By Eric J. Simon, Ph.D.

Send comments/queries/corrections: [email protected]


All photos taken by ejs during the summer of 2009. All photos and text © 2009 Eric J. Simon, All Rights Reserved.

Table of contents (with quick links):  Potter’s angelfish,  black durgon, spotted boxfish, bluestripe butterflyfish, longnose butterflyfish, ornate butterflyfish, raccoon butterflyfish, teardrop butterflyfish, threadfin butterflyfish, brassy chub, coral, yellowtail coris, cornetfish, bright-eye damselfish, barred filefish, Hawaiian flagtail, many-bar goatfish, yellow-stripe goatfish, Hawaiian Gregory, arc-eye hawkfish, black-side hawkfish, slender lizardfish, Moorish idol, moray eel, needlefish, octopus, parrotfish, porcupinefish, spotted pufferfish, stripe-belly pufferfish, manta ray, spotted eagle ray, black-spot sergeant, Hawaiian sergeant, sea cucumber, crown of thorns seastar, white-tip reef shark, blue-stripe snapper, stocky hawkfish, brown surgeonfish, orange-band surgeonfish, ring-tail surgeonfish, white-spotted surgeonfish, convict tang, sailfin tang, yellow tang, white-spotted toby, bluefin trevally, lei triggerfish, pinktail triggerfish, wedgetail triggerfish, trumpetfish, green sea turtle, blue-spine unicornfish, orange-spine unicornfish, black sea urchin, green sea urchin, pebble collector sea urchin, pencil urchin, red sea urchin, banded sea urchin, belted wrasse, bird wrasse, Christmas wrasse, Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, rock mover wrasse, saddle wrasse, short-nose wrasse, peacock grouper

Click on any photo to see the full-sized version.                                                                                                                                                



Photo(s) / Video(s)

Potter’s Angelfish (Centropyge potteri)

These guys were hard to spot. I saw this one in Kapalua Bay, Maui. This is the only angelfish that is easily spotted spotted in Hawaii.  I took this photo in Kapalua Bay on Maui.




Black Durgon

We saw this fish all over Hawaii in both shallow water and just off the edge, sometimes singly and sometimes in small groups. It looks very elegant, fanning through the water sideways.






Spotted Boxfish (Ostracio meleagris)

These guys look really cool with their blue bellies (mostly black for females and juveniles), odd shape, and white spots all over. We spotted them on the big island and Maui. The photo shows a male, while the video shows a female.




Photo2  Video [0:21/14MB/320x240] 


Bluestripe Butterflyfish (Chaetodon frenblii Bennett)

Not a very good photo, I know! But these guys were hard to spot. They can be recognized by the diagonal blue lines running along their yellow body. This photo was taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui.




Longnose Butterflyfish (Forcipiger longirostris)

Very cool looking and not too common, the longnose butterflyfish is immediately recognizable by it’s—you guess it!—long snout. The longnose butterflyfish actually comes in two varieties (common and big) that are pretty hard to distinguish. This photo was taken at Molokini, off Maui.




Ornate Butterflyfish (Chaetodon arnatissimus)

Another mediocre photo of a beautiful but somewhat hard-to-find fish. Notice how similar it is to the bluestripe butterflyfish, but this one has diagonal yellow-on-blue stripes, rather than blue-on-yellow.




Raccoon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunula)

I spotted these guys frequently on the big island and Maui. They are easy to recognize by the dark stripe over the eyes (like a raccoon, get it?!). This photo was taken at “Kid’s Beach” just south of Kona on the big island. The fish there were very tame and used to people feeding them, so they come right up to you, making for some great photos and videos!




Video [0:29/14MB/640x480] 


Teardrop Butterflyfish (Chaetodon unimaculatus)

This type of butterflyfish is immediately recognizable by the black upside-down teardrop right in the center of its yellow and black body. This type of butterflyfish isn’t too common. We saw this one in Kapalua Bay, Maui.






Threadfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon auriga Forsskal)

Like the raccoon butterflyfish, I was able to get a great photo and video of this guy at Kid’s Beach, just south of Kona on the big island. This type of butterflyfish gets its name from the long threadlike extension that extends from its back.




