Archives for Conservation

Arrival St Regis Vommuuli Island Maldives

Male, Maldives, Island City

Paradise Found

The Republic of Maldives is one of the most unique geological places on our planet.  Made up of 26 atolls and over 1,150 islands spread across approximately 35,000 sq. miles.  It is one of the most dispersed countries on earth.  It is also the lowest country on earth with more than 80 % of the country’s land less than one meter above sea level.  The Maldives lies close to the equator between latitudes 1°S and 8°N and longitudes 72° and 74°E.


Rising Ocean Temperatures

While these islands are one of the most beautiful places on earth, the Maldives has been challenged with high sea temperatures.  In 1998, sea-temperature warming of as much as 5 °C (9.0 °F), due to a single El Niño phenomenon event, caused coral bleaching, killing almost two thirds of the nation’s coral reefs.

To induce the regrowth of the reefs, scientists placed electrified cones anywhere from 20–60 feet (6.1–18.3 m) below the surface to provide a substrate for larval coral attachment. In 2004, scientists witnessed corals regenerating. Corals began to eject pink-orange eggs and sperm. The growth of these electrified corals was five times faster than untreated corals.

St. Regis Vommuli Island Maldives

St. Regis Vommuli Island Maldives

El Niño

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. Not only this, they also act as a natural barrier against the tropical storms, floods and tsunamis. Seaweeds grow on the skeletons of dead coral.”

Again, in 2016, the coral reefs of the Maldives experienced a severe bleaching incident. The surface water temperatures reached an all-time high in 2016, at 31 degrees Celsius in May 2016.  Over 95% of coral around the islands died, and, even after six months, 100% of young coral transplants had died.   While this event challenged the local marine life, a trip to the Maldives will not disappoint.  The biodiversity on the reef is still incredible.

Maldives Fantasy Island

Arrival St Regis Vommuuli Island Maldives

St Regis Vommuuli Island Maldives

During our trip, we visited two separate islands in addition to Male.  The first, Vommuli Island located in the Dhaalu Atoll, is approximately 69 km south of the capital Male and is reached via sea plane.  The St Regis resort on the island opened in September of 2016 and had been open a little over 9 months when we arrived.  The hotel occupies 100% of the island and houses about 200 staff in addition to hotel guests.  When you arrive, you are greeted by some of the hotel staff lined up on the dock and waving.

Think Fantasy Island.  da plane, da plane…..

Transport in the Maldives

Getting to the island requires a short sea plane ride from Male.  The St. Regis will meet you at the international terminal and take you to a private lounge at the Sea Plane terminal to wait on your flight.  You can get light hors D’oeuvres, snacks and drinks while you wait inside a small but nicely appointed lounge.  The trip on the sea plane is only about 45 minutes and usually you make one stop to drop off other passengers at other resorts before you arrive at o the St Regis.

The St Regis Resort

St Regis Resort

St Regis Resort

This is probably one of the most amazing hotels in which we have stayed. Our spacious over water villa had floor to ceiling windows that looked out over the ocean.  Everything in the room was new with lots of automation. We had a 20 X 50 foot (6 x 18 meters) or so deck which had an infinity pool and a staircase that led down to the ocean.  I know it is difficult to suffer through these types of accommodations, but someone has to do it. 🙂

Like many resorts in the Maldives, we were assigned a personal butler to attend to our needs during our stay.  This is where it gets a little creepy.  The hotel will go online to look up guests, go to their Facebook page if it is accessible, or other social media sites to find out about the guests.  One couple on their honeymoon told us that the hotel had printed copies of photos from their wedding that were posted on line and had them in their room when they arrived.

The staff on the island are also supposed to know the guests.  They use Whatsapp to communicate information about guests to other staff members.  So, when I went out for a dive one day and came back looking for my wife, the first staff member I came too told me where she was and what she was doing.  This place was over the top with service.


Private Dive Charter

Private Dive Charter

This hotel provides a wide range of amenities, including water sports, boat tours around the area, tennis, yoga, complete fitness center, great pool, and a beautiful library.  At this type of property, your only options are the activities on the island.  We came to dive in the Maldives so no problem, we were in the water every day.  For others visiting these islands, you should consider carefully the activities available at the resort you choose.  The diving here was a bit expensive, but the service was amazing.

Ride along the boardwalk

Ride along the boardwalk

Your Butler will arrange almost any activity you desire and virtually whenever you would like it.  They even provided bicycles to our room, so we can ride to and from our over water villa back to the main part of the property.

