Hawai’i is home to over 435 different species of tropical fish. From the oddly shaped trumpet fish to the humuhumunukunukuapua’a Hawaii’s state fish, several of these species can be observed up close in the window of your kayak or while snorkeling. Raccoon butterfly fish, yellow tangs, wrasse, moorish idols, parrotfish, goat fish, octopus and moray eels are among the many frequently spotted underwater animals found in the coral reefs around Turtle Bay.
Hawaiian monk seals are among the most critically endangered mammals in the world. Only about 1,200 seals are alive today. There is a small and growing population of seals in the main Hawaiian Islands and a 2005 survey observed 76 seals here. Monk seals frequently haul-out on our shorelines to rest and molt. They may look sick, but they are usually perfectly healthy. Beaches at Turtle Bay are isolated from large human populations and are a favorite haul-out location. Shaka Kayaks team members work hand in hand with the HMRSTO to help protect the local monk seals at Kawela Bay.
The Hawaiian stilt is a slender wading bird that grows up to 15 inches in length. Ae‘o use a variety of aquatic habitats but are limited by water depth and vegetation cover. Specific water depths of 13 cm (5 inches) are required for optimal foraging. Nest sites are frequently separated from feeding sites and stilts move between these areas daily. Nesting sites are adjacent to or on low islands within bodies of fresh, brackish, or salt water. They have been seen flying from their islands to feed while on tour. The ae‘o was once a popular game bird, but waterbird hunting was banned in 1939. This is the first of 4 endemic and endangered Hawaiian waterbirds.
The ‘alae ‘ula is known as the most secretive native waterbird. In Hawaiian legend, these birds were thought to have brought fire from the gods to the Hawaiian people. These secretive birds can be found in freshwater marshes, taro patches, irrigation ditches, reservoirs, and wet pastures. They favor dense emergent vegetation near open water, floating or barely emergent mats of vegetation or water depths of less than 3 feet. Surveys in the 1950s and 1960s estimated no more than 57 individuals. These endangered birds are found in the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge next to Turtle Bay and have been spotted by the guides on the golf course.
Another of the four endemic and endangered birds seen and heard around Turtle Bay is the Hawaiian coot. ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o are found in fresh and brackish-water marshes and ponds. They build floating nests in aquatic vegetation, in which four to ten eggs are laid. Adults defend their nests vigorously. The ‘Alae ke‘oke‘o eats seeds and leaves of aquatic plants, insects, tadpoles, and small fish. Their calls include a variety of short, harsh croaks. This endemic bird of Hawai‘i is smaller than its mainland relatives, measuring 15 inches in length. Chicks are able to run and swim soon after hatching but maintain contact with parents by frequent calling.
‘A are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speed. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface and may catch leaping fish while skimming the surface. Although they are powerful and agile fliers, they are particularly clumsy in takeoffs and landings; they use strong winds and high perches to assist their takeoffs. Brown booby pairs may remain together over several seasons. They perform elaborate greeting rituals. ‘A are quite commonly seen just offshore from Turtle Bay and if you are lucky enough to see two of them you can go home and tell your friends you saw a great pair of “brown boobies” on the kayak tour!
Frigate birds are pelagic piscivores which obtain most of their food on the wing. A small amount of their diet is obtained by robbing other seabirds, a behavior that has given the family its name, and by snatching seabird chicks. Lacking the ability to take off from water, they snatch prey from the ocean surface or beach using their long, hooked bills. They catch fish, baby turtles and similar items in this way. Iwa birds will rob other seabirds such as boobies, tropicbirds, and shearwaters of their catch, using their speed and maneuverability to outrun and harass their victims until they regurgitate their stomach contents.