Archives for Crustaceans

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching, Maldives

Coral Bleaching threatens much of our fragile coral reefs around the world.   In 1998, sea-temperature warming caused extensive coral bleaching in the Maldives.  As a result, almost two thirds of coral reefs died.

Again, in May of 2016, the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced a severe bleaching incident. The surface water temperatures reached an all-time high in at 31 degrees Celsius in May 2016. Consequently, over 95% of coral around the islands died.

Scientist Azeez Hakim stated:

“before 1998, we never thought that this reef would die. We had always taken for granted that these animals would be there, that this reef would be there forever. El Niño gave us a wake-up call that these things are not going to be there forever. “

In Australia, back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 devastated a 1,500 km stretch of the famous barrier reef. While, before 2016 there had only been two bleaching events along the Great Barrier Reef in the past two decades.

Coral Bleaching – Why should we be concerned?

Coral reefs cover less than one tenth of one percent of the earth’s oceans.  Yet these same reefs contain one quarter of known marine fish species (Smithsonian Institute).

Reefs are formed by Corals “… animals that live in symbiosis with algae, a plant,” according to Jessica Bellworthy a PhD student at Professor Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences. The university’s study Red Sea corals seeks to understand their ability to resist extreme temperatures.

Corals and algae “provide services for each other,” with the algae providing “up to 90 percent of the coral animal’s food” through photosynthesis, said Bellworthy.  “When ocean temperatures get too hot, this symbiosis, this relationship, breaks down,” she said.

Maldives, Island Paradise

Yet in the Red Sea, where I have been diving many times, ocean temperatures can be much higher.  The Red Sea routinely experiences temperatures higher than the Maldives or in Australia.  So, could the Red Sea corals offer an opportunity to introduce “bleach resistant” coral into other threatened areas?

Dr. Fine’s research regarding Red Sea corals provides potential avenues and approaches to protect our coral reefs in the future.

Scripts Institute of Oceanography

Scripts Institute conducted a study of coral bleaching in the central Red Sea in the summer of 2010.  During this event the region experienced up to 10-11 degree increases in temperature many of weeks. The study found that shallow reefs and inshore reefs had a higher prevalence of bleaching. While Red Sea reefs are subject to increasing temperature pressures, the study showed that these reefs have a much higher temperature change tolerance.  Therefore, the implications are quite clear.   Corals that have lived and thrived in higher temperature environments are better suited to survive higher temperature seas in other areas.

Opportunities for Change

Consequently, saving our coral reef system is critical to maintaining food stock, industries and related jobs in many countries around the world.  In conclusion, introducing non-native species into a specific environment poses a number or questions and risks, yet a key question remains.   “Should we introduce corals that are already acclimated to higher temperatures to other environments?”  Finally, this answer could determine our ongoing ability to feed ourselves and our children in the future.

Candy Cane Shrimp off the Sheraton reef on Maui.  I shot this photo on a night dive at about 40 feet.  The image was taken with a Nikon D90 using a Sigma 17-70 macro lens on a Nikon D90 zoomed to 70mm.

Candy Cane Shrimp (Steven Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Maui Hawaii, Sheraton reef

I love night dives.  This is the opportunity to see many marine species that you do not encounter during the day.  It is also a chance to see how the reef both sleeps and hunts.

Moray eels prowling the reef.  Turtles wedged between rocks to sleep. Sharks on the prowl.  It is a wonderful experience.

The Candy Cane Shrimp is a colorful shrimp that inhabits the reef and can provide some very interesting photographs.  I like the way the shrimp’s eyes reflect the reef.  They seem to be somewhat curious and alien.  In fact, the eyes of marine life make very interesting studies and provide great subject matter for photographs.

Check out other marine life photographs on my website.

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If you are heading to the islands this year for some fun in the sun and places to dive there are several great spots to consider.    There are a number of top Hawaiian Dive sites to visit and some of my favorite spots are on Lanai, Molokai, Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.

Scuba Diving Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)

If you are an advanced /experienced diver definitely head for Molokai and Fish Rain.  This is the place for Hammerheads and a beautiful pinnacle that literally “rains” fish as you look for the elusive Hammerhead sharks.

