Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Big Island trip: Hapuna Bay

After our short but worthwhile visit to Pine Trees beach, and our little stop by the highway to see the lava tube, we made our way north to Hapuna Bay. It was a beautiful beach with soft sand, and bigger than Magic Sands. The coral reefs were also much more impressive.

The first thing I saw when I got in, even before I made it to the reef, was this awesome crown of thorns, just walking along on the bottom.

A close-up side view, courtesy of the Housemate (I mentioned he was the better diver). He also got a cool video of it where you can see its little tube feet at work, but as I said before, the video will take me a little longer to go through and edit, so you'll have to wait.

Unfortunately, as cool as they look, crowns of thorns are coral eaters. Look at this patch of reef it's cleared. All that white used to have living organisms coloring it. Apparently, it can clear a patch a few times this size in one day.

The Housemate got this shot of a fish hanging out in the sand.

Not a great picture, but I happened to notice something cool happening here. To the right of and slightly below center is a small fish that is half yellow, half blue (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge it). It is a cleaner wrasse. You can see it on another, larger fish (a saddle wrasse), eating parasites off its back. The saddle wrasse gets a free cleaning, and the cleaner wrasse gets a free meal. Everyone's happy!

I was kind of stalking these two butterflyfish. I've seen them before in Hanauma, and I saw some at another spot on the Big Island, and they seem always to swim in pairs. They're so adorable. And check out all that coral, too!

Here they are, traveling far and wide, together. Sweet.

Now here's a funny fish. The Housemate, obviously, took this one of me.


Sebastian said...

Wow, that crown of thorns is one of the coolest things EVER! What is it? A crustacean? Must be related to the star fish...?

re: the little fish that cleans larger fish -- a book I'm reading at the moment actually discusses that pair! Apparently there's another fish that imitates the 'wiggle' that the little fish does, and the big fish falls for it. The impostor then takes a big bit out of the big fish and swims away...

Are you wearing sunglasses in that last picture? (Looking good, btw...)

Eleni said...

It's a type of starfish/sea star, which makes it an echinoderm ("spiny skin"--appropriate, right?). The phylum includes sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. (Crustaceans, such as crabs and lobsters, are in the arthropod phylum, along with insects).

Since starfish I've touched before aren't spiky, I was wondering whether the spikes were just for show, but I asked a friend who does a lot of diving and he says they do really hurt if you touch them (and you're likely to get an infection from the stuff that hangs out on them). He also said that some people try to kill them because they eat so much coral, but sometimes people will try to kill them by cutting them up, in which case each piece is likely to grow into another whole crown of thorns. Not such a great idea.

Tricky little fish. Ouch!

No, no sunglasses. Just a snorkel mask :)