While you're out adventuring with us on our Maui snorkeling excursions, you'll have the opportunity to see Hawaiian green sea turtles, a rainbow of fish species, and maybe even dolphins, among many other fascinating creatures. It's interesting to consider that this vibrant ecosystem full of marine animals wouldn't exist without the coral reef, which plays a special role in the environment.
Visually, coral reefs might look like the underwater version of a forest, but the many little polyps that make up a coral colony are animals, not plants. While soft corals eat tiny drifting animals called zooplankton, most hard corals also get some of their food from plant cells under their skin, which are known as zooxanthellae. Corals typically catch their food at night, when many of their predators are asleep.
Here in the reefs around Maui, there are a few types of coral that you're likely to see at any location. One of those is loosely known as cauliflower coral. There are three kinds, including cauliflower coral, Hawaiian cauliflower coral and warty cauliflower coral. Featuring creamy, neutral colors, they tend to have an overall round shape, made up of stout, spiky branches. Within the same family are the lace corals, which are similar but with finer branches, and the antler coral with their long, dramatic branches that grow upwards in a fan shape.
Table and staghorn corals are also relatively common. The table corals are easy to recognize by their wide, flat shape, covered by tiny spiky branches. Many kinds of marine animals take advantage of the shelter they provide, hiding in the shady recesses beneath them.
There are a wide variety of other coral species that can be found in Hawaii, but these are generally the most common, depending on the reef. The best way to find out more about these and other fascinating organisms is to ask our knowledgeable crew when you're on a Maui snorkel tour with us. We look forward to seeing you out there!