On Maui, there are several good places but two of my Mala Pier, Wide Angel, Ambient Light, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)favorites are Molokini Crater and Mala Pier.  You can dive Mala Pier as either a boat dive or a shore dive and it is really a great night dive and one of my favorite spots in Hawaii.  Easy entry (off the boat ramp) and usually great visibility, always sharks and turtles and great for ambient light photography.

Manta Ray in Flight, Manta birostris,  (Walbaum, 1792), Kona Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)On the Big Island you have to do the Manta Dive.  Check out the phases of the moon (seriously) before you head out as it seems that the Mantas can be seen more in the waxing and waning phases of the moon.  You can also check on daily sitings and help determine when it is your best chance at seeing the most Manta Rays.

For information on other dive sites go to my Hawaii Dive Sites page.. and visit my website for images of fish from around the world and reviews of other great dive sites.

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Menjangan Island Soft Tree Coral, Lemnalia cervicornis, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)Bali’s coral reef on Menjangan Island hosts some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Menjangan Island has been a marine preserve and protected by the Balinese government for a number of years. The island is also fairly isolated in that once you arrive at the airport you have to travel 4 to 6 hours by car to get to the resorts close to the island. This Menjangan Island Octocoral Dendronephthya spp, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)means their are few divers that explore this marvelous site that is rich with all types of marine species and you can also on special occasions come across large pelagic species such as the whale shark.

Menjangan Island Scuba Diving History

Menjangan Island, in the north-west of Bali, is where diving first really started on the island back in about 1978, under the sponsorship of the Indonesian Navy, when it arranged a get-together of the country’s main diving clubs – Possi, Ganesha, Nusantara & Triskati.

That lead to Menjangan Island establishing itself as the premier dive location in Bali and many of the attendees went on to become the pioneers of commercial dive operations across Indonesia.  About a year later the Liberty wreck was explored for the first time since it had slipped down the slope at Tulamben in March 1963 and Menjangan Island was soon relegated to the background of Bali diving.

Gorgonain-Fan-Bali

Menjangan Island, Gorgonian Fan

Menjangan Island is part of the 19,000 hectare West Bali (Bali Barat) National Park that was first established in 1982.  However, the island was made a game reserve by the Balinese Council of Kings in 1950 and has been fairly well protected ever since.  Both the relative difficulty of getting to the Menjangan Island from the normal tourist spots on Bali plus the fact that the site has been relatively protected since 1950 has resulted in a coral reef that is both vibrant and flourishing around the island.  The Liberty wreck in Tulamben is also still a favorite dive site, but has a very high amount of diver traffic and the site has predictably shown quite a bit of wear and tear.

Getting to Menjangan Island

If you are in the Nusa Dua, Kuta or Sanur area it will normally take you around 3.5 hours assuming no bad “jams” as the locals refer to the often crowded conditions of the roads on Bali. It can take up to six hours if the roads and traffic do not cooperate.  The best alternative is to stay at a local resort while diving on the north side of the island.  The Matahari Beach Resort and Spa in Permuteran is one of my favorites and is located next to the Coral Project in Permuteran Bay.  The hotel is definitely 4 to 5 stars and the largest of the resorts on this side of the island with excellent service, food and access to diving sites. I love the dive operator on the property, a Swiss German expat, who runs a very competent organization.

Getting to the Dive Sites

You can reach the dive sites via boats off the coast of Pemuteran Bay in front of the dive resorts or a boat from Banyuwedang Bay or Spine-cheek Anemonefish, Premnas biaculeatus, Bali Indonesia (Steven W SMeltzer)perhaps the boat service run by the parks service.  If you are staying at one of the resorts around Pemuteran Bay, taking the boat in front of your resort is the way to go.  The boat trip is about 30 to 40 minutes and the seas are usually fairly flat as the area around Menjangan Island is fairly well protected.

Diving is great year round and even in the “rainy winter season” the visibility is normally quite clear.  The island is not large and does not have much fresh water  runoff that will impact visibility.  There can be some current on various sites around the island so you may dive some of the sites as drift dives.  Remember to listen to the instructions of your dive master and enjoy the dive.

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The world of coral reefs contains one of the most diverse environments on our planet, supporting

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

Gorgonian Fan and Spotted Eagle Ray, Grand Cayman

more species per square meter than any other ocean ecosystem. Creatures of the Coral Reef examines the phenomenal diversity of our coral reefs which are sometimes called the rain forests of the sea.  From the microscopic to the gigantic, coral reefs support and nurture a tremendous variety of creatures.

