Do you know your gray reef shark from your whitetip reef shark from your tiger shark? Your Christmas wrasse from your saddle wrasse? Your amberjack from your giant trevally? If you don't, then you can learn how to identify these creatures, and many more, at the Maui Ocean Center.
Shark sightings are guaranteed at the Maui Ocean Center
The ocean surrounding Hawaii is a unique marine environment. The creatures you will see at the Center all are from the sandy shores, coral reefs, ancient volcanic cinder cones and deep blue waters of the Hawaiian island chain.
The Maui Ocean Center will entertain ocean enthusiasts for half a day
A ramble through the Center's eight main displays should entertain you for at least two hours; half a day if you're an ocean enthusiast.
The main displays are as follows:
1. Surge Zone. See how breaking waves provide shelter from predators for juvenile fish and other smart creatures. 2. Living Reef. Watch pretty tropical fish flitter around colorful coral reef. 3. Turtle Lagoon. Learn about Hawaii's endangered green sea turtles. 4. Tide Pool. Stroke various creatures, including sea stars, sea cucumbers and sponges. 5. Hammerhead Harbor. Watch Hawaii's most unusual shark. 6. Marine Mammal Discovery Center. Learn about monk seals, dolphins and whales through interpretive displays. You'll have to try your luck in nature to see these animals because a County of Maui ordinance prohibits the exhibit of these creatures.
7. Hawaiians and the Sea. Acknowledge the native Hawaiian people and their relationship with the sea.
8. Open Ocean. Marvel at the big stuff - sharks, pelagic fish and rays - through a floor to ceiling window and a clear 54 foot tunnel.
Throughout the day, Ocean Naturalists present educational information and share their insights at the Living Reef, Turtle Lagoon, Hammerhead Harbor, Tide Pool and Open Ocean displays. Check the website for the current schedule. At an Open Ocean session, I learned that giant trevally change color and develop black stripes when they hunt and I picked up a handy seafood watch consumer guide. The guide categorises seafood into 'best choices', 'good alternatives' and 'avoid' and provides tips for consumers to support ocean-friendly seafood.
If you're visiting with children, on entry, ask for the keiki passport. The activity is a scavenger hunt with twelve stone replicas of ancient Hawaiian rock carvings scattered throughout the Center for children to find. The carvings are about everyday things, such as canoes, family, surfing, turtles. At each station there's a special rubbing tool for children to use to rub the image next to the matching image in their 'passport'.