Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii has been a U.S. state since 1959 but is located very far from the U.S. mainland, almost 2,500 miles off the American west coast in the Pacific Ocean. Maui is made up by two volcanic mountains forming an isthmus between them. An isthmus is a thin land strip with water on both sides, connecting two larger masses of land with each other. Like the rest of Hawaii, Maui experience a hurricane season during late summer and autumn, with tropical storms reaching the island from southeast.
Diving take place year round in Maui, but during hurricane season there is of course always the risk of strong winds and rough seas obstructing your scuba diving plans. The tropical waters around Maui have water temperatures from around 75-79 degrees Fahrenheit (24-26° C) in March to above 85 degrees Fahrenheit in August (29° C). Most scuba divers at Maui prefer a full 3 mm wetsuit. Due to Hawaii’s extreme remoteness, 90 percent of the plants and animal species found here do not exist anywhere else in the world. While scuba diving around Maui, you will she lots and lots of creatures that you’ve never encountered before. Around 30 percent of the fish species are endemic to Hawaii and can’t be found in the rest of the Pacific Ocean. This is because the pacific currents do not reach the shores of Hawaii, so fish and other marine life aren’t swept to Hawaii by streams and waves.
Two of the best dive sites in Maui are the Molokini Crater and the Molokini Backwall. The Molokini Crater is a marine reserve under the surface and a bird sanctuary above. The water in this reef system has an average visibility exceeding 100 feet (30 meters) and this is one of very few dive sites in the world where you can watch Hawaiian garden eels and Long-nose hawk fish. Non-endemic animals include white tip reef sharks, amberjacks and manta rays. The average depth is 65 feet (20 meters).
The Molokini Backwall is considered by many scuba divers to be the best wall dive in the U.S. The wall is dropping down more than 300 feet (91 meters) and there are considerable currents, so this dive is suitable for experienced divers only. Visibility is usually over 150 feet (46 meters) so you won’t miss any of the amazing marine life at and around the wall. The wall features several types of coral, including black coral, and there are also lots of encrusting sponges. The Long-nose hawk fish live in crevices in the wall, as do lobsters, shrimp and crabs. Bigger animals include the gray reef shark and mantas.
Maui is a leading whale-watching centre since many Humpback whales use the sheltered ‘Au‘au Channel between the islands of Maui county as a home for the winter. Every autumn the whales migrate from Alaska down to Maui to mate and give birth in the warm Hawaiian waters. You will usually encounter the whales in groups; several adults swimming together accompanied by one or more calves. The end of February and the whole moth of March is the best scuba diving season if you want to see humpback whales, even though they start arriving as early as October. Fortunately for scuba divers, the humpback whales like to stay close to shore in comparatively shallow waters. Calves have to breathe more often than adults, every three to five minutes, and that is why the whales tend to stay near the surface and thus be spotted more frequently during calving season. Female humpback whales have a gestation period of 10-12 months. This which means that mating in Maui one year will result in the birth of a calf next winter.
Watching whales from a boat is a truly amazing experience but encounter them while scuba diving is of course even more unforgettable since you have entered their own world. When you are scuba diving around Maui, you can sometimes even hear the sound frequencies they produce. Their “song” is very complex and usually last between 6 and 18 minutes. You increase your chances of hearing the whales by staying completely still and avoiding other exhaling divers. Sometimes you will experience the song more like a vibration, feeling it in you chest cavity like the strong bass of a drum. Remember that this is a sensitive season for the humpback whales and never do anything that might harm or stress them. Always let the whales approach you and not the other way around. Whales are curious creatures and the humpback whales around Maui frequently swim close to anchored boats, sometimes even checking out the scuba divers underwater. The Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was recently established in Hawaii and includes the areas around Lanai, Kauai, Molokai and of course Maui.