The resort had only been open about 7 months when we arrived, and everything was new.  The dive boat was great and each day we were typically the only divers on the boat.  I think some people go to the Maldives for other reasons than diving……

Eating – Maldives Style

Dining by the pool

Dining by the pool

Food on the island was amazing.  From the marvelous breakfast buffet at Alba, to the Orientale, great Asian cuisine, to the Whale Bar you will not be disappointed.  Cargo and Crust offer casual beach front dining and you can always order room service.  If you like wines there is a very interesting underground wine bar, Decanter where you can sample a variety of wines during an elegant bespoke five-course meal.

You can arrange a private dinner on the beach or on a roof top where the view of the stars is breath taking.

A thoroughly wonderful experience that I would love to do again.
The Pool is Open…..

Content Protection by

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. Furthermore, the surface water temperatures reached an all-time high at 31 degrees Celsius in May 2016. Consequently, over 95% of coral reef 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.

We have seen a number of mass bleaching events in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2016 and in 2017 in various parts of the globe.  Furthermore, with these bleaching events we are seeing not only an increase in events but also an increase in the number of regions impacted per event.

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,”.  This is according to Jessica Bellworthy a PhD student at Professor Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences. The university’s study of Red Sea corals seeks to understand their ability to resist extreme temperatures.

Corals and algae “provide services for each other.”  Algae provide “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 may provide 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 for many weeks. Correspondingly, the study found that shallow reefs and inshore reefs had a higher prevalence of bleaching. Furthermore, 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.  Could these more temperature tolerant corals provide the basis for saving coral reefs 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.  However, introducing non-native coral species into a specific environment poses a number or questions and risks.  Should we introduce corals that are already acclimated to higher temperatures to other environments? What would be the impacts of introducing non-native species? Would this help eliminate bleaching events or reduce their impacts?

The answer to these questions any other related questions could determine our ongoing ability to feed ourselves and our children in the future.

Content Protection by
Scalloped Hammerhead - Elegance in Motion

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark- Elegance in Motion

A south swell has been running for several days with the wind blowing briskly out of the north.  It is Friday morning and I am looking forward to scuba diving with the Hammerhead Shark.  The dive site for today is about an hour from Lahaina Harbor across the Pailolo Channel and on the northeastern end of Molokai.  This dive will take approximately five hours from the time we leave the harbor until our return.

I checked into the Lahaina Divers shop, whom I highly recommend, around 6:50 am. I have been diving with them in Maui for over 10 years.  They have great boats and a skilled and highly professional crew.  Lahaina Divers is the only dive operation that has a regular Hammerhead Shark dive to Molokai.  After checking in, I park my car and then head down to the boat slip.  After all of the divers are aboard and a short safety briefing from the crew we head for Molokai.  A

Large Scalloped Hammerhead

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – Encounter with 12 foot female

few of the divers on board have done this dive, including myself, many times.  However, for most on board this will be their fist dive on Molokai and the first time with Hammerhead sharks.

The Boat

The boat heads toward the dive site, staying close to the western shore of Maui, until we are almost directly across from the dive site.  The boat then makes a sharp turn to cross the channel.  The seas are running four to six feet with an occasional swell in excess of eight feet.  Some first timers on the boat get a bit nervous.  It takes about 25 to 30 minutes to cross over to Molokai and by that time a couple of divers on the boat that are sea sick.  This channel is one of the roughest in the Hawaiian islands.  Its name literally means “crazy fishermen”.  Because if someone was going to go fishing across this channel they must be crazy.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark - Exploration

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark – Exploration

The captain of the boat gives us a 10 minute warning telling us it is time to put on our gear and get ready to enter the water.  We put on our wet suits, BC’s, and fins while sitting in assigned stations on the boat.  The water is rough so we wait on the crew to help us stand up and move into position at the back of the boat.  But, we don’t enter yet.  We wait for the captain to move the boat into position and give us the signal to enter the water.  The crew tells us “1 minute”, “30 seconds”, “captain divers are ready”, then we wait for the captain.  The back of the boat swings round toward the islet, then the captain yells “dive, dive, dive”.  Our group jumps almost in unison and we are all in the water within 15 seconds.

The Dive

The surface is choppy and after making sure all divers are OK, we rapidly begin our descent.  The water is light to medium blue for the first thirty to forty feet with rays of sunlight filtering around us.  Then the water begins to slowly darken as we descend on the dive site know as Fish Rain.  The reef is on our right and blue water is to the left.  The bottom slopes gently downward from about 40 feet to around 120 feet.  While I love the reef, I constantly look into the blue, hoping to see a Scalloped Hammerhead Shark.

Fish Rain is located on Mokuhooniki Rock and is one of the most bio-diverse dive sites on the planet.  The density of marine species, the health of the corals and the presence of pelagics make this a must dive. But, again we have come to see the Hammerhead Shark.

