists. Everywhere I dive the reefs are either dead or dying. I think the Acidification of the oceans coupled with global warming and over fishing are the main cause of this problem.


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Old 09/18/2018, 07:12 PM   #7
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I'm surprised that I'm about to make excuses for Hanauma bay and the government of Hawaii, but either way I'll go for it.

I visit the Hawaiian islands several times a year for the past few years, mostly Oahu of course but with frequent diversions to the Big Island. The Big Island is my second favorite part of the United states (with the first being the Rocky Mountains). Favorite places to snorkel in Hawaii were Honauau - a special place for me in that I first saw the sun set into the ocean there when I was like 10 years old - and Kapoho. Unfortunately, the former has not been doing well of late, and the latter (including its two meter montipora plates) is now covered by several feet of lava.

Oahu is nice, but to me is just another big US city. (though admittedly the Honolulu suburbs like Kaneohe and Hawaii Kai are much awesomer places than most US suburbs).

Many locals consider Hanauma a great place for a nice day on the beach. The swimming in the lagoon area is fairly calm, and few places match it, especially if you don't want to go to Waikiki. This means you'll see a good number of locals on the weekends. It's also the destination for a good number of (generally Asian) package tours. And it's famous for a lot of casual tourists.

Which means that yes, there are lots of people. The fact that it has lifeguards and the calm water are all good for folks who want to picnic, sunbathe, and get a little wet in a very safe environment. (though with the sheer number of people getting wet and the fact that it's not to far from fairly wild ocean, it is a place with frequent drownings). IMO, this is why they charge for entry, so that some quality level can be kept for the facilities and to limit the number of people. (I've read histories of the place, and there were allegedly even more visitors before they instituted the fees IIRC in the 1990s).

If you don't like that, there's Kailua and Lanikai beaches an hour north. If you swim 100 yards or so from shore in the right places, there are a number of cool patch reefs. (parking will be a bigger chore, though)

The hint for Hanauma is to come early in the morning. This is also generally when the waves are weakest, and if you get in right when it opens (6am IIRC) and before the ticket booths open (7am IIRC) they'll waive the fees. This is coincidentally when lots of hard core snorkelers and divers come (including a 70 year old woman I met who comes almost daily to swim to the fore reef and do her volunteer work)

I first snorkeled Hanauma several years ago. It is very true that there are not so many corals in the lagoon areas. However, I think the fish variety is decent in there. (I have even been surprised by seeing multiple morays swimming in the lagoon in broad daylight).

Nevertheless, even in the lagoon area there are "back reef" type areas near the reef crests with good coral growth. One area is the "keyhole lagoon", which is around 8-15 feet deep. A second area is the front of the "backdoor laggon", where you'll see some decent size massive-form Porites lobatas. You will also pass a 6-foot diameter Porites lutea there, probably 500 years old, which King Kamehameha probably saw when he visited the Bay in the 1800s. Even these coral areas are decent.

But once you pass them - though the backdoor channel, or through the cable channel - onto the fore reef it changes completely. I think the coral growth on the upper fore reef are as good as anything you'll find in the lower Hawaiian islands. But, I think maybe 0.5% of the visitors go there on any given day - because this is not casual swimming, and in fact requires confident swimming of at least a moderate ability; because it's not always possible because of wave action; and because even when you get there it's often not so "fun" because you're getting pummeled by the waves. (my WAG is that the flow's generally something like 300X in reef tank terms when I've gotten there. That's what you need apparently for good SPS growth). Depending on the sea conditions, going further out will bring you different corals. These include some areas dominated by heavy surge with dozens of pocillopora (only safe to swim to on a very good day, admittedly).

I recommend this book for the curious. It's only available used, but the others IMO are nowhere near as good.

I will try to note these areas on a JPG later and attach it to this post.

Anyway, there is awesome coral growth in Hanauma bay and IMO the Oahu government is right to charge a fee, to limit visitors (though admittedly it is a money maker, and they could do better if they limited package tours).

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Old 10/02/2018, 08:57 PM   #8
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NVM, can't post a picture.

Purple tyrannosaurs. Yes....

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Old 10/10/2018, 01:50 AM   #9
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That's really sad. I read online that corals are becoming endangered now! However, if there's any new hope, people are attempting to create coral nurseries in hopes of coral population growing. I hope it becomes successful. Otherwise, sea life will be endangered too!