Photo2  Photo3  Video [0:29/14MB/640x480] 


Brassy chub (Kyphosus vaigiensis)

The brassy chub is difficult to distinguish from the gray chub, but we think we have it right (I hope!). Chubs can display spots or not, depending on their mood (seriously). We saw these guys all over the big island and maui. They are quite unafraid of people and so frequently spotted. Larger than most of the fish on the reef, they can be seen in two distinct colorations, both shown here. These photos were taken in Puako Bay on the big island.


chub_brassy_01.JPG  chub_brassy_02.JPG


Photo2  Photo3  Photo4



The variety of coral on Hawaii, particularly around the big island, was quite stunning. They deserve their own web page. Instead, I’ll just put a few of my prettier photos here.


coral_01.JPG  coral_02.JPG  coral_03.JPG


Yellowtail coris

These fish come in two very different forms, both beautiful. The juvenile version is orange/white, looking something like a clownfish. The adults have a beautiful multi-colored appearance.


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Photo2  Photo3



These fish are truly amazing! They range in size from a few feet to about 4+ feet (from tip of nose to tip of tail) and up to about the width of an adult arm. They are most often seen along the bottom, sometimes in small schools. They swim with an undulating motion and trail a long, thin tail behind them. Very cool fish! The cornet fish in this photo is swimming with some convict tang in Kapalua Bay, Maui. You can also see this cornet fish in the YouTube video, starting around the one minute mark. The second video was shot on the big island.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Video [0:41/12MB/320x240] 


Bright-eyed damselfish (Plectroglyphidodon imparipennsi)

These little guys were very hard to spot, staying well hidden within coral and very skittish. They are easy to distinguish by the black bar that runs vertically through their white eye. Here is my best photo of them (out of focus!) taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui.




Barred filefish

We referred to these guys as the “crazy yellow bug-eyed fish.” Seen around Maui, these guys are fairly large and not shy. I would often spot them munching algae on coral.




Photo2  Photo3


Hawaiian flagtail

This large school was spotted within the surf right next to the shore of Molokini, off Maui.






Manybar goatfish

This was the second most common type of goat fish that we saw (after the yellow-stripe). Its appearance changed from all red, to partially red, to all brown. This photo was taken in Honolua Bay, Maui.






White-saddle goatfish

This type of goatfish was uncommon. We saw just this one, in Honolua Bay, Maui.




Yellowstripe goatfish

This fish was quite common around Maui. We’d often see them, singly or in large schools, sweeping sand along the shallow water with their whiskers. The video was shot at Two Step on the big island.




Photo2  Video [0:10/7MB] 


Hawaiian Gregory

We didn’t spot these too often, hence the mediocre photo. This one was taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui.




Arc-eye hawkfish

These fun little guys were always seen hiding within the folds of cauliflower coral in what seems to be a good example of a mutualistic relationship. They ranged between about 2” and 4” in size. This photo was taken in Puako Bay on the big island.






Blackside hawkfish

We saw this fish only once, in Kapalua Bay, Maui. This is the juvenile form. They can be quite skittish and so hard to spot and photograph.




Slender lizardfish

After spotting a fish like this, I can’t help but wonder how many times I passed one buy without noticing! The 3 black stripes along the back was the only feature that made this little guy visible. This photo was taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui.




Moorish idol

These elegant, large, and colorful fish were spotted all over the Hawaiian islands. They are slow moving and quite elegant with a very long top fin, and somewhat skittish.




Photo2  Photo3


Moray eels  (family Muraenidae)

We spotted at least six different species of moray eels during our time in Hawaii, including snowflake morays, whitemouth morays, undulated morays, tiger morays, and yellowmargin morays). They deserve their own page, so I’ll just put a few photos and videos here. These photos show an unidentified species (Kapalua Bay, Maui), a whitemouth that was about 4-5’ long (Puako Bay, big island) and a small yellowmargin (Puako Bay, big island). The video clip contains all of the clips that I took of morays during the summer, none of which are particularly good!











It took us a while to learn how to distinguish the needlefish from the cornetfish. The needlefish is usually seen right at the surface, often in schools. Their shape and color can make them very hard to pick out from the underside of the undulating waves. Confusingly, they lack the long needle-like tail of the cornetfish. These photos and the video (see 0:09-0:21) are from Black Rock on Maui.