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

Blue Dragon, Pteraeolidia ianthina

These reef systems have been built up over thousands of years by tiny  calcium-producing organisms.  These Creatures of the Coral Reef have constructed a haven for countless forms of life, some of which seem totally alien in form. It is a “Star Wars” world of bright colors, ever changing patterns and odd shaped creatures that look as though they came directly from central casting. Only on the coral reef can one find living examples from nearly every group of organisms.

Creatures of the Coral Reef Overview

Scuba Diving on a coral reef gives you some idea about what it would be like to explore another planet. Drifting weightless across this diverse landscape enables you to appreciate some of the tremendous complexity and simplicity that makes up the coral reef.

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas

Man has spent a relatively modest effort scientifically exploring the world’s oceans compared to the time and money that has gone into exploring the surface of the Moon and other planets. Yet, the growing and ongoing exploration of our oceans continues to bring the discovery of new species, the identification of different environments where marine life flourishes and a little more understanding of our underwater world.

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

Sleepy Sponge Crab, Dromia dormia

It is a place of never-ending wonders. The world of the coral reef is also an extremely fragile environment, and it is under considerable pressure and facing real dangers to its continued existence. The distress and destruction of coral reefs has a noticeable impact on our lives from the foods we eat to the air we breathe.   From the Florida

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

Grooved Brain Coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis

Keys to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to the atolls of the Pacific and islands of the Indian Ocean our coral reefs need our help. If we wish to leave a healthy and thriving reef system to our children and their children we need to understand the threats to this amazing environment and understand actions that can be taken to preserve and restore our reefs.  These are our oceans and the first step to helping protect coral reefs is education.

This segment provides a high-level overview of the basic types of Creatures of the Coral Reef, including:

Creatures of the Coral Reef (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus

  • Sponges
  • Corals and Anemones
  • Sea Worms
  • Echinoderms
  • Crustaceans
  • Mollusks
  • Fishes
  • Sharks and Rays
  • Marine Reptiles
  • Marine Mammals

Come join us as we “dive into” this amazing and mysterious world. See more information on Creatures of the Coral Reef.

Overall Rating = 3.75 out of 5

Molokini Morning. Maui HawaiiMolokini Crater is one of the best dives if not the best dive on Maui. This scuba diving site is only accessible via boat and is at the remnants of an extinct volcano. The crescent of the volcano “cone” rises above the sea some 165 feet. The small island lies in the Alalakeiki Channel between the islands of Kahoolawe and Maui. The opening side of the crater faces the northwest and only a short boat ride from the Wailea side of Maui. If you are interested in some of the history around White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, (RÃppell, 1837), Maui Hawaii (Steven Smeltzer)Molokini Crater there is a short article written by Edward L Caum, Geology of Molokini and published in 1930. There are a couple of “plate” photographs included in the artiBlackside Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri, (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)cle and it is interesting to compare to the crater today. Molokini Crater has been a Marine Preserve(MLCD) since the summer of 1977 and features one of the most pristine hard coral reefs in Hawaii.

The ride from the Lahina side of the island takes about 45 minutes and if you tend to get sea sick, I would recommend driving about 45 minutes or an hour to the Wailea area where you can take a very easy boat ride to the crater.

I prefer scuba diving with Lahina Divers but you must take about a 45 minute boat ride to the Molokini crater. If you want you can use a scuba diving operator that leaves from the Wailea side of Maui. If you are staying in Wailea I would certainly recommend this, although the boats tend to be smaller and there is one operator on that side that I simply refer to as the “Scuba Nazi”. So be careful of the operator that you choose. Make sure you check out the reviews and the equipment used by each of the dive operators. The v-hull boats that leave the Wailea area can be quite cramped if the number of divers is more than 10 on the boat and on many of these there is little if any room to move around.

