Fish of the Month Contest: Cleaner Wrasse

This month, post your pictures and/or videos of the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse on Instagram! Tag @kona_honu_divers and add #konahonudivers #cleanerwrasseofthemonth. Your name will go into the drawing for a $20 gift card to our shop! Posts must be made before the end of February. We will announce the Winner March 1st!


Photo by Stacey Herman

Have you been snorkeling or diving around the reef and seen fish suspended, nearly motionless with their fins flared out and a little vibrant yellow, blue, and purple fish nipping at their scales? That slender little fish doing the nipping is likely the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse aka Labroides phthirophagus.

The Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse is an endemic fish that is quite common all over the island chain. These fish establish territories on the reef that serve other fish as “cleaning stations.” For the wrasse, these stations serve as their meal ticket. Larger fish will hover in the Cleaner Wrasse territory and let the fish get busy scrubbing their scales and picking off ectoparasites. The dare devil Cleaner will even clean inside of predatory fish mouths and gills! In return for their maintenance, the fish will snack on the visitor’s mucus.

Look for these little beauties next time you’re diving, freediving, or snorkeling! Enter your Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse pictures and videos in our Fish of the Month Contest to win a $20 gift card to the Kona Honu Divers shop!

Specialty of the Month-Fish ID

“What was the name of that cool fish we saw on our last dive?” It’s one of the most frequent questions our guides hear on the boat (and not surprisingly…Hawaii has over 650 wonderful fish species!) By learning how to classify fish into different families, recognizing unique behavior, and identifying their habitats, you’ll gain a new appreciation of what it takes to name just about any species (plus impress all your nerdy ichthyophile friends!)


Over two dives with one of our experience instructors you’ll also learn about strategies used in fish surveys from conservation efforts like REEF and Project AWARE. In addition, these dives may be used for credit toward your Advanced Open Water Diver certification (bonus!)

PREREQUISITES: Junior Open Water Divers and above are eligible to take this course.

REQUIRED MATERIALS: Hawaiian Reef Fishes by John Hoover plus reef fish identification and underwater writing slates (all available in our shop with your 10% student discount!)

EQUIPMENT: It’s best to use your own gear but our rental department has everything you’ll need!

COST: Just an additional $75 to your already scheduled day charter plus the required materials and tax (includes instruction and certification fee!)


Pterois sphex by Shell Eisenberg

Fish of the Month Contest: Hawaiian Lionfish

LIONFISH PHOTO CONTEST!!! Post your recent Hawaiian Red and/or Green Lionfish fish pics to Instagram. Tag @kona_honu_divers and #konahonudivers #lionfishphotocontest. Your post must be a new image (not a re-post) and uploaded by January 5th, 2017. Each entry will go into the drawing for a $25.00 gift card to Kona Honu Divers and/or Kona Freedivers. The winner will be announced January 6th, 2017!


Hawaiian Red Lionfish by Stacey Herman

Hawaiian Lionfish are some of the KHD crew’s favorite reef residents.

There are two species of Lionfish you could see while exploring Kona’s coral reefs: The Hawaiian Red Lionfish (aka: Hawaiian Turkeyfish, nohu pinao, Pterois sphex) and the Hawaiian Green Lionfish (aka: Barber’s Lionfish, nohu pinao, Dendrochirus barberi).

The Hawaiian Red Lionfish is an endemic fish red-brown and white stripes and extravagantly long white spines extending from its pectoral fins. This ornate fish rests during the day beneath rocks, arches, and little caves. It’s on the prowl at night, hunting shrimp and crabs. It’s spiky appearance and vivid coloration is a warning sign to potential predators! Those spines are venomous! You can find these Hawaiian Red Lionfish as shallow as 3m/10′ to deep reefs of 122m/400′.

The Hawaiian Green Lionfish, also endemic, isn’t quite as vibrant as the Red Lionfish. This Lionfish tends to blend into the reef a bit better with its green-brown-red coloration with red eyes. Rather than spiny pectoral fins that are characteristic of the reds, the greens have interesting fan-like pectoral fins. These cute little venomous fish are found more frequently than the reds, typically in sand patches or on/under coral heads.


