Diving Hawai'i Island
All together, the Hawaiian islands comprise the largest coral reef system in the U.S. Indeed, it is the most remote and largest scale intact reef system in the world. Hawaiian reefs may not be as bio-diverse as others in the Pacific, but they have the highest rate of endemism found anywhere. This means that as much as a quarter of the invertebrate and fish species you will see can be seen nowhere else in the world!
How Did it Happen?
The Hawaiian chain formed over the last 50 million years as the Pacific plate has moved over a stationary plume of magma. The islands thus formed are incredibly remote, separated by thousands of miles of cold, deep ocean from the other coral reefs of the Pacific. Only organisms whose larvae could survive this long, cold drift made it to the islands to begin to colonize their rough volcanic shores. Once there, they were far removed from others of their kind, and many began an evolutionary journey that diverged significantly from the cousins they left behind.
What Will I See?
Due to it's youth and remoteness, Hawai'i Island's reefs may best be described as austere. Mostly hard corals form the bulk of the reef, but do not assume this means they are less majestic that their South Pacific counterparts. There is an incredible density to the coral growth in many locations, often it seems to drip, like candle wax, from every surface.
Fish are abundant and the reefs teem with life. Although the number of species is not as great as other Pacific reefs, you are almost guaranteed to see something you can't see anywhere else. Because much of the shoreline slopes quickly into deep water, encounters with larger pelagic fish can occur!
In addition, because lava has flowed so recently across this island, dives along the shoreline often feature fissures, tubes and caves which host fish, corals, turtle cleaning stations, and sleeping white tip reef sharks! Divers can swim through and explore many of these caves as weather and water conditions permit.
- A great National Geographic Article on the Hawaiian reef system
- A must-have guide to Hawaiian Reef Fish (we have a copy at the condo)