The Dive

  • Access – Moderate to Moderately Difficult to reach the site; boat only (You shouldFreckled Snake Eel, Callechelys lutea, Snyder 1904, Maui Hawaii (Steven Smeltzer) not take a boat from Lahaina if you get seasick – 45 minute boat ride); Much easier ride from Wailea side.
  • Depth to 125+ft
  • Visibility – good to excellent
  • Current – mild to extremely strong at the edges of the crater
  • Marine Species variety – good; normally White-tip Reef Sharks at about 110 feet on the far eastern edge of the crescent
  • Reef health – good to very good

Scuba Diving Molokini Crater is certainly the best boat dive on the island of Maui. You have to go to Lanai or Molokai to find better deep water scuba diving sites. The clarity of the water is usually quite good at Molokini and there are a several dive sites on the volcano on the outside of the crescent shape crater and on the inside of the crater.

  • Enenue – Inside eastern tip of the crescent
  • Middle Reef – Inside just to the east of the middle of the crescent and closer to the cone
  • Tako Flats – Inside on the western side of the crescent
  • Reef’s End – Far western end of the crescent
  • The Back Side – Outside or on the back of the crescent

Reef White Tipped Shark, Triaeonodon obesus, (Rüppell, 1837), Molokini Crater 110 ft (Steven Smeltzer)For inside the crater I like the Eastern edge – Enenue. At about 120 feet there is a series of overhangs that tend to house several White-tip Reef Sharks. As you are swimming down and back up after visiting the “condos” there is a good variety of marine species. You will find typical Bluestripe Butterflyfish, Chaetodon fremblii, Maui Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)butterflyfishes, wrasses, damselfishes, eels, and crustaceans all around the crater. You will also find sea turtles on a regular basis and on a very rare occasion humpback whales have been seen by scuba divers at Molokini crater.

The current can be quite strong on the outside edges of the crater, so do not go outside the crater for any reason if your group is scuba diving the “inside”. The current at the edges can take a diver quite a distance in a very short period of time. For this reason you must take a safety sausage with you on this dive and know how to use it. If you are scuba diving the inside of the crater you will rarely have much if any current and even if the seas are choppy the cone of the volcano protects the inner dive sites quite well.

High Visibility, Grand Cayman (Steven Smeltzer)In the sand flats of the crater you will often find Freckled Snake Eels, so take your time on this dive and also make sure you “look” into the distance often as you can see various types of sharks and on especially amazing dives you may even see a Humpback Whale. If you are diving in whale season (December to April/May) make sure you listen for the whale song. In February to early April I have heard literally dozens of whales singing to each other. It certainly makes the dive a lot more interesting.

Follow this link for other Hawaii Dive Site Reviews.

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Fish Rain

Fish Rain is a great site and probably has one of the highest densities of marine species that you will find while scuba diving in Maui County. Scuba diving at Molokai would rate even higher if it were easier to access. Scuba diving Molokai is challenging, this is not a dive for the novice. In fact any time you haveScuba Diving Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer) to cross the Pailolo Channel you are in for an interesting ride. Seas can regularly be between 6 and 10 feet with strong gust or steady winds. The Pailolo Channel is one of the windiest and roughest of the Hawaiian Island channels. Seas of 4 to 6 feet should be considered calm water and it takes about 45 minutes to get to the dive site. So do not attempt this dive unless you do not have a problem with motion sickness, you are not intimidated by rough seas, and you are not concerned about exiting or reentering the boat while it is moving. But….what a great dive.

Fish Rain Overall Rating = 4.1 out of 5

  • Access – Difficult to reach the site; Complex entry and exit; Advanced level only
  • Depth to 120ft
  • Visibility – very good to excellent
  • Current – variable – moderate to quite strong
  • Marine Species variety – Wonderful diversity and high number of species; large pelagic species
  • Reef health – Very good