Scalloped Hammerhead Close Up

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark Close Up

Advanced Dive

The dive starts out in the lee of the islet which is somewhat protected from the crazy waters of the Pailolo Channel.  While this site can on rare occasion be like glass, it most often has swells of 2 to 4 feet and can grow on occasion to well over 6 feet.  This is not a dive for the novice diver.  This is an advanced dive and anyone thinking about going should carefully consider their level of experience and confidence.

You enter the water quickly from a moving boat a quickly descend to around 50 feet.  After your dive group assembles you will slowly make you way around the Islet in an arc.  The dive is a drift dive and can be one of the most difficult dives you will every make due to the entry into and exit from the water.  Again this dive is not for the novice, but oh what a dive.  I have been on this site dozens and dozens of times yet it never ceases to amaze me.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Scalloped Hammerhead In Close

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark In Close

The Scalloped Hammerhead (Sphyrna lewini) is a species of hammerhead shark, and part of the family Sphyrnidae. This shark can be found over continental and insular shelves and in nearby deeper water. It is found in warm temperate and tropical waters, worldwide from 46°N to 36°S. It can be found down to depths over 500 m (1,600 ft), but is most often found above 25 m (82 ft).[10] During the day, they are more often found close to shore, and at night, they hunt further offshore. Adults are found alone, in pairs, or in small schools, while young sharks occur in larger schools.[1] see this Wikipedia article for more details on Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark in Hawaii has been known to reach lengths of up to 13 feet however 6-8 feet is typically the average.  Near Mokuhooniki Rock, the Scalloped Hammerheads tend to be adults of 6 to 8 feet with the occasional shark measuring well over 10 feet.  These sharks can be found from very near the surface to about 130 ft.  We see them very often cruising just off the bottom of the channel between Molokai and Mokuhooniki Rock, where the depths run typically 100 to 130 feet.  We will see them in groups of 1 to 3 but many times you can see groups of 5 to 10 and occasionally many more.  On my best dive here I have just under 50 Scalloped Hammerheads and have been literally surrounded as I am taking photographs.

Observing Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

These are magnificent creatures. It is a wonderful experience to remain absolutely still in the water and observe these sharks as they interact with you.  I have have had many occasions where sharks have swam with me for 10 to 15 minutes.  They are curious and will come in close to you and your group if you will remember a few key things:

  1. Keep your head on a swivel as you dive.  You want to be able to spot the sharks as soon as possible so your behavior does not cause them to move away from you
  2. When you see the sharks and you see they are heading in the general direction of your group slow down immediately and/or stop and observe their behavior
  3. If the sharks are moving away from your group keep swimming toward them and keep looking all around.  There are more than likely other sharks near by.
  4. Stay at 40 to 60 feet when you are looking for the sharks and then drop down to their depth when you see them.  This will conserve air and reduce the danger of nitrogen narcosis
  5. When the sharks are getting close to you stay still and let them swim to you.  I was getting ready for a wonderful encounter with a 12+foot female Scalloped Hammerhead Shark when a person in our dive group start swimming rapidly down towards the shark to get their “go-pro” shot.  The shark simply turned away and the diver probably did not get a good shot and the rest of the dive group was denied the experience of interacting with a large hammerhead.

The Pool Is Open

As I have said before, if not my very favorite, definitely in my top five.  This site has an amazing reef, tremendous bio-diversity, a very healthy reef system, does not see many divers and it has ….. Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks.

If you are an advanced diver, this site is definitely for you.  Maholo nui loa and safe diving.

The pool is open…..

Content Protection by

Just Another Day at the Office

What a day, beautiful sky, little wind, flat seas, wonderful temperature and Whales!Lokikng for Whales

Grey Whales

Gray Whale

I love the southern coast of California.  In fact, we have the privilege to live next to one of the most diverse  populations on the planet.

  • In fact, numerous whales, can be seen traveling up and down the coast.  These  include;
  • Gray Whale – Eschrichtius robustus;
  • Blue Whale – Balaenoptera musculus;
  • Humpback Whale – Megaptera novaeangliae;
  • Minke Whale – Balaenoptera acutorostrata ;
  • Sperm Whale – Physeter macrocephalus;
  • Pygmy Sperm Whale – Kogia breviceps;
  • Brydes Whale – Balaenoptera cf. brydei;
  • Sei Whale – Balaenoptera borealis;
  • Baird’s beaked whale – Berardius bairdii;
  • Blainville’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon densirostris;
  • Ginkgo-toothed beaked whale – Mesoplodon ginkgodens;
  • Perrin’s beaked whale –  Mesoplodon perrini;
  • Stejneger’s beaked whale – Mesoplodon stejnegeri;
  • Cuvier’s beaked whale – Ziphius cavirostris;  and
  • Fin Whale – Balaenoptera physalus.  

