Mau'i Trip Report - LOTS of Pictures!

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Posted by Captain Kevin on February 22, 2008 at 19:06:26:

My wife Liz and I joined her sister and brother-in-law on the island of Mau’i, Hawai’i last September for a week to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. We did quite a bit of shore diving while we were there and had a great time just taking things on our own schedule. We had both been to Mau’i before, but on separate trips. Both of us absolutely love Hawai’i with it’s excellent visibility and wonderful variety of marine life, and feel that sometimes it gets lost in all the discussions about other “more exotic” locations.

We stayed at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, which is right next to the Sheraton. The proximity of our location to Black Rock beach made this a really great place to stay at very reasonable prices. The only hitch we had during our trip was a pretty long wait for a rental car when we arrived on the island. We rented gear from the Mau’i Dive Shop at the Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali, within walking distance from our hotel. The Ka’anapali Beach hotel was excellent, and we highly recommend it for anyone wanting to stay on that side of the island. If you dive Black Rock you can end your dive by swimming underwater along the beach and walk right out of the ocean and into the hotel’s garden area.

We did some reading up on beach dive sites prior to our trip, and it seems that the general feeling about Black Rock is that it’s just an OK dive site. We found this to be very untrue and had several EXCELLENT dives there. There were always several large turtles in the area, and even when diving underneath the hordes of snorkelers we found a great variety of life. On our first dive we saw a couple of spotted eagle rays in the sandy area around the “backside” of the point, which really got me excited. I had only seen eagle rays in the distance on a couple of Caribbean dives, so to see them up close and in such a “populated” area was really a surprise. We dove Black Rock almost each day during the week, and always had a great time.

Liz and turtle

Spotted moray

Turtle pair

Turtle pair

Spotted eagle ray foraging in sand

Spotted eagle ray and puffer

Spotted eagle ray pair


Goatfish and Cornetfish

Unicorn fish

Picasso triggerfish (Humuhumunukunukuapua'a)

Jeweled moray

Stripebelly puffer

Pair of reef lizardfish

Liz in school of goatfish (& others)

Friendly turtle

Banded shrimp

Prior to our trip, one place that was recommended to us as a great shore dive was the Mala wharf. This is a wharf in the town of Lahaina that was damaged during hurricane Iniki in 1992, when a large portion of it collapsed into the ocean. The wharf was never repaired, and is now fenced off & locked. However, boats still regularly use the launch ramp right next to the wharf, and this makes for a very easy entry/exit point. You can also enter on the opposite side of the wharf from the ramp, but you have to walk out quite a distance over rocks/coral, and this is not recommended. We cannot say enough good things about this dive site. It was absolutely spectacular!! If you ever get to Mau’i and are up for some shore diving DO NOT miss this one! The submerged portion of this wharf is much larger than we expected, and extends out for a very long distance making it an incredible long dive with lots to explore. The area is inhabited by tons of the common Mau’i inhabitants like cornetfish, goatfish, etc., many turtles, and something that really got Liz and I excited, some whitetip reef sharks. We only saw one shy whitetip during our dive, but just the spectacular visibility and structure made this a dive we were very happy that we didn’t pass by.

Cornetfish under Mala wharf

Liz & Mala wharf

Liz & Mala wharf

Liz & sunken wharf structure

Liz & sunken wharf structure

Mala wharf structure

Mala wharf structure

Mala wharf structure

Concrete slabs at Mala

Liz photographs turtle at Mala

Fish life at Mala

Turtle having lunch at Mala

Whitetip reef shark

Whitetip reef shark and turtle

Reef fish at Mala

On one of the days we decided to take a boat trip, and signed up for a three-tank advanced outing with Ed Robinson’s Diving Adventures. The first dive was deep at a site called “The Apartments”. This was a very interesting dive and we were treated with a couple of frogfish, one of which was just sitting out on a rock in the open.



The second dive was a drift along the back wall of Molokini crater. We were hoping for some shark or ray sightings on this dive, but unfortunately things were pretty quiet on the wall that day. We did see a few nudibranchs/worms that were interesting, a very large hermit crab, and a couple of octopi. One thing that bothered us a bit on this dive, along with the third dive, was the propensity of the divemaster to “harass” the marine life for the benefit of some of the divers…such as pulling one of the octopus out of its den and making it ink, prodding fish with a stick to get them farther out in the open or “pose” them for a shot, etc. Liz and I prefer to see and photograph wildlife in its natural environment, and don’t like seeing this kind of behavior among divers, much less divemasters. We appreciate divemasters on trips that take time to point out things we would otherwise miss, but to actively interfere with the animal’s normal behavior is not appropriate.

Nudibranch/worm on Molikini back wall

Large hermit crab

The last dive was in a field of rocks south of the Kihei harbor. This was actually quite interesting, and we saw a few leaf scorpionfish, decorator crabs, and some very interesting coral structures just seemingly growing on solitary rocks in an otherwise barren sand surrounding.

White leaf scorpionfish

White leaf scorpionfish closeup

Green leaf scorpionfish

We also did a night dive at Black Rock to compare the sightings with what we’d had during our day dives there. The large turtles were all still present, but they were asleep in caves and under overhangs along the rock structure. At one point Liz was following a moustache conger eel that was swimming around in the open, and it went underneath a Volkswagon sized turtle in a small cave! The turtle barely stirred, and the eel came back out and dove back into some other rock structure nearby. One VERY thrilling thing on this dive was right at the end. We had come back around the point to exit in front of the Sheraton and were getting ready to surface from 10 ft when I turned around and saw at least a half-dozen spotted eagle rays swimming around in the shallows!!! One of them must have been attracted by my dive light and came right at me, only to swerve off at the last minute. Unfortunately it all happened so quickly neither of us got a good picture. We talked to some locals about the experience and they theorized that the rays were probably mating.

Night – Undulated moray

Night – Spanish dancer nudibranch

Night – Undulated moray

Night – Moustache conger eel & turtle

Night – Lobster

As you can see from the pictures we had a wonderful trip. Visibility was excellent the entire time we were on the island. We actually had a lot more fun doing the shore dives that we did during the boat outing. We felt that we saw more, and it really felt good just taking things at our own pace. We would highly recommend that anyone going to Mau’i really consider doing some shore diving rather than just going on boats. A few days after we left we heard reports that authorities had actually closed the beaches along Ka’anapali because of some whitetip sharks that were feeding pretty close to shore. It’s probably best that we weren’t there for that event, because we’d have probably gotten arrested trying to sneak into the water to see them!!


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