Rebreather, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)There are no buoys on the north east side of Molokai, no place for a boat to tie up and the high seas mean the boats must stay in constant motion when dropping or picking up divers. There will be rigid instructions given for entry and reentry into the boat and these must be followed. The dive masters and captains regularly take ginger before making this trip. So again, this trip is not for novice divers.
Now….to the good stuff….
Scuba Diving Molokai, including Fish Rain, is a really cool scuba diving site and one of my favorite anywhere on the planet. It is on the far eastern side of Molokai at Pennant Butterflyfish, Heniochus diphreutes, Jordan, 1903, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Mokuhooniki Rock. You go to this site for Hammerheads and you get the bonus of amazing diversity and quantity of marine life. The site depth is to about 110 feet around the pinnacle/Mokuhooniki Rock and there are sea grass beds along the bottom. You will a good amount of coral on the lava slopes of the pinnacle and such a great variety of fish surrounding that will make you think it is literally “raining” fish, hence the name of this site. If Milletseed Butterflyfish, Chaetodon miliaris, Quoy & Gaimard, 1824, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)the weather is good and there is adequate sunlight Fish Rain makes a really terrific place for underwater photography and the opportunity to see large pelagic species. If you do not encounter sharks or other pelagic species, do not worry this dive site will not disappoint.
You will need to exit the boat as it is moving. The seas are typically 2 to 4 feet as you enter the water. You will be given precise instructions on how to get into a ready position for entry into the water and you need to follow these closely. You will typically gear up and wait at your station until signaled by your dive master. You will then queue up in groups and when the dive master says “Dive, Dive, Dive” you enter the water, whith your camera or other gear and swim quickly away from the boat as all divers in your Starfish, Linckia multifora, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)group will be entering one right after the other. Your inner “navy seal” will love this. So enjoy.
Once in the water you will descend as a group quickly as you do not want to stay on the surface here for an extended period of time. As you descend you will notice immediately the large number of fish surrounding you and the pinnacle. You will see hundreds of fish and seeming including various Blackside Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri, (Bloch & Schneider, 1801), Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)Butterflyfishes such as the Pennant Butterflyfish and Milletseed Butterflyfish all around hence  the name Fish Rain. You will also see Eels, Unicornfishes, all types of Wrasses and much more. A camera of some type is a must for this location if you can. The lava pinnacle has lots of very healthy hard corals covering the slope down to the sea floor which tends to be covered in sea grass. You will more than likely go to around 100 to 115 feet just off the pinnacle on your first dive and “hang out” waiting to for the Hammerhead sharks. You will more than likely at least get a view of the sharks in the distance and if you are patient and do not frighten them away they may come in to investigate your dive group. The Hammerheads are easily frightened or chased away so do not chase them as soon as you see them. Be patient and wait for them to approach your group, they are basically curious and you may be rewarded to see them up close.
Fish Rain is more or less a drift dive and you will follow your instructor and then surface and wait for Shortnose Wrasse, Macropharyngodon geoffroy, (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), and Yellowtail Coris, Coris gaimard, (Quoy & Gaimard, 1824), Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)the boat to come and pick you up. You must have a safety sausage or signaling device when on this dive. It is extremely difficult to see a diver in calm waters from a distance and in these seas without a signaling device you can easily be missed. When you surface, have one or more of the people in your group inflate their safety sausage and then wait until the ship spots you. You could be on the surface for 15 minutes before you are picked up, especially if you have more than one group in the water. The boat will typically have a line in the water and all divers will need to use the rope for reentry to the boat. As the boat comes by simply grab and hold onto the line and then wait your turn to approach and enter the boat. Be prepared and be patient. This is certainly one of my favorite scuba diving sites and highly recommended to very experienced divers.

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When you are on your next scuba diving trip to Grand Cayman make a point to get to Andes Wall. It is certainly one of my favorite sites on the island and is accessible from the West Side dive boat operators or out of Rum Point.   Andes Wall Grand Cayman is a great wall dive and is a premium spot for underwater photography.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Andes Wall, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Grand Cayman past Rum Point, Looking from the mooring ball at Andes Wall

Andes Wall Grand Cayman is located just past Rum Point on the North Wall.  Typical conditions are 100+ feet of visibility and has a sheer drop along the wall of several thousand feet.

On this dive you will see Spotted Eagle Rays on almost every dive.  There are also other pelagics that can be found here from the elusive Tiger Shark to White Tips, Hammerheads and more.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

I went with Red Sail Sports on my last dive at Andes Wall and the day was absolutely perfect for underwater photography.  It was one of those extremely rare days when the north wall was absolutely flat.  The visibility was over 150, no current, very little particulates in the water and there were only 8 divers on the boat.  This must be paradise. Andes Wall is just about 10 to 15 minutes past Rum Point on the North Side and one of my two favorite dive sites on the North Wall.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