Specialty of the Month-Peak Performance Buoyancy

Need a resolution for the New Year? Start 2017 off right by mastering your buoyancy underwater! Divers that perfect this important skill glide effortlessly through the water, avoid contact with the bottom, and save air…plus they just look really cool! Take your diving to the next level with the Kona Honu Divers Specialty of the Month…Peak Performance Buoyancy. Over two dives our instructors will give you tips to improve your vertical and horizontal positioning in the water, help you determine proper weighting and trim to establish optimal balancing underwater, practice different kicking styles, effective breathing techniques, and streamline your equipment to turn you into a scuba ninja!


PREREQUISITES: Junior Open Water Divers and above are eligible to take this course.

REQUIRED MATERIALS: Peak Performance Buoyancy Manual

EQUIPMENT: It’s best to use your own gear but our rental department has everything you’ll need!

Add Peak Performance Buoyancy to your already scheduled morning charter for only an additional $100.

Includes: Experienced Instructor, manual, and processing fee for certification card.

For more information visit


Fish of the Month: Ornate Butterflyfish


Photo by Keoki Stender

Let’s take a look at one of Hawaii’s vibrantly stunning and easy to find reef inhabitants: the Ornate Butterflyfish. The Ornate Butterflyfish, or Chaetodon oratissimus, can be found from the shallows to a depth of about 36m/118 ft. You’ll typically see these colorful beauties swimming in pairs over the reef, feeding on coral polyps. When mature, Ornate Butterflyfish are approximately 20cm/7.9 in in length. They have white bodies with orange oblique lines streaking their sides. A characteristic feature of these fish


Drawn by S. Eisenberg

is yellow and black bars striping their faces, giving them a unique definition from other butterflyfish on our local reefs.

You may have seen Ornate Butterflyfish on one of your previous dive trips. The species is
widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific regions. If you’re snorkeling or diving over coral, you have a great chance of spotting them! See how many you can find the next time you’re in the water.


Anniversary Celebration & Benefit for the Malama Kai Foundaton

This Sunday, September 4, 2016, from 10-4pm Kona Honu Divers will be celebrating 1-year-under-new-ownership.  There is no better way to celebrate then to have a benefit for a foundation we believe in, the Malama Kai Foundation.  There will be fun and games (dunk tank!), BBQ,

a raffle for prizes like: boat trips, gear, shirts, hats, reusable water bottles, used gear sale, and much more.  Many educational booths like the Marine Mammal Center, Manta Ray Advocates, Surfrider Foundation, and others that focus on preserving and educating the public on our natural resources and aquatic life.  There will also be local artists showcasing their ocean inspired art like Elise Jens , Laura Roberts, and Paul Okumura.

What is the Malama Kai Foundation?

Malama Kai Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to ocean stewardship for current and future generations through community service and public education.  Founded in January 1991, Malama Kai Foundation raises funds and implements project that help conserve Hawaii’s coastal and marine resources, and educated people about these resources (Malama Kai Foundation).

What are mooring balls?

Our day use moorings are an adaptation of the Halas method, developed specifically for Hawai‘i’s hard lava substrata by the University of Hawai‘i’s Sea Grant Program and Institute of Geophysics. The modern mooring consists of a 3/4 inch stainless steel eyebolt (or pin) 18 inches long that is cemented into a hole drilled into the reef substrate. In sandy or soft bottom areas a specialized “manta” unit is driven deep into the soft substrate. Attached to the the fixed eye (on the pin or manta), which is all that protrudes from the otherwise pristine reef or bottom area, is a chain bridle and 7/8 inch nylon line. The mooring tackle and line is attached to an 18” buoy placed about 10-ft. below the surface (Malama Kai Foundation).

Why are mooring balls important?

Mooring balls protect our reefs from anchors.  The diving community in Kona relies on the Malama Kai Foundation to keep the mooring balls in safe and working order for our daily use.

How can you help?