In addition, these giants can be seen at different times during the year along the coast of Southern California.  Amazingly, several of these animals have multiple thousand mile journeys every year.  Typically, traveling  between rich feeding grounds in Alaska to warm waters in Mexico.

Gray Whales Migration

Specifically, Grays can be seen beginning in November.  At that time, they are heading south to the warm-water lagoons of the Baja peninsula.  Then beginning in February and March they head north to the feeding grounds of the Bering sea.

Consequently, by late December to early January Grays begin to arrive in the calving lagoons of Baja. Moreover, the first to arrive, pregnant mothers, look to the lagoons for protection.  While, the pregnant whales  give birth to their calves, single females seeking out male companions in order to mate.

Morover, the three primary lagoons that the whales seek in Baja California are Scamnon’s , San Ignacio and Magdalena. Scamnon’s were named after a notorious whale hunter.  While he discovered the lagoons in the 1850’s, he later became one of the first protectors of the Grays.


The California Grays were called the devil fish until the early 1970’s.   At that time a fisherman in Laguna San Ignacio named Pachico Mayoral reached out and touched a Gray mother that kept approaching his boat. The fisherman have been interacting with the whales ever since.  Today the whales in Laguna San Ignacio are protected.  Moreover, it is possible to visit a whale camp and have the same experience that Pachico had.

Throughout February and March, the first Gray Whales to leave the lagoons are the males and single females. The other whales start leaving the lagoons once they have mated.  The beautiful creatures then begin the long trek back north.  There they will enjoy the summer feeding grounds in the Bering seas. Pregnant females and nursing mothers with their newborn calves are the last to leave the lagoons. They leave only when their calves are ready for the journey, which is usually from late March to mid-April.

Accordingly, Grays appear most prominently in wintertime.  While, Humpbacks and Blues migrate during the summer months, from early June to late September.
The Pool is Open……



Content Protection by

Scuba Diving Molokai can be awesome, especially at Mokuhooniki Rock. In fact, the reef is one of the most interesting that I have dove on anywhere on the planet. Specifically, the variety of marine species, the isolation and  relatively untouched environment make this a one of a kind location.  But,……we all come for the Hammerheads.

scuba diving Molokai

Mokuhooniiki Rock, Molokai

Mokuhooniki Rock or islet is located at 21 07′ 40″N, 156 42’20″W just off the North eastern coast of Molokai.  Also known as Fish Rain, this site is one of my top ten scuba diving sites in the world.

Specifically, interacting with such a variety of marine life combined with large pelagic species makes this place special.  In fact, when scuba diving Molokai Mokuhooniki Rock, you encounter Hammerhead sharks on almost every dive.  Moreover, you will also see a rich and diverse ecosystem.  To illustrate, large schools of Damsels, Butterflyfishes, along with Dolphins and Tiger Sharks inhabit these waters.  As a matter of fact, you will be hard pressed to find other more diverse dive sites.

As I stated before, the abundance and variety of marine life in such a pristine condition are exceptional.  If you are on Maui and you are an advanced diver, you simply must do this dive.

Scuba Diving Molokai – The Adventure

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Spinner Dolphins Molokai Hawaii

Scuba Diving Molkai can be adventure diving at its peak.  First of all, it takes about 45 minutes to an hour to go from the harbor in Lahaina to Mokuhooniiki Rock.  Secondly, crossing the Pailolo (means crazy fishermen) channel alone can bring seasoned divers to their knees.  It can be quite rough.  This is not a beginners dive site.  In fact, even if you are an advanced rated diver it can be challenging.

Thirdly, you should be extremely comfortable exiting a moving boat and reentering a moving boat in potentially rough and choppy seas.  While, I have been on this site dozens of times and it can be like glass, it is extremely rare.  The site can also have 6+ foot waves.  I have seen divers break ribs on their reentering the boat.  While others become extremely agitated and near panic on the pick up.

I remember one dive in particular where the waves, even in the lee of the rock, were running about 8 to 10 feet.  While the boat came around to pick us up I was literally on the top of one wave.  I was literally looking down at the captain of the boat.  Who by the way, was on the top deck of a double deck dive boat.  In fact, the boat was some 5 feet or so below me in the trough of a wave.  With this in mind, I thought this is going to be a very interesting pickup.

But……what a great scuba diving site.

The Dive

When scuba diving Molokai, you enter the dive site typically in the lee of the islet on the right above.  The

Scalloped Hammerhead (Steven W Smeltzer)

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini, Molokai Hawaii, Moku Ho’oniki Rock

crew will let you know about ten minutes before it is time to enter the water.  At this point, they will begin lining you up at the back of the boat one at a time.  You will  have your mask and fins on, BC inflated. In addition, you will be holding anything you want to take into the water with you, including cameras.