Photo2  YouTubeVideo [0:09-0:21] 



I spotted two species of octopus on Hawaii: brown and red. They are exceedingly hard to pick out since they can camouflage themselves quickly and well. I was only able to spot them because they happened to move right when I was looking. The guy in this photo and video was spotted in Kapalua Bay, Maui. Notice how quickly he blends into the sand and coral. When I disturbed him, he inked me! (Sorry, guy.)




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3



These are several different species of parrotfish in Hawaii, but we simply could not distinguish one from the other! Most of the parrotfish we spotted were quite large (around 12” or so). The males tended to be colorful iridescent blue/green, while the females were various shades of brown. Their blunt noses make them easy to spot.




YouTubeVideo [1:26]  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4 YouTubeVideo [0:21-0:35]


Porcupine fish

Less common than many other types of pufferfishes (such as toby and striped), the porcupinefish was easy to recognize by the highly visible barbs along the back. I never did see one puff up. I’ll admit that I tried to get close enough to harass them into puffing, but they always quickly swam away with a flick of the tail! This photo was taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui.




Spotted pufferfish

This type of pufferfish is very common on the big island and Maui. In fact, the first day we arrived, we saw one lazily swimming around a tide pool in Puako Bay. This one (darker than some others) was spotted next to Molokini, Maui.






Stripebelly pufferfish

We didn’t see many of these on the big island, but in Kapalua Bay, Maui, they were all over. In fact, there were several large ones that approached us just off of shore, coming right up to our noses and following us around. They are very pretty with stripes along the bottom and yellow highlights.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3


Manta ray

One of the highlights of my entire summer in Hawaii was a night drive to see the mantas, just south of Kona on the big island. About seven of them came out, attracted to the plankton that was in turn attracted by the dive boat’s bright lights. They swooped around, made figure eats, filtering the plankton through their large mouths. It was truly spectacular. This photo and the video were both taken that night. In addition to the one here, I also spotted one very briefly in Puako Bay on the big island.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


Spotted eagle ray

I was surprised to run into this guy just off Black Rock, Ka’anapali Beach, Maui. I was quite startled to see him just a few feet from me. His tail (which does contain poisonous stingers) seemed to be about 8’ long. I followed him for a bit, then he seemed to get spooked and darted into deeper water. Very cool! The photo and video are from the same encounter.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3


Blackspot sergeant (Abudefduf sordidus)

This variety of sergeant was much less common than the sergeant major. It’s colors can vary, but it always has six or seven bars visible on its side and a clearly seen black spot above the base of the tail. They are easily recognized by the row of black spots running over the eyes.




Hawaiian sergeant (Abudefduf abdominalis)

This fish was quite common around Maui. It looks quite similar to the convict tang, except the five black stripes of the sergeant major do not run through the eye (whereas a black stripe on the convict tang always runs right through the eye). They can often be seen feeding in swarms in one particular area of a reef. This small school was photographed in Kapalua Bay, Maui. In the YouTube video, you can see a school off Black Rock on Maui.




Photo  YouTubeVideo [1:07-1:17]


Sea cucumber

I’d spot sea cucumbers, ranging in size from about 1-2’, all over the Hawaiian islands. They can be hard to miss with their dark coloration (which runs from black to mottled brown). They leave behind a distinctive white chain-like scat that is often easier to spot than they are! They are very light to the touch. I would sometimes grab one to watch the mouth close (as in the video – sorry, guy!). Very cool creatures.  This photo was taken in Puako Bay, big island. The video was taken at Ka’anapali Beach, Maui.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2

Crown of thorns sea star

Definitely one of the most unusual looking creatures on the reef! These sea stars have 19-20 legs and eat the algae on coral, leaving the coral blanched white in their wake (which you can see in the photos and at the end of the video). I saw these creatures only on the big island (first at Frog Rock and then just off the edge in Puako Bay, shown here). I was able to get some really nice close-up macro shots and some video.  These are very otherworldly creatures.


seastar_crownofthorns_01.JPG seastar_crownofthorns_02.JPG


YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


White-tip reef shark

The white tip reef shark is one of the most common types of shark seen around Hawaii. They aren’t to be feared. I never saw one while snorkeling, but I did spot this one while riding in a submarine beneath Kona harbor (visible in the photo from about 0:10 to about 0:40).






