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Hawaii Marine Life

The reason why Scuba Diving Oahu is so Magical

Scuba Diving Oahu is a dream come true thanks to the local and endemic marine life!

The water is bright blue, clear, and warm. Underwater topography includes unique, volcanic creations. Hawaii marine life flourishes around every colorful reef. Scuba diving in Oahu is the stuff of dreams!

Scientists estimate that there are 600 different species of tropical fish in Hawaii. And that’s just the fish! The best thing about these sea creatures is that 25% (twenty-five percent) of Hawaii marine life is endemic to the islands! That means that these species are found nowhere else in the world. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The following are some of the most common and most wonderful encounters a diver is likely to experience while scuba diving in Oahu.

Hawaii Marine Life Guide

Green Sea Turtle

Hawaii Green Sea Turtle Oahu

Besides the incredible amounts of fish, the most common marine life encounter is with honu, or the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. These beautiful, majestic creatures are everywhere around Oahu. Watching them glide through the water with grace and power is a sight to behold.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are friendly and confident. They will interact with divers as if they are old pals! It is common for a turtle to swim near or with a scuba diver, as long as the diver remains calm, since turtles are naturally curious and unafraid to approach a kind-looking human.

There are a few spots around the island where you can find something called a turtle car wash. This is exactly what it sounds like! Turtles will rest near a flourishing reef and raise their chins to the sky, which indicates to nearby fish that they are hoping to be cleaned. Fish will then come and eat the algae off the honu’s shell. It’s a beautiful display of marine life interdependence.


Contrary to what the media will tell you, sharks are not man killers! These creatures are often misunderstood and misrepresented. Gentle and curious animals, sharks are always very respectful to divers. They live by a complicated social hierarchical system, which we are able to witness with enough patience and investigation.

Pictured here is a Whitetip Reef Shark. These sharks are common around Oahu. During the day, they can often be found resting on the floor of a cave or cavern. These sharks hang out from 26 – 131 feet deep (8 – 40 meters), which means you may encounter them during a basic shallow dive! In Hawaiian, Whitetip Reef Sharks are known as Manō Lālākea. Other common shark species in the area include Grey Reef, Black Tip, Sand Bar, Galapagos, and Tiger Sharks.

If you’re interested in diving with sharks, don’t miss out! Oahu is a wonderful place to do it.

Hawaiian Monk Seal

Hawaiian monk seal on Oahu beach

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is highly endangered with only 1,400 individuals remaining. One other monk seal species exists (the Mediterranean Monk Seal), while a third monk seal species has already gone extinct (the Caribbean Monk Seal). Hawaiians take seriously the need to protect the disappearing species.

Due to the small remaining number, it is rare to see these gentle giants relaxing in the sun on the beach, and even more rare to see them swimming around the ocean. They are beautiful and curious creatures. When interacting with divers, they often inspect and maintain eye contact with the human to determine risk. Once understanding they are safe, they are known to be playful and friendly!


Ray Hawaii Marine Life

Hawaii is home to three types of rays: manta rays, eagle rays, and sting rays. Manta rays are a significant species in Hawaiian culture and there are many protectionist laws in their favor. The three types of rays are found in different environments and in different locations around the island.

One of the Hawaiian words for ray is hihimanu, or “elegant bird,” which is such a perfect way to describe them! They truly fly through the water with grace and ease. At times rays can even be seen leaping out of the water! Scientists have said this is to knock particles off their skin or to aid in the birthing process, but Hawaiians see a much more spiritual meaning behind this action, including the transfer of energy from the underwater world into ours. One Hawaiian word for manta ray is hahalua, where “ha” means “breath,” and “lua” means “two.” This indicates that manta rays transcend the underwater and above-water realms of life, and live within both.


Hawaii Marine Life spinner dolphin pod

Friendly and playful, dolphins are a diver’s best friend in Oahu. Spinner dolphins are the most common species. They travel in large pods and divers on the West side of Oahu spot them nearly every day! If you do not see them, you may be able to hear them singing in the distance. Dolphins are incredibly social creatures and interact with one another in many beautiful ways, such as coordinated swimming or fin petting.

Spinner dolphins got their name from the dance they perform on the surface. Groups of spinners are often seen making giant, spinning leaps from the water. They can make as many as four complete spins before entering the water again! These groups will also play with any objects in the water near them, including drift wood and litter.

Other Hawaii Marine Life

Beyond this list of incredible creatures, you are bound to see eels, octopus, reef fish, and more! Book a scuba tour with Hawaii Eco Divers to start exploring the wonders under the sea.

Hawaii Marine Life Reef Fish

Hawaii Marine Conservation

Hawaii Eco Divers is committed to respecting and protecting our oceans. We are proudly partnered with many wonderful Marine Conservation Groups around the island. We also regularly host events, such as beach cleanups, and take it upon ourselves to educate people about our ocean. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date on events!

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