If you have not entered a dive site from a moving boat before this will a bit of an adventure for you.  Think of it as channeling your inner Navy Seal.  When you are lined up at the back of the boat, the captain will swing the boat around.  When the boat points toward the islet and all divers are ready, the crew will say Divers Ready.

Dive, Dive, Dive

They will then begin counting down two minutes, one minute, etc.  When the Captain gives his ok the crew will give you a signal “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  Do NOT enter the water before the crew has given you the OK, and said “Dive, Dive, Dive”.  At this point, divers will quickly enter the water one after the other while the boat is moving.

Typically up to 8 divers may enter in 15 to 20 seconds.  You will then meet you dive guide on the surface and all begin your descent together.  You are usually on the surface no more than 30 seconds before beginning your descent.

And what a wonderful descent.  The islet will be on one side and you will see a gradual slope towards the bottom beneath you.  The

Fish Rain (Steven W Smeltzer)

Fish Rain, Molokai Hawaii

depth is about 100 to 110 feet in the channel but only about 50 to 60 where you will be dropped off.  When scuba diving Molokai, visibility is usually very good allowing you to see 100 to 150+ feet in the distance.  And at Mokuhooniiki Rock there are fish everywhere.

The dive itself is basically a half-circle around Mokuhooniiki Rock and the boat will pick you up on the other side.  Dive time is usually about 50 minutes give or take depending on depth of the dive and your air consumption.  If you dive Nitrox, this is a great spot to use it as you can get a little more time at depth when looking for the Hammerheads.  I usually hang out to the left of the group as I don’t want to have a lot of other divers close to me when I am trying to get a shot.

Getting the Shot

The Hammerheads sharks are a bit skittish.  If you or someone in your group swims rapidly towards them, they will simply move away.  While scuba diving Molokai, the key is to go slow and easy and be patient.  As you start your descent from the boat you will follow the slope down to around 50 feet and then do one of two things.  Either start swimming out into the blue and looking for the sharks, which we do many times on the first dive, or you will begin to swim around the islet.

There can be a bit of current here but usually it is not too bad.  Or if there is a ripping current it is usually going the direction of the dive once you pass the corner of the islet and it simply becomes a drift dive.  When Scuba Diving Molokai, you can see anything from dolphin, to Tiger Sharks (not often), to Greys, to Hammerheads, to a Monk seal.  You may also encounter a variety of rays and there have even been a few rare Humpback Whale sightings while on the dive (December to April).  The abundance of various fishes and eels will blow you away.  There are also many endemic species on this site so be attentive and take your time.

Getting Back on the Boat

When you surface you will stay with your dive group until the boat comes to get you.  You will need a safety sausage to go on this dive and at least one of you will inflate the sausage at the end of the dive to signal the boat.  If it is rough it is very important to stay as close together as possible while you are waiting to be picked up.  Their could be one or max two other groups in the water, so you may have to wait several minutes to be picked up.  Again be patient.

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Molokai Pickup

The boat will come very close to you and throw a line out to the divers.  You have to swim to the line and grab a hold and then begin to slowly move up the line towards the boat.  You will take off your fins while you are holding on the line and have those in one hand to give to one of the crew as they help you aboard.

If you have a camera as I do, then you will give them your camera first to the crew and then take off your fins. Then you will proceed towards the boat and use a ladder to board.  Scuba diving Molokai can be quite intimidating if you have never done something like this.  However, the crew is exceptionally good at what they do.  Listen to them and do as they say and you will be fine.  Believe me this dive will be worth it.

Rinse and Repeat

Scuba Diving Molokai (Steven W Smeltzer)

Maui Flame

After you finish your first dive and complete your surface interval, you will basically repeat the same dive on your second dive.  But there is enough scuba diving Molokai to interest you no matter how many times you dive it.

After scuba diving Molokai you get to relax on the boat ride back to Lahaina and enjoy the other adventures that Maui has to offer.

Long may the Fish Rain…..the pool is open

Content Protection by

Into the Shadows

“Where are the ancient mariners from earlier days
Who roamed the oceans’ ever changing maze;
Where have they gone?” cry voices from the deep
And caverns of darkness answer: “They sleep!”
What greetings come from the voiceless dead?
Did they always live in constant dread?
What salutation, welcome, or reply,
What pleasure from the shells that lifelessly lie?
They are no longer here; they all are gone
Into the shadows

by Steven W Smeltzer
Green Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles, what lies ahead for these intriguing animals?