You can dive Andes Wall Grand Cayman as a shallow top of the wall or as a deep wall dive.  I would highly recommend the wall dive.  When we descended to the mooring  the first thing I noticed on this dive was a Spotted Eagle Ray in the distance and a Great Barracuda cruising by.    This was one of seven that I saw on this dive.  After meeting at the mooring pin, we head to the wall notch, the visibility is absolutely phenomenal.  We then made our way through the “notch” to the wall and immediately on my left was another Spotted Eagle Ray.  This is going to be a great dive.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Blackcap Basslet, Gramma melacara, Grand Cayman

As we move past the 90 foot level out to the wall I notice a number of Blackcap Basslets swimming upside down in a small indentation in the wall.  There are a great variety of fish usually on this dive.  Today we see Schoolmasters, numerous types of basslets, Princess Parrotfish, Bermuda Chub, Blue Chromis, Trumpetfish, Gray Angelfish, Spiny Lobsters, Spotted Eagle Rays and much, much more. The soft corals are amazing on this part of the island and they are especially plentiful around the mooring ball on this dive.  You will find several great places to get photos of sea fans, or sea rods, sea whips and of course many colorful stony corals as well.

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Green Moray Eel, Gymnothorax funebris, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spotted Eagle Ray, Aetobatus narinari, Grand Cayman

Then the shot of the trip.  I was setting up to take a shot of a Giant Slit-Pore Sea Rod and looking up towards the sun to frame the soft coral  I noticed one of the Spotted Eagle Rays that had been following us throughout the dive and repositioned slightly and the rest…well I will leave it up to the photo to speak for itself.  Needless to say I think I found an image that was definitely worth waiting for….

Andes Wall Grand Cayman (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spiny Lobster, Palinuridae argus, Grand Cayman

Andes Wall Grand Cayman is magic and as a scuba diver this is a highly recommended dive if you get the chance the next time you come to Grand Cayman and if you are an underwater photographer, perhaps you can make a little magic of your own.

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Description

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Atlantis found, Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier is without a doubt one of the top if not the top shore dive on Maui.  This is especially true of the available sites on the leeward side of the island near Kaanapali. The pier is in the middle of Lahina near the Canary Mall. When you are driving along the highway from Kaanapali back towards Kahului you can see the pier on the right just as you start into Lahina. Mala Pier is an extremely easy boat dive and a moderately easy shore dive (the only difficulty is the entry if you go over the reef on the side of the pier).

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Yellowfin Goatfish, Mulloidichthys vanicolensis, Maui Hawaii

The dive itself is between 15 to 35 feet and you can spend well over an hour assuming you have reasonable air consumption. Mala Pier is loaded with all kinds of schooling fish, Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles, White-tip Reef Sharks, lots of Butterflyfishes, and much more making it an excellent site for underwater photography.
Mala pier was built in the early 1900’s by the Dole Pineapple company to be able to offload pineapples from Lanai.  They would then have them processed at the Pineapple Cannery in Lahina which is now the Cannery Mall. Mala pier, for a variety of reasons, was never used by the Dole Company but did see service in WWII for loading and unloading supplies. The concrete pier stood until 1992 when it was destroyed in hurricane Iniki.  However, the destruction of the pier has been a boon for scuba divers in Maui.

Mala Pier The Dive

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Mala Pier makes a great morning or afternoon dive and is spectacular as a night dive. However, I would highly recommend that you dive the site first during the day before attempting a night dive. Visibility is usually quite good, from 40 feet and up. There is no current to speak of and the site is quite easy to navigate. You swim out following the remains of the pier and then turn around and follow them back to shore. No worries, very easy navigation. There are also a few coral mounds in the sand surrounding the pier which are also quite interesting and make for great macro photography. But you should be a reasonable navigator to investigate these additional sites.
To enter Mala Pier, there is ample parking found at the pier and there is also a place to rinse your gear after the dive at the top of the boat ramp. The dive site can be entered in one of three ways, entering via the beach on the west side of the pier that is still standing, walking down the boat ramp but don’t tell anyone I mentioned the second option, or  probably the third and easiest option is to enter via the small beach to the east or shore side of the boat ramp and then swim around to the dive site.’