Black-tail snapper

I only saw these fish once, in a school hiding out in the rough surf that was pounding the shore within the horseshoe of Black Rock, Maui. Just after I snapped this photo, I was tossed about, just missing scraping the rocks. I high-tailed it out of there!




Blue-stripe snapper

These very pretty fish have iridescent blue striped along their yellow body. Very pretty.






Stocky hawkfish

I spotted these elusive fish in the reef just off Ka’anapali Beach, Maui. They hang out on their fins on top of a large lump of coral and then dart in when you get too close. You can see it in 1:55 to 2:05 in the video.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2


Brown surgeonfish

The brown surgeonfish was common in the waters around Maui. I photographed this one in Kapalua Bay.






Orange-band surgeonfish

These fish were quite common on the big island and Maui. Their orange bands really stand out, and they are not shy, so they are easy to photograph.




Photo2  Photo3  Video [0:10/15MB]  


Ring-tail surgeonfish

These fish were much less common than the brown or orange-band surgeonfish.




Photo2  Photo3


White-spotted surgeonfish

We only spotted this variety of surgeonfish once.




Convict tang

Convict tang were very common on the big island and on Maui, both individually and in schools. They are easily recognizable by the striped that runs through the eye (which also helps distinguish them from the sergeant major, which they resemble).




Photo2  Photo3


Sailfin tang

Less common than the frequently-seen yellow or convict tangs, we only saw one sailfin tang during our dives.




Yellow tang

Yellow tang are one of the most common and easily recognized fish in Hawaiian reefs. We saw them on nearly every dive, both individually, in small groups, and in large schools. They are a pretty sight, aren’t they? The photo of the single fish was taken at Two Step, and the group in Puako Bay, both on the big island. The video was shot on the big island.


tang_yellow_0.JPG  tang_yellow_school_0.JPG


Photo2  Photo3  Video [0:13/9MB/320x240]


White-spotted toby

A commonly seen pufferfish around Hawaii. We spotted them on both the big island and on Maui. They look similar to a boxfish but without the colors.






Blue-fin trevally

This was one of the most commonly seen of the large fish. When the sunlight hits them a certain way, their blue stripes appear beautifully iridescent. We saw them both alone and in small schools, often along the sandy bottom.






Lei triggerfish

Much less common than the closely related wedgetail triggerfish, we spotted the lei triggerfish only in Kapalua Bay on Maui. Their coloration appeared very silver in the water, with yellow highlights along the spines.






Pink-tail triggerfish

These were my wife’s favorite fish to spot due to their elegant swimming motion. They were fairly common around Maui. This one was photographed near Molokini.






Wedge-tail triggerfish

Known all over the island as the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, this is Hawaii’s official state fish. Go ahead and say it, it’s fun! This is an amusing fish, with the blue highlights around the lips. We saw them on nearly every dive. You can see one make a quick but close pass on the YouTube video from Black Rock, Maui.




Photo2  Photo3  Photo4  YouTubeVideo [0:35-0:39]



Most fish you see are not particularly remarkable. But then every once in a while, you come upon a doozy. The trumpetfish was most often spotted in caves or lying under ledges. Sometimes it was bright yellow, other times it had a dark coloration. It is generally long and thin (like the needlefish or cornetfish) but easily distinguished by its more complex shape. Isn’t this a weird looking fish? These two photos, both taken at Black Rock on Maui, show the two primary colorations. The video was shot at Two Step on the big island.


trumpetfish_01.JPG  trumpetfish_02.JPG


Photo2  Photo3  Video [0:13/11MB]


Green sea turtle

Ah, the homu. Our friend. No matter how many times I came upon a green sea turtle (and I came upon hundreds of them over the summer), I couldn’t help but stop, watch, photograph, and videotape. Such elegant, friendly, seemingly peaceful creatures. A truly lovely site. The photos were taken near Puako, on the big island. I have many videos of them, so I tried to only include a few of the best.


turtle_01.JPG  turtle_02.JPG


YouTubeVideo1  YouTubeVideo2  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


Blue-spine unicornfish

These fish were quite common all over the big island and Maui. They are fairly large for a near-shore reef fish. This photo was taken in Kapalua Bay, Maui, and the video was shot off Ka’anapali Beach, Maui. The video (from 0:57 to 1:25) shows one of the largest schools of blue-spine unicornfish I saw during our dives.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


Orange-spine unicornfish

These fish were easily recognizable not just by their orange spot at the base of the tail but also by the long tailfins that extend from both ends of the tail. We spotted these fish all over the big island and Maui.






