The Hawaiian word for shark is mano. When it comes to awe-inspiring marine animals, sharks are up there toward the top of the list, so it's no wonder they hold such a special significance in Hawaiian culture. In fact, for many Hawaiian families, the shark is an 'aumakua, meaning a family god or deified ancestor. Observing these impressive (and elusive) creatures in the wild requires caution and respect, but the safest way to get a look at them is in captivity. Luckily for all of you shark enthusiasts who are on a Maui vacation, or planning one, the Maui Ocean Center (MOC) has some big news on this subject.

Five blacktip reef shark pups have just recently been added to the MOC's amazing collection of marine animals. The youngsters are alert, healthy and full of energy after their quarantine, a vital process for keeping the center's animals safe from various maladies. They also received a blessing the traditional Hawaiian way. According to Head Curator John Gorman, the pups have successfully acclimated to their new environment.

At around two feet in length, the pups are small in size, but they're big on charisma. They're cruising around the Deep Reef exhibit like they own the place, and now we may as well think of it that way. This opportunistic species is near the top of the food chain, after all. Blacktips tend to scavenge near the ocean floor for squid, octopus, crustaceans and bony fish.

The MOC is big on temporary captivity, helping vulnerable young sharks and turtles grow to a safer size before releasing them back into the wild. Their plan for these pups is no different. They'll only be at the center for a year before being returned to the ocean to live out their lives. In the meantime, scientists have the opportunity to learn more about them, further illuminating the best stewardship choices.

According to MOC aquarists, blacktips gather in nearshore waters in the summer to establish pup nurseries where they can protect their offspring from larger predators in the shallows. We'll likely continue to see them come into the MOC temporarily, but it's hard to say when. That's why the next 12 months make for a special opportunity to observe them on your Maui vacation. As for all your other marine animal sightings, you can always hop aboard one of our Maui snorkel tours to Lanai and Molokini. We hope to see you onboard with us soon! Mahalo!

Deliberating on how you'd like to spend your summer evenings on your Maui vacation? What better way to enjoy the splendor of a Hawaiian sunset than out on a dinner cruise? Ours are the most stable boats you'll find in any Maui harbor, and as we glide smoothly through the silky blue Pacific Ocean, you can take in the stunning natural beauty that surrounds you with unobstructed views from your table.

From your vantage point on the sparkling waters off Maui's western shoreline, you will be graced with the majestic views of the dramatic, emerald green West Maui mountains. In the opposite direction, off in the direction of the setting sun, you'll see Molokai and Lanai, our neighboring islands. Here, you'll find yourself surrounded by dynamic natural beauty, and you can soak it up as well as capture it. Anyone can snap gorgeous pictures here, no matter how skilled or casual they might be with their viewfinders.

To complete your experience, our on-board chef will provide you with a delicious meal. At this time, our menu features the choice between prime rib that is carved on board, roasted chicken, macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi fillet with buerre blanc sauce, and last but not least, a vegetarian patty with marinara sauce. Your meal comes with new potatoes, carrots, dinner rolls and a dessert of cheesecake with seasonal fruit glaze.

Once you've sated yourself with your meal, you can join in the fun of dancing the evening away to live music, explore the decks, or just relax and watch one of those dramatic sunsets that West Maui is so well known for.

If this sounds like a tempting option for your summer Maui evening(s), you can call us at (808) 667-6165, or take advantage of our 10% online booking discount while it lasts on our Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise page. If you're driving to Lahaina Harbor from South Maui, we recommend that you give yourself an hour for the drive. If you're coming from a West Maui location, about 30 minutes of time for driving and parking is best. We even provide a courtesy bus service between various West Side vacation accommodations, including all Kaanapali Beach resorts. We hope to see you soon! Mahalo!

Dolphin sightings are always an exciting event for our Maui ocean cruise guests, so we thought we'd share some fun facts about these acrobatic mammals. Here in the waters around Maui, spinner dolphins have the highest numbers, and are sometimes seen in large pods, jumping and twirling out of the water alongside our boats. So what are the interesting highlights about this type of dolphin? Read on.

One of the reason's you're so likely to see spinners here is because they live in tropical and sub tropical oceans around the world. In fact, its special adaptations to this kind of environment have turned it into its own subspecies.

One of the features that stand out about spinners is their diminutive size, compared with other common dolphins like the bottlenose. They range from 4'5" to 7'7", while bottlenose dolphins range from about 6' to 12' in length. This makes the spinners much more comparable to us humans when it comes to size. Their weight can be anywhere from 50lbs to 174lbs, so we do tend to be heavier, if not longer.

Although spinner sightings are common during the day, Hawaiian spinners eat at night, foraging on many different kinds of prey found in deep water. They tend to feed cooperatively, rounding up prey together before snatching them up.

