Friday, May 31, 2013


Our last big surf of the season has come and gone (hopefully) and we now have consistent calm sea conditions all along the Kona Coast. When the sea gets flat like this I like to get away from Honaunau and check out some of the bays and beaches that are usually more exposed to the surf.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
On Memorial Day, I ventured down to Keauhou Bay to see if I could find some mantas to swim with me. I was lucky and found two!  By far the more social of the pair was Kailey, the one pictured here. She remained very calm and collected as I settled into her orbit of the cleaning stations on the south side of the bay.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
Kailey was named by the diver who first reported her existence to the Manta Pacific Research Foundation (MPRF). The great folks at MPRF identified her for me when I e-mailed them a photo. They do a wonderful job of monitoring the manta ray dive operations along the Kona Coast and have established guidelines for dive operators who offer Manta Night Dives. MPRF has also been instrumental in getting legislation passed to protect the resident manta rays of Hawai'i from fishing and capture for public aquaria.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Unfortunately, the ocean is an untamed environment and no organization can protect every manta from the countless hazards out there. Kailey is missing her entire left cephalic lobe. This is the fin-like extension that forms one of the manta's "horns". When unfurled, these lobes funnel plankton into the mouth during feeding. Fortunately, Kailey's injury is well-healed and she appears well nourished as well. Hopefully, she'll be around to delight divers and snorkelers for a long time to come.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Flocking Goats

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

On the North side of Honaunau Bay is a school of yellowfin goatfish (Mulloidichthys varicolensis) that is there every time I pass by. All day long, season after season this school hovers motionless almost in the same spot. As a result, I tend not to pay it much notice.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
However, I noticed recently how pretty this group of fish appears, especially in the early morning as the sunlight filters through the water. Usually, there are one or two other fish mixed in the school. Goatfish are so named for the two sensory barbels on their chins that distantly resemble a goat's beard. At night, the school disperses and each individual probes the sand with its barbels in search of invertebrates to eat. Come sunrise, they have all regrouped at the customary spot.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Encountered on almost every reef dive, the Bluespotted Cornetfish (Fistularia commersonii) is so common I seldom photograph it.  Still, it's an interesting fish that looks like it has been run over by a steamroller. Even the eyes look flattened!

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
The cornetfish only moves the rear third of its body as it swims. While appearing very slender in profile, when viewed from above it is surprisingly stout.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

on night dives I have heard this species "honk" when startled by the beam of my light passing over it. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


This is why it's kind of dumb to go skinny-dipping in broad daylight at a popular diving site. It was quite a show.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Whitemouth Moray

Just wanted to share a couple of photos I took at the beginning of the month when we had the coral spawning. These photos of a whitemouth moray (Gymnothorax meleagris) were taken about two hours after the spawning.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
You can see that the water's surface still looks a little blurry from all the organic material remaining in the water column. I don't know if whitemouths are the most common morays in Hawai'i but they are definitely the species I see most often.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

In the photo above I changed the angle a little bit to get more of a side profile. It wasn't  until I got home and started going through the photos that I noticed the other eel in the background on the left side. Kewl!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Loving Lizardfish

Just a photo I took this weekend of a pair of reef lizardfish (Synodus variagatus) looking very cozy together.

Photo Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Baby Reticulated

All Photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler

 The reticulated butterflyfish (Chaetodon reticulatus) is an uncommon species in Hawai'i. Over the years I've seen the occasional pair at Honaunau, but they are usually moving rapidly and don't like to be approached. 

These photos are of a juvenile reticulated that I found a few weeks ago. Although I don't see it on every dive, it favors a discrete area of the bay and is usually there.

Hopefully, I'll be able to keep tabs on it as it grows and keep a photographic record of its growth. We'll see!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cauliflower Coral Spawn

As I prepared to enter the water at Honaunau on April 27, a local asked me if I had come to photograph the coral spawn. I had no idea such an event was expected and just told him I was there to see whatever there was to see. He replied that the spawning would start in 15 to 20 minutes.

I dropped below the surface and started exploring, appreciating some of the best visibility I had seen in some time. Sure enough, around 15 minutes into the dive smoky haze began to emerge from the cauliflower corals (Pocillopora meandrina).

All photos Copyright 2013 by Barry Fackler
My vision could not distinguish individual gametes like I had seen in some documentaries, but what started out as a light haze increased very rapidly.

Visibility quickly dropped from nearly 100' to about 6' in around five minutes. It actually got surprisingly darker and the reef fish, including non-plankton-feeders, became more active.

For a few minutes, I could no longer navigate as my only visual reference was the direction that sunlight was weakly filtering through the thickened water. This was a very new experience for me.

I imagined such a burst of microscopic activity might bring a giant filter-feeder or two onto the reef but that was not to be. After a short while the fog began to clear and I resumed my dive. After completing my dive and taking a one-hour surface interval, I returned for a second dive to find visibility almost back to normal.

After returning home, i searched the internet to find that Pocillopra meandrina spawns April/May at full moon and/or 2-3 days after at around 7:30 in the morning. So it was one of those rare occasions where I was at the right place at the right time!