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

Keeltail Needlefish, Platybelone argalus, Maui Hawaii

If you enter Mala Pier from the beach, on the west side, it is best done when there is a high tide.  You will have to cross a very shallow reef and will most likely have to walk part of the way out over the coral. If you choose this entry I would suggest that you float your gear and not put on your fins or BC until you reach deeper water. Please check the local tides with Google or go to tides.info and search for tidal information for Lahina before your dive.

However, I would highly recommend entering Mala PIer via the small beach to the east of the boat ramp.  This is a very easy entry and a requires a relatively easy 10 minute swim around to the pier in calm water.

Mala Pier, Maui Hawaii, (Steven W Smeltzer)

White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, mano lalakea, Maui Hawaii

Once you enter the site you will quickly get to about 15 feet of water and can begin your dive. You will notice many Keetail Needlefish around the standing and fallen columns of the pier. You will also see a number of juvenile fish of a variety of species in this same area. As you move further along the pier you will encounter a wide variety of corals attached to the pier and a number of different types of Butterflyfishes, Bird Wrasses, Goatfishes, Green Sea Turtles and much more.
If you are looking for sharks you can almost guarantee that you will see several White-tip reef sharks on this dive. There is usually one or more resting under the fallen columns towards the far end of the pier. You will also see sharks resting on the bottom typically on the western side of the pier usually mid-way down to pier to the end of the pier. You can also encounter these sharks as they are cruising around the ruble in search of the next meal. Don’t worry they won’t bother divers unless they are significantly provoked. So approach slowly and then take the time to appreciate these marvelous creatures.
This is a great dive site. Take your time to truly appreciate it. If you need to rent tanks check out Lahina Divers, they are my favorite dive operation on Maui, but you can also rent from a number of other locations.
You can see the complete photo gallery for Mala Pier at stevenwsmeltzer.com as well as more on underwater photography and landscape photography or you can follow me on Twitter at Images2Inspire.

The pool is open…..

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Candy Cane Shrimp, Sheraton reef, Maui Hawaii

The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro lens available in Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma mounts deserves strong consideration for underwater photography from the higher end amateur to the professional. While zoom rings for the Sigma 17-70mm are hard to find (if you can) the versatility and quality of the lens is such that if you are willing to invest a little time this could be a great lens for a variety of underwater settings. The lens is good for macro shots as seen in this image of a Candy Cane Shrimp in Maui

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Bonnie’s Arch, Scuba Diving, Grand Cayman

It also is quite good for wider angel shots such as this photo from Grand Cayman.

I first took the Sigma 17-70 mm for a test drive in Hawaii. Since, I could not get a zoom gear for my Sea&Sea housing, I just made one. 🙂 If you are not intimidated this is not very hard to do especially if you have other zoom rings lying around that can be “modified” or you can also build a very passable zoom gear from PVC pipe from your local hardware store, but I will leave that for another story.

Sigma 17-70 mm (Steven W Smeltzer)

Sigma 17-70 mm f2.8-4 DC Macro Lens

When compared to other similar lenses, the Sigma 17-70 mm is one of the heaviest and largest instruments of all. This is not a surprise, though, because the lens is also the fastest and similar lenses such as the Sony/Zeiss 16-80 mm, which has a better focal range, doesn’t have an ultrasonic autofocus motor.

The Sigma 17-70 mm f/2.8–4.0 DC Macro OS HSM is an optically complex instrument. It has 17 elements in 13 groups. One element is made of low-dispersion ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass and three other elements are aspherical (one hybrid element, two made using the “glass mold” technology). It is definitely superior to its predecessor that had just one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element and two ordinary aspherical ones. Inside the lens we can also find an aperture with seven diaphragm blades which can be closed down at 17 mm to f/22 and at 70 mm – to f/32.

All in all a versatile lens that can deliver great shots in most situations and is great when you are not sure if you will be shooting macro or wider angle shots on a particular dive.

The pool is open…..

Technical details: Sigma 17-70 mm

Lens Construction: 15 Elements in 12 Groups
Angle of View: 72.4 – 20.2 degrees (Sigma SD format)
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 7 Blades
Minimum Aperture: F22
Minimum Focusing Distance: 20cm/7.9 in.
Maximum Magnification: 1:2.3
Filter Size Diameter: 72mm
Dimensions Diameter: 79mm X Length 82.5mm
3.1 in. X 3.2 in.
Weight: 455g/16.0 oz