Hawksbill Turtle PortraitOnce numbering in the hundreds of thousands as little as a hundred years ago, the Green Sea Turtle, the Hawksbill, the Leatherback, Kemp’s Ridely and the Olive Ridley are all listed as endangered species.  While the Loggerhead Turtle is the only sea turtle not currently on the endangered species list, conservation efforts-including placing these turtles on the endangered species list and the actions of many countries and individuals has helped select population groups.  However, much work is yet to be done.

I remember my first encounter with Sea Turtles, many years ago, as if it were yesterday. I had just returned from a business trip to Australia and had stopped by the big island of Hawaii for a little relaxation before heading back to the states. I had wanted to start scuba diving for several years and the resort I was staying at had a dive shop on site that offered an “introductory dive” experience. After some brief drills in the pool, I was off to the boat and my first scuba diving adventure.

We were the second group to enter the water and just after my giant stride to enter the water, I looked to my left and there were 3 Green Sea Green Sea Turtles, Chelonia mydas, just off the reef not more than 5 meters from the dive master and me. It was love at first sight; the turtles were very relaxed and the dive master did an excellent job of having us just hover and watch the turtles as they swam in and around our small group and snacked at the local reef “deli”.

The Sea Turtle population in Hawaii is one of the few population groups that have been increasing over the last 30 years due to the actions of both the local government and concerned citizens. Major population reductions around the world over the last three generations show a decline in the number of mature females between 48% to 67%-depending on the species.  There are startling reductions in the overall population sizes in a number of key nesting sites.

Green Sea Turtle Damaged BillSea Turtles are fighting for survival.  They are hunted for their shells, eggs, meat and skin.  Their habitats are under stress from human development, they fight accidental capture in fishing gear, and they face new diseases, worsened by changes in the environment.  Nesting sites are critically important to the survival of wild Sea Turtles and we must find ways to protect these sites in a responsible fashion or we may soon face a time where the only sea turtles to be found are in an aquarium.

Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas:

Green - CERN Redlist

Eastern Pacific Ocean, Mexico – 96% to 98% reduction

Southeast Asia, Indonesia (Berau Islands) – 96% reductionGreen Sea Turtle North Wall

Southeast Asia, Malaysia (Sarawak) – 94% to 99% reduction

Southeast Asia, Peninsular Malaysia – 88% to 92% reduction

Western Atlantic Ocean, Venezuela (Aves Is.) – 98% reduction

Mediterranean Sea, Turkey – 93% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Myanmar – 89% to 90% reduction

Northern Indian Ocean, PRD Yemen (Sharma) – 74% to 80% reduction

Eastern Indian Ocean, Indonesia (West Java) – 96% reduction

Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata:

Hawksbill CERN Redlist

The Hawksbill has decreased an estimated 85+% over the last 100 years from over 70,000 turtles to roughly 10,000 animals today.

Indian Ocean, Madagascar – 90% reductionHawksbill and Soft Coral

Indian Ocean, Egypt – 99% reduction

Indian Ocean, Maldives – 96% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Milman Island 46% reduction

Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 93% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Bahamas 96% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Nicaragua 97% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Brazil 80% reduction

Atlantic Ocean, Panama 95% reduction

 Loggerhead, Caretta caretta

Loggerhead - CERN Redlist

Leatherback, Dermochelys coriacea

Leatherback - CERN Redlist

East Pacific Ocean, Mexico 98% reductionGreen Sea Turtle Ambient Light Mala Pier

East Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica 95% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Malaysia 100% reduction

West Pacific Ocean, Indonesia 76% reduction


Green Sea Turtle Feeling Free

Because of the threats facing the Sea Turtle it is evident that these turtles face a measurable risk of extinction. The time for action is now to help preserve these wonderful creatures for future generations.  Conservation actions, such as those in islands of the Seychelles, Hawaii, Florida and other locations demonstrate that the turtle populations will increase with aggressive conservation activities, but without specific protective actions these turtles are in critical danger.

Take the pledge.  Educate yourself regarding the dangers facing Sea Turtles and commit yourself to tell at five other people. #takethepledge, #conservation, #seaturtles

Note: Endangered species information and population estimates are provided by CERN Redlist

More information on the dangers facing Sea Turtles can be found at:

World wildlife


NOAA Fisheries

Sea Turtle Conservancy

Also visit my gallery for more Sea Turtle photographs

Content Protection by

It is that time of year……

Manta Ray Gill Slits

Manta Ray view of gill slits

DEMA 2014 is just around the corner in Las Vegas from Nov. 19 – 22.  The Ocean Artist Society will have a large dedicated space for displaying artwork from various members and Wyland is planning to exhibiting the entire permanent fine art collection featuring many of the 262 current members. It is an amazing collection of paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other works of art that reflect our members’ vision and commitment to the conservation of our ocean.