Sea urchin, black

Sea urchins are very common all around the shallow coral reef, and no type is more common than the black sea urchin. They range in size from a golf ball to a basketball. Stay far away from them as the barbs sting and do not easily come out! (A lesson I learned, painfully, on St. John). I took this photo in Puako Bay, big island.




Sea urchin, green

These beautiful sea urchins were usually found in the shallow reef and didn’t’ seem to get much bigger than a baseball. You can spot some from 0:22 to 0:40 in this video. I took this photo (from quite close up, using a macro lens) in a shallow tide pool in Puako Bay, big island.






Sea Urchin, pebble collector

After death, this type of urchin leaves behind a delicate purple/white skeleton. While alive, they are covered in black spines, and tend to collect pebbles and other debris near their center. This photo was taken out near the deeper part of Kapalua Bay on Maui.






Sea Urchin, pencil

Are these guys cool, or what? So colorful, and not harmful (although I never poked one to find out). Their arms are about as thick and long as pencils. The main body varies from black to white to red. They often wedge themselves in crevices or holes within shallow coral. This photo was taken in Puako Bay on the big island.




Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


Sea Urchin, red

Very similar to the green sea urchins, and usually found right alongside them. This photo was taken in a shallow tide pool in Puako Bay (big island) using a macro lens. Like all the other urchins on this page, this variety is nearly ubiquitous on the Hawaiian islands.




Sea urchin, banded

These urchins could often be seen with moving spines, kind of twitching and swaying about. The black and white stripes are fairly distinctive. I took this photo in Honolua Bay on Maui.




Belted wrasse

While wrasses in general are quite common, we only saw this one belted wrasse while on Hawaii.




Bird wrasse

This wrasse comes in two distinct, easily recognizable color forms: the female is white and orange, while the male is blue and green. We saw these wrasses all over, but they were particularly common in the reef off of Ka’anapali Beach on Maui (where these photos were taken). You can see a female at 0:17 of this video, and a male at 2:06.


wrasse_bird_female_0.JPG  wrasse_bird_male_0.JPG


YouTubeVideo  Photo2


Christmas wrasse

Perhaps the most spectacular variety of wrasse, we saw Christmas wrasses on the big island and on Maui. They ranged in size from a few inches to nearly one foot. When in bright light, these fish are pretty psychedelic! My kind of fish. This photograph was taken in Kapalua Bay on Maui. You can see this fish in this video from the same location at 2:40.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3  Photo4


Hawaiian cleaner wrasse

These fish, easily recognizable with their purple and yellow stripes, would clean algae off other fish (who would hang suspended in the water while being cleaned). It was pretty cool to watch. This photo and video (at 2:25) were taken at Kapalua Bay in Maui.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2


Rock-mover wrasse

We only saw this variety of wrasse once during our dives.




Saddle wrasse

This variety of wrasse was very common throughout the big island and on Maui. It has truly lovely colors and wing-like fins. The photograph was taken at Kid’s Beach, south of Kona on the big island. You can also see one near the end (around 2:15) of this video shot off Ka’anapali Beach on Maui.




YouTubeVideo  Photo2  Photo3


Short-nose wrasse

We only spotted this variety of wrasse once during our dives. It has colors similar to the Potter’s angelfish, but differs in shape and fin configuration.




Photo2  Photo3


Peacock grouper

These pretty fish--with an obvious grouper shape and dark brown spots along their edges--were very elusive, usually darting within and beneath rocks as soon as I’d point the camera at them. Thus, I have no good photos of them (the one shown at right is a screen capture from the video). I did manage to sneak reasonably close to one near Black Rock on Maui by waiting just above a rock as he darted from one to the next.




YouTubeVideo [1:44-2:00]


ejs_h.JPG  © 2009 Eric J. Simon, All Rights Reserved.  Contact: [email protected]





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