Another of their common behaviors is their acrobatics above the surface of the water. They were named after the twirling motion that they tend to perform so enthusiastically when leaping out of the ocean. Some scientists believe this is a playful behavior, while others believe they do it to dislodge any pesky parasites that may be hitching a ride on them, and some others believe it's both. One thing we can be sure of is that it's a whole lot of fun to watch large pods jetting out of the water with such finesse.

We hope you'll be able to join us on any one of our Maui ocean tours, because you could catch a glimpse of them at any time. As an inside tip, they're often seen along the way on our Lanai snorkeling tour. Just be careful not to drop your camera or phone off the side in your eagerness to take pictures! These dolphins probably won't retrieve it for you like the dolphin "Cacique" did in the Bahamas. Mahalo!

In April, we shared the story of the ghost-like octopus discovered in Hawaii, which earned the affectionate nickname "Casper" from online fans. Now, just a couple of months later, a ghost-like fish has been discovered in the deepest trench of the Pacific Ocean, the Mariana Trench. Video of the white fish, which looks a bit like an eel in its body shape, was captured during an expedition on the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer.

Unlike the octopus, this fish species has exceptionally reduced eyes with very little pigment. The Mariana Trench is about 36,000 feet deep, the equivalent of about 6.8 miles. While the average atmospheric pressure here on dry land is around 14.7 pounds per square inch (PSI), the bottom of the Mariana is over 16,000 PSI. Only very specialized submersibles are capable of exploring these unfamiliar waters, which is why there is so much left to discover. That makes it the final frontier here on Earth.

This discovery is particularly exciting for scientists because the fish has been identified as a member of the Aphyonidae family, making it the first one ever to be found alive. It's a momentous moment for the intrepid team that operates Okeanos Explorer.

Up until this point, scientists have been unsure whether this kind of fish was pelagic, meaning it lived in open water, or whether it was a bottom dweller. NOAA's video captures it cruising along the ocean floor, which has given scientists some answers about its nature. They also discovered that its gelatinous body is free from scales.

Discoveries like these are especially exciting for marine life enthusiasts like ourselves, and many of our guests that join us on our Maui snorkeling excursions. There's nothing quite like exploring an environment full of fascinating creatures, all going about the business of their survival while we observe them. If you've never done a snorkeling trip in Hawaii, you won't want to miss it. There's nothing quite as thrilling as the first time you see a new reef, teeming with colorful fish and a myriad of other unique marine animals.

If you need assistance with your Maui ocean tour activities, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Right now, we're offering a 10% discount for online bookings! Mahalo!

Photo Provided by: Maui Nui Seabird Recovery Project

If you’ve been to Hawaii before, you may have noticed that our beaches are peculiarly free of seabirds. Unlike mainland coasts, you won’t find swarms of marauding seagulls here. Many vacationers are grateful for our poop-free skies and merciful freedom from thieving beaks. But in fact, Hawaii does have a colorful collection of seabirds. Their populations are simply sparse in the areas that beachgoers tend to frequent.

Hawaii’s seabirds include fascinating species like shearwaters, petrels, noddies, tropicbirds, terns, frigatebirds and boobies (yes, the bird, not the other thing). Diet is one of the factors in seabird location, and their aquatic prey are often richest near rocky coastline areas or further out in the ocean, not so much around Maui’s popular beaches.

Nesting preferences are another major factor in seabird ranges. Some, like the sooty tern (‘ewa ‘ewa), nest on the sand, which can’t be done with scads of people traipsing about nearby. Others, like the great frigatebird creates nesting platforms in low bushes, which are also easily reachable by meddlesome humans.

In all seriousness though, while people can and do like to disturb bird nests out of curiosity, the cats, rats and mongoose of the main islands can all be serious predators of eggs and young hatchlings. That’s why the smaller and more untouched northwestern Hawaiian islands are the preferred breeding grounds of many of these birds. That being said, some Hawaiian seabirds actually do nest here on Maui. The endangered Hawaiian petrel have established breeding grounds up at the safely remote summit of Haleakala, including approximately 450-600 breeding pairs. The more prolific wedge-tailed shearwater actually does brave some of Maui’s popular beaches for nesting, albeit carefully, and Newell’s shearwater is known to nest in jungle habitats in the West Maui Mountains and the Kipahulu area of East Maui.

So although you won’t see these graceful gliders every day, they can be spotted at times on some lucky outings, like our Maui ocean tours. In fact, the tiny crescent isle of Molokini off Maui’s south shore can sometimes house wedge-tailed shearwater and Bulwer’s petrel. You might just be lucky enough to see them if you’re aboard our Molokini Snorkel Tour, which is the only one that departs from the Lahaina Harbor. This is most convenient departure location for those staying in West Maui. We hope to see you aboard with us soon, and if you want to learn more about Hawaii’s endemic seabirds, might we suggest checking out www.mauinuiseabirds.org. Mahalo!