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Old 11/04/2018, 06:17 AM   #10
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That is sad . My daughter just relocated to the main island of Oahu . We plan on visiting in Feb. 2019 . We are planning on visiting several islands and look
forward to seeing it for ourselves . It has been at least 25 years since last visit . There is a foundation in Key Largo called Coral Reef Restoration and
they are successfully transplanting corals through various programs . They
propagate and plant new corals from their nurseries to our main reef system .
It seems to be working even after Hurricane Irma . They have spread their program out to Bonaire , Curacao and other islands . Maybe Hawaii should try this as well . It won't stop the impact from the tourists but may save a stressed reef system . Safe diving and snorkeling !
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Old 11/09/2018, 09:21 AM   #11
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It seems a little hypocritical to be annoyed with the crowd of people at a beach when you're one of the people...

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Old 11/12/2018, 12:28 PM   #12
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I have been there as well. It’s a barren boulder field with Asian tourist puking off the dive boats. The only positive spin I can see is that it concentrates the tourist novices into a concentrated area, keeping them off the real reefs, and there are plenty! The coral and fish inside most of the harbors is better than the bay there.

You spent how much on what?
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Old 12/03/2018, 06:26 PM   #13
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Apologies for missing the various replies.

Again, if you want to see good numbers of corals at Hanauma Bay, you can see a few in the inner reef lagoon, at the very edges. The "back channel" has a number of good massive encrusting corals, as well as Oahu's biggest coral on the way. (mostly Porites lobata, P. lutea, a few P. compressa and Montipora capitata). The "keyhole lagoon" also has a few Porites lobata or lutea and M. capitatas).

But to really see the coral, you have to go through the channels. This can be very dangerous, please check with the lifeguards, have a buddy, and take proper precautions. To include not going if you're uncomfortable with the waves. (as I am about half the time I go. Go as early as possible and listen for the sea states). And even then, the time's I've gone it's not been a pleasant swim.

But the SPS growth is great. Unfortunatley, it's mostly the same species because the coral diversity in Hawaii was never very good in the first place. (e.g. Acroporas were thought to be myths in the lower islands, until someone found 1-2 colonies in the past few years)

And again, I would say the right parts of Kaneohe or Lanikai Beach are better and more reliable easy beach swims to see corals.

Purple tyrannosaurs. Yes....

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Old 12/04/2018, 08:22 AM   #14
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I loved Lanikai Beach when I was there in August. Great fish population as well.


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Old 12/20/2018, 01:10 PM   #15
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I'm sorry to hear that! I hope your next experience is much better :/

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Old 12/22/2018, 07:42 PM   #16
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Hi softhammer,
You are rite. Keep the main bumbling tourists that will trample the roof and use there asian sunzscreen x 3000 peps a day. You guys know better than that, the best coral diving will be where it protected. Big island City of refuge kona side/, wai opae,and Kapoho,under not only 40 feet of cooling lava but now the shoreline is 1.2 mi further out. MOLOKINI,KAUAII NORTH shore,oahu north shore, maui north shore etc. Kona is the bomb for diving. Hike 5 miles to the shore in volcanoes nat park,now $25 entry. Theres a beach you will probably have all by yourself, go up waipio valley, dive rite next to the river.

Kona now has 45 dive boats, I can remember it having 5 pluss the agressor. 15 yrs ago. 300 days of malia(calm) weather. 25 boats at nite for manta dives. A zoo of lites and peps and alot of Mantas. But still beautifull.

Dives 5-10 miles out in 10 k feet of water looking at the most incredible macro plankton, jellies etc.

Imaging filming a macro short nosed spearfish at nite 3 in long while teathered to a boat in the dark,
Or the same thing with ocenic black tips on oahu and a tiger. We have a tiger in kona harbor 13 ft
Eats the turtles that come out. Or the super cool reef in Puako. No soft corals but OMG. Better diving than Midway island.

Now the bad part,like the new virus in Florida, the 85 + deg water is killing the corals all the way to midway 1350 mi west of oahu. We need to help save them dudes and ladies. Lets be proactive like
GreatBarrier Reef. We have The largest marine reserve in the world. I know we can help save it. To start we have 2.6 mi of new lava shoreline that needs to be planted. Or wait 30 years and hope.

Nope lets all pitch in ,so the kekis (kids) have a great spot to enjoy in the future and we appreciate you visiting us on the Big Island. When u come Pm me lets dive
Nuf said

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Old 12/22/2018, 07:49 PM   #17
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And oh If u like swim with the green sea turtles, beach dive Honokohau harbor. Keepunder the boats ,go north 100 yds, bang, turtle cleaning station, just like puako.. Cant edit last post spelled reef,roof lol
Its been a bad week. Year lol. 100 days of lava and SO 2 will do that to u.

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