According to organizers, the art show will be the largest, most comprehensive gathering of works from top ocean artists in DEMA history. “The idea behind the Ocean Artist Society began at DEMA,” says renowned artist and conservationist Wyland, who founded the OAS with Guy Harvey and Bob Talbot in 2003. “This showcase at DEMA, sponsored by SCUBAPRO, will put a spotlight on the very best work from the world’s most gifted artists.”

“Gill Rakers- Verge of Extinction” will be one of the photographs on display from the Steven W Smeltzer collection, so if you are in Las Vegas at the DEMA show please take the time to review this amazing collection.

Content Protection by

Humpback Whale breaching, Megaptera novaeangliae. Maui Hawaii ( (949)290-6367)The Great Whales.  Beautiful, graceful, intelligent, magnificent!! How can you describe these marvelous creatures as they leap high-into the air or perform graceful ballets beneath the waves and on the surface. Great Whales, also known as Rorquals, include: Blue Whales, Gray Whales, Fin Whales, Sperm Whales, Humpback Whales, Right Whales, Bowhead Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Mink Whales, and Sei Whales.   Great Whales hold a unique place in the minds and hearts of people around the world.  They have played and continue to play important roles in many cultures.  Their sheer size captures the imagination of anyone who has been privileged to see or interact with them.  Yet man’s interaction and exploitation of these creatures, especially during the period of commercialized whaling from the late 1700’s to the mid-1950’s  had driven many whale species to the brink of extinction.  However, with the help of the international community and concerned individuals, many of these whales are seeing ongoing patterns of growth.  Yet much still needs to be done to ensure the continued survival of these awesome creatures.

The greatest threats today, to most Great Whale population groups, are vessel strikes and Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus, Dana Point, California (Steven W Smeltzer)entanglement in fishing gear and the nations that still hunt whales commercially.   The endangered Fin whales are targeted by Norway and Iceland while,  Japan, under the guise of “scientific research”, uses two whaling fleets to hunt and kill whales in significant numbers including Minke Whales, Bryde’s Whales, Sei Whales and Sperm Whales.  The whale meat is sold by these “scientific expeditions” in the market or is given away to encourage the continued consumption of whale meat.  Other countries such as Canada, Greenland and Indonesia allow native populations to hunt Great Whales, but in a highly restricted number annually.

Atlantic Blue Whales, of which there are approximately 500 individuals, and the Northwest Pacific Gray Whales, of which there are approximately 150 individuals need Gray Whale, Eschrichtius robustus, Eastern North Pacific Gray Whale,Whale Migration (Steven W Smeltzer)substantial support from conservation efforts if they are going to see their populations return to sustainable levels.  The other endangered whale species also need continued intervention or they, too, will become critically endangered and could be lost to us forever. Whether you are a politically conservative or liberal is not the issue for whale conservation.  These mammals are a precious resource to our planet and we must act responsibly to ensure their ongoing viability.

Conservation Status of the Great Whales:

Critically EndangeredEndangeredVulnerableLower risk (conservation dependent)Lower risk (least concern)Data Deficient
Blue whale (Antarctic)Blue whaleBlue whale musculus subspecies - Atlantic populationBlue whale (North Pacific)Bowhead whaleBryde's whale
Gray whale Northwest Pacific populationFin whaleSperm whaleBowhead whaleHumpback whaleAntartic Minke whale
North Pacific right whaleGray whale Northeast Pacific populationGray whale (species)
North Atlantic right whaleSouthern right whaleCommon Minke Whales (stable population)
Sei whale

More information regarding the Great Whales population and conservation effort is available at NOAA Fisheries, the International Whaling Commission,the Animal Diversity Web, and the IUCN websites.


Content Protection by

We began a two week look at Maui, Lanai and Molokai reefs with a visit to Turtle Reef on Maui. Turtle Reef is located outside and to the south of the harbor in Lahaina.
Furthermore, the name of this reef actually refers to a general area of reef on the western side of Maui. The site runs from just past the harbor in Lahaina to Ukumehama Beach State Park (also know as Thousand Peaks).  In fact, this large area of reef has many dive spots and is relatively shallow with most of the dive under 35 to 40 feet.  This is a great spot for chilling and the reef is in very good conditions in most areas.   In addition, this site is popular for refresher dives and for completing the basic dives required for scuba certification.

