In June of 2007 I had the privilege of going to Hawaii for my honeymoon. Our primary destination was Maui, but we got to spend a day in Oahu. While in Hawaii, my understanding new wife let us go to see two public aquariums: the Maui Ocean Center and the world renown Waikiki Aquarium.
The Maui Ocean Center was an accidental find. While exploring the island, my wife and I drove right past it and I nearly locked up the brakes. It was closed when we initially drove past, but we quickly made plans to return. As you enter the Maui Ocean Center, you
immediately see an outdoor lagoon-style display with a waterfalls and tons of large tangs and triggerfish swimming around. After gawking at the outdoor display and identifying all the fish trying to impress my wife, we made our way inside. Upon entering, the first thing I noticed was that every single tank had real corals in them. This was a huge difference from the public aquariums in Texas. For example, the Houston Zoo, Moody Gardens, and Aquarium restaurant all had fake corals somewhere in their displays…but not here.
We continued through the small facility looking at the variety of fish and corals present. They had a lot of native Hawaiian species, as well as
some from other parts of the world. Additionally, they had an outdoor touch tank which I didn’t pay too much attention to as I used to work at Moody Gardens and people abused those poor animals regularly. Overall, the Maui Ocean Center was nice, but nowhere near as impressive as the Waikiki Aquarium.
On our last day in Hawaii, my wife and I went to the Waikiki Zoo (sort of a drag as most zoos seem to be nowdays) and the Waikiki Aquarium. The Waikiki Aquarium blew my mind. When you walk in, you immediately see some gigantic reef tanks. These were stunning. Each tank was full of giant clams, some of which were several feet long. They also had some awesome anemone tanks that were completely packed in with
gigantic anemones hosting various clownfish. I was like a kid in a candy store…pointing out what I had, what I wanted, and drooling all over myself.
Moving through their facility, I saw Amazon setups, octopus tanks, some neat looking jellyfish, and a tank full of huge fish, including a six foot long goliath grooper. And just as you exit the door and think your trip through paradise is over with, you see the outdoor displays. The first tank is a massive outdoor coral tank full of large tangs and butterfly fish. At the opposite end of this setup is a biologist displaying a few things you could touch. I
made my way over to see what he had, and little did he know I myself was a biologist. He tried to talk to me about saltwater hermit crabs and urchins, but quickly stopped talking when I told him I was also a marine biologist and had been in the saltwater aquarium hobby for a while. It was a little odd, but he didn’t want to chat with me any longer I guess.
Anyways, I moved on and saw the outdoor sea lion display, which has never interested me all that much, and I continued forth. Following a small brick path I eventually made my way to the most beautiful site of all…the outdoor rimless clam display tank next to a large SPS dominated display tank. I saw them and my jaw dropped.
The SPS tank had huge, gorgeous corals in it. The fish in the tank were limited, but they did have a black longnose tang (Zebrasoma rostratum) which is quite expensive and uncommon. The clam tank was a show stopper. There had to be almost 50 clams in it, ranging from small Tridacna crocea clams to large (and super rare) blue T. squamosa clams, of which there was at least five individuals. For all of you clam lovers, the blue T. squamosa clam can fetch over $500 for a decent sized individual. After drooling at the clam tank, my wife forced me to move on, ending our visit to the Waikiki Aquarium.
If you ever get the chance to visit Hawaii, you have to go to the Waikiki Aquarium at the very least. If you stay on Maui, the ocean center is a nice, short stop, but nothing to be disappointed about if you don’t make it there.
Below is a massive collection of photos from our trip. Click on each one to enlarge them.