Someone once told me that if you’ve seen one aquarium you’ve seen them all—no need to spend that entry fee. Respectfully, we just can’t agree with that. If you’ve seen one ocean, have you seen them all? Even looking upon the same stretch of sea over the years, it is undeniably transforming every day. There is technically one ocean—no matter how many names it has—the whole thing is connected, yet, in each corner of the world, the ocean takes on its own personality with a mix of fish, mammals, plant life, salinity, sunlight, and human exposure. These diverse ecosystems are often what is represented in aquariums local to their area. The settings vary from place to place and are truly fascinating representations of what areas have in common, and what makes them unique.
Here on Maui, we have the Maui Ocean Center. This is a smaller aquarium compared to its mainland equivalents, but it does an incredible job of highlighting the unique aspects of the oceans surrounding the most remote archipelago in the world (Hawai’i!). As you walk through and delve into the depths of the endemic fish, animals and aquatic life that resides here, take a moment to notice the incredible color burst of corals in each tank. Hawai’i’s waters are home to hard corals only, distinguishing our watery ecosystem from those of the South Pacific.
Did you know that corals are actually comprised of thousands of tiny creatures? They are relatives of jellyfish and anemones! Corals are essential to other marine life, and provide food, shelter and places to reproduce and consequentially are an important existence to humans. They have even been found to have medicinal properties.
It’s an honor, really, to share a space on this island with coral reefs. Through to our own eyes we’ve seen their rapidly depleting presence at an alarming rate, making it even more special that the Maui Ocean Center hosts a variety of beautiful Hawaiian coral. You simply can’t walk through the exhibits without being enthralled by the mix of bright amber, violet, rose, orange, and colors one couldn’t even begin to describe. Behind closed doors, the Maui aquarium has placed significant efforts on reproducing coral and helping it thrive away from the many threats that have gravely impacted coral reefs here in Hawai’i and elsewhere in the world. In the past, they have been able to transport coral to at risk areas near harbors and piers to transplant healthy species into the ecosystem. Since coral only grows at a rate of a quarter inch per year, it is important to take good care of the coral we interact with in the wild.
Science aside, coral is such a source of inspiration with its variety of colors, shapes and textures. With the rapidly changing environment, how great there is somewhere we can go to appreciate and share these mysterious living art forms with our children and teach them about coral and other marine life. It’s absolutely captivating.
So what are some ways to help the coral reefs if you aren’t a marine biologist? Here are things to do on Maui:
• Conserve Water; the less runoff we output, the less we expose the ocean to our daily toxins.
• Use reef safe sunscreen, not only when enjoying the ocean, as it will likely find its way to the ocean through water runoff. The pools at Wailea Beach Villas stock reef safe sunscreen for your use.
• Pick up trash at the shoreline any chance you get. Make it a habit for every beach trip or join local clean-up projects. Our concierge can help with voluntourism opportunities for your Maui vacation.
• Avoid pesticides and fertilizers, even if you live up away from the ocean. Remember that they will find a way to the ocean through rain runoff.
• Plant a tree. Trees help reduce runoff. There are several initiatives on Maui that you can partner with to help replant native forest- every tree counts!
• Recycle plastics, cardboard and glass.
• Be your own expert and brag about it. There is a ton of information online, do you research and talk with friends to spread the message.