The Malama Kai Foundation relies heavily on private donations.  The foundation receives some funding from our government, but it is never enough.   During our Anniversary Celebration all proceeds will be donated to the day-use mooring ball program for Hawaii island.  Kona Honu Divers accepts donations when you make diving or snorkeling reservation.  You can also make a private donation directly to the Malama Kai Foundation.

What will the money be used for?

If you make a general donation:

Malama Kai Foundation Support

Donations will support administration (Executive Director), grant writing and fundraising activities, support core programs of Malama Kai Foundations such as community education and coastal stewardship, permitting, website upkeep, and overall operational management of programs and projects.  This donation category allows the most flexibility to utilize your donation to the best purpose (Malama Kai Foundation.

Special Donation: Day-Use Mooring Program

Donations purchase materials (new & replacement) and help reimburse volunteer expenses for installation, monitoring, and maintenance of day-use moorings.  It currently costs about $410 for materials/per mooring plus $800 per mooring for install.  Maintenance costs are about $1200 per day (boat, fuel, and crew).  Typically, 3-7 moorings can be maintained in a day.  There are currently about 220 moorings statewide (Malama Kai Foundation.

Donations can be earmarked for specific islands.



Giant Aliens of Kona

Okay, so they aren’t aliens.  They are actually giant fish- Manta Rays to be exact-and when people visit us in Kona one of their top priorities is to see these rays.  It’s a breathtaking show of tumbling, spinning, and, well, eating really.  It has been described as an underwater Vegas show which is spot on.  However,  in this version the showgirls are trying to put on the pounds!  There are lights shining everywhere and constant action, there’s so much going on that you’re not even sure where to look.


The show is really all about the manta rays, but just like Vegas, every once in a while we get a cameo so amazing it blows even the local divers minds.  No, I’m not referring to Celine Dion or Frank Sinatra, for us islanders we get giddy when a native Hawaiian Monk Seal appears on the show!

H01 Monachus schauinslandii watermarked

Don’t get me wrong, the manta rays are incredible, but I am more a mammal girl myself.  It’s what I focused on while obtaining my marine science degree right here on island and they have been the center of my careers since then.  Heck, they still occupy my life on my weekends when I volunteer.  But for those of you from New England and California I’m sure you are saying “seal, What’s exciting about that?”  Well, let me tell you.

Currently, there are only about 1,000 of these seals left in the world and they are only found in the Hawaiian archipelago.  Of those thousand animals only about 6 of them are residents to our Big Island.  And of those 6, one of them has found an affinity for our Manta Ray night dive.  This individual, one of a few very highly endangered seals, is named Waimanu.  Born in Waimanu valley (they got really creative with names, huh?)  she is a gorgeous, chubby 8 year-old pinniped.  Some may live to be between 25-30 years old, so Waimanu is a relatively young girl.

Monk seal yawn copy

That being said, she has already been a mom twice, that we know of… Unfortunately, even with all the watchful, helpful eyes of the locals, neither pup (baby) made it.  This is the reality with these animals. They are endangered by unrelenting pollution, trash, wayward and discarded fishing line, hooks, and even reduced prey source.

I am proud to say that our community is working to protect all our ocean wildlife.  In the past few years we have banned plastic shopping bags completely. There is currently a bill to ban one use plastics (Styrofoam, plastic utensils, etc.) so less of it ends up in our oceans. We are also constantly participating in beach clean-ups and ocean clean-ups.  We make sure the fish we chose to eat is locally and sustainably caught.  There is even a hospital in Kona specifically set-up to rehabilitate Hawaiian Monk Seals (Ke Kai Ola).  I’m more than proud to call this place home and even more proud to call Kona and Kona Honu Divers my community.

So why is it exciting to see Waimanu?  Maybe it’s partly because she’s a highly endangered species, maybe it’s because she’s an extremely graceful, big, beautiful animal, maybe it’s because she has an extremely cute face that melts your heart.  For me, it’s exciting to see her because she is a part of our community, a contributing member just like the rest of us and every time we see her it inspires us to be stewards to our ocean and share the love with our guests.  Plus, let’s face it, it is just cool!

-Tara Spiegel