The site can be a bit cloudy if the seas are choppy or you have a large swell, but for the most part visibility is reasonable. It is also a good place to see a wide variety of Hawaiian marine life.  This site can be accessed from boat or shore.  The trip fro the harbor is just about 10 minutes so an easy ride and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Sea Turtles of Hawaii

Five of the world’s seven species of sea turtles make their home in Hawaii.  These include the Green Sea Turtle (honu), Hawksbill (honu‘ea), Leatherback, loggerhead, and Olive Ridley. However, the green sea turtle is by far the most commonly encountered sea turtle on Hawaiian reefs.  The next most common is theHawksbill. Olive ridley, Leatherback, and Loggerhead sea turtles are typically found in deeper, offshore waters.  Consequently they are rarely seen by the average ocean-goer. On Maui, sea turtles are a favorite discovery of snorkelers and divers on the island’s South and West coastlines.

Up later in the week are dives on Molokini Crater, Lanai, other areas of Maui and Molokai (looking for those Hammerheads).

The pool is open…

Content Protection by

New Year's Challenge Maui Paradise (Steven Smeltzer)

Will you take the New Year’s Challenge?  We have been extremely blessed this year and I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and a wonderful start to 2013.  We are traveling in Asia for the next few weeks and hopefully getting in some great dives.

During 2013 there will be many opportunities for each of us to make a difference in the lives of people around us.  Take time to consider what you have to offer and how you can impact different people in your life each and every day.


I have a vision where we can all work together to restore, preserve and protect our coral reefs.  Take the New Year’s Challenge.  In 2013 I will be focusing on coral reef systems and how individuals, companies and nations can:

    1. Better understand the state of reef systems around the worldFish Rain, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)
    2. Evaluate impacts of over fishing and pollution and coastal development
    3. Identify the reef systems that are in the highest state of danger over the next 5 to 10 years
    4. Review and assess methods being used today to help protect and/or restore and preserve those reef systems
    5. Create a set of tools to help educate students, parents and governments about our coral reefs and the importance of managing this incredible resource for future generations
    6. Partner with local communities to establish one or two long-term projects that will focus on restoring and preserving a specific coral reef systems

Off to Work....

New Year’s Challenge

Share What You Will Do in 2013 to Positively Impact Those Around You. Take the New Year’s Challenge.  If you hear of interesting reef projects or have ideas on reef preservation and restoration please share them and let’s work together to help care for and nurture our reefs.

What reef system concerns you the most?

What are the biggest issues impacting this reef system?

What are you doing to help bring awareness to others about the problems and issues on this reef system?

How could others help directly or indirectly with this reef system?

What is the near and longer term outlook for this reef system?

Remember we are all responsible for the care of our oceans, take the challenge…..the pool is open.


Happy New Year 

Content Protection by


Kelp Forests of California

Diving the Kelp Forests

Magical and almost mystical, the kelp forests of California provide a unique and interesting habitat that stirs and inspires the imagination.  Giant Kelp Forests, Macrocystis pyrifera,  thrive along the western coast of North America, South America, South Africa,  Southern Australia,  and New Zealand

Kelp Forests of California

Kelp forest,  Macrocystis pyrifera, Southern California

where water temperatures typically range from 50° to 60° F (10°–15.5°C).  The Giant Kelp can also thrive in depths up to 30.5 m (100 ft.) depending upon the clarity of the water and the amount of sunlight available at depth.  As the largest kelp species, giant kelp attains heights up to 45.7 m (150 ft.) and in ideal conditions, giant kelp fronds can grow as much as 0.6 m (2 ft.) per day.

Swimming through these magnificent kelp forests is special.  With their tree-like structures swaying gently in the current, the

Kelp Forest, Giant Kelp

Kelp forest photograph, Macrocystis pyrifera, Southern California

Giant Kelp provides a perfect habitat for a wide variety marine creatures.  These life sustaining structures provide a critical foundation habitat to a number of fish, crustaceans,  sea anemones, corals, jellyfishes, sea otters and much more.

Giant Kelp

Giant kelp is golden brown with rootlike holdfasts, long, branched stipes and hundreds of wrinkled blades supported by bulb-shaped pneumatocysts.  It is an awesome experience to swim silently amongst these kelp forests as they gently sway with the current.  The light is subdued and somewhat distorted amongst the “branches” of the Giant Kelp and resident species of fish dart to and fro.  Visibility can range from a few inches to almost 60 feet depending upon the current and waves and whether the bottom is mainly sand or rock/coral.  With colorful Gerabaldi swimming around you along with a number of other species this makes a really interesting dive.

Garibaldi, Hypsypops rubicundus, Profile, Laguna Beach California (Steven W Smeltzer)Although the water temperature is cool to cold and you must wear a 5 to 7 mil wetsuit this is a dive that you should make a least once and if you are lucking enough to live along the California coast or the west coast of Latin America this should be a regular part of your diving.

For more information visit my website or blog or follow me on Twitter @Images2Inspire .  The Pool is Open…

Content Protection by