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The Best Snorkeling Spot in Hawaii


Dai Mar Tamarack, Expedition Leader, Safari Explorer

There’s just no other place like it.

I've been snorkeling and scuba diving all over the Hawaiian Islands in my time living and working here. I have also taught hundreds of people how to snorkel in different spots around the islands. After all of this experience, I would rate the snorkeling at the Big Island's Kealakekua Bay as one the best in the islands for all around greatness.

The conditions are almost always flat and calm here. The reef takes advantage of the geological protection and the political protection by growing into massive coral heads. And the fish are not just plentiful, but also not quite as shy as fish on other reefs. It’s almost as if the fish know that no one is going to try and catch them.

The calmness of the bay makes the conditions great for beginner snorkelers. But the clarity of the water makes conditions great for the most experienced of underwater photography enthusiasts. Schools of goatfish and yellow tangs hover above the coral reef and sunlight filters down, lighting up the many different colors below.

For the trained eye, some very interesting creatures can be found here. I have seen white tip reef sharks hiding in caves just five feet below the surface. I’ve also seen sea turtles and manta rays give the reef a close swim by.

Sometimes a playful pod of spinner dolphins will come over from the Captain Cook area and pay us a visit. Some of the rarer butterflyfish such as the reticulated, oval, and saddle back varieties can be seen here as well as perhaps the rarest butterflyfish of them all, the all black morph of the long nose butterflyfish.

The long nosed shadow of this fish holds the record for longest fish name in Hawaii, the 'lau wiliwili nukunuku oi'oi ele'ele' or “the butterfly fish that looks like the leaf of a wili wili tree and is black.”

The black morph is almost always teamed up with a normal yellow variety long nose butterflyfish and is easily passed over by the untrained eye.

But now you can count yourself as one in the know and you go find that black longnose butterflyfish for yourself.

If not, then there's still plenty of beauty to see under the surface of the sea in Hawaii.

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