Below the ocean's surface, an otherworldly place exists. A place colored with life in one of its most free-flowing forms. Sea creatures dance across the ocean's floor while hills of coral roll alongside them, shimmering in the sun's streaming rays. The ocean is alive!
An underwater world of its own, filled with so much life and beauty.
And when you dive into Hawaiian waters, you'll find something similar, with some of the most unique creatures swimming right in front of you. Heck, they'll probably be swimming right along side of you! Snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming can be the best ways to experience this aquatic ambiance, but before you do, take time to educate yourself about this expansive underwater ecosystems many creatures call "home."
Beaches, like Hanauma Bay, have made an effort in teaching visitors about these sea animals' homes. As a marine life conservation area, Hanauma shows a short video on things you'll likely see during your explorations undersea and how to be careful not to step on the reef or touch any living creatures.
Adding Color to the Reef
You could also check out an interactive book I recently came across called, "The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book" by local Kaua‘i author Monika Mira. It's won a few awards and is being used in classrooms statewide as an extensive guide to the Hawaiian reef. And while it may be labeled a coloring book, it actually has some really valuable, easy-to-understand information that could be useful to both children and adults. The introduction talks about the precious underwater ecosystems in Hawai‘i that has less than 700 species of reef fish as compared to the 2,000 one might find in the Philippines. Of the 700 in the islands, 25-percent of the species are endemic and found nowhere else in the world. (Even I didn't know this!)
(Left) Do your homework before any underwater explorations using this coloring guide. (Right) Author Monika Mira is an avid conservationist and outdoor enthusiast.
It then goes into describing the different parts of the coral reef, which itself, is also alive and feeds off of zooplankton and other microscopic nutrients. This is why it's extra important not to step on or touch them; stepping on them would cause permanent damage that will eventually kill the reef and the creatures living inside. The book is great for helping people to identify the different fish they might see while in Hawai‘i. Monika breaks down the anatomy of a fish (fin and mouth designs, body shape, coloration and scales) and then describes more than 80 species of fish found in the island's oceans, including their scientific, common and Hawaiian names.
Here's what the coloring book looks like inside.
Read up on how to identify a Palani (Eyestripe Surgeon Fish) by its white tail spine or how to pronounce one of the longest fish names ever, also the Hawai‘i state fish, the Humuhumunukunukuapua‘a (Lagoon Triggerfish). But be sure to share what you've learned with the little ones who are also gearing up for an underwater adventure, and while you're at it, let them go through the coloring book for an even better understanding.
This book is just one of the many ways you can learn about our precious underwater ecosystems. You could also research articles and videos online, talk to a marine conservationist or check out other books about the reef. This one, however, is a little more hands-on in helping both adults and children to understand the relationship between the reef and its living inhabitants.
Photo Credit (second and third): Monika Mira
THE COMPLETE HAWAIIAN REEF FISH COLORING BOOK by Monika Mira / Eco-friendly guide to Hawaiian reef and fish / Purchase at www.lucid-hawaii.com, Amazon.com or various Hawai‘i bookstores / $16.95 / firstname.lastname@example.org
January 23rd, 2012