Maui Ocean Center boasts an array of exhibits, each meticulously designed to replicate natural habitats. From the Living Reef, a testament to the diversity of Pacific corals, to the Open Ocean Exhibit, where sharks and rays roam freely, every corner of this aquarium promises an educational opportunity. What sets Maui Ocean Center apart is its commitment to understanding of the oceans’ delicate ecosystems. With immersive exhibits, cutting-edge technology, and a team of passionate experts, a visit to Maui Ocean Center is an expedition into the heart of the sea, an experience that promises to both educate and inspire!
LIVING REEF EXHIBIT
The Living Reef exhibit at the Maui Ocean Center is a showcase of live Pacific corals. It features a large tank holding approximately 18,000 gallons of saltwater, meticulously designed to replicate the natural conditions of a coral reef. This exhibit is likened to the “rainforests of the sea” due to the astonishing biodiversity it houses and its crucial role in marine ecosystems.
Within the Living Reef exhibit, visitors can see various types of coral formations, including branching corals, brain corals, and fan corals, each possessing its own unique shape, color, and texture. These corals serve as vital habitats for numerous fish species, which dart in and out of the nooks and crevices.
A notable highlight of the Living Reef exhibit is the opportunity it provides to witness the symbiotic relationship between corals and various marine organisms. Visitors can observe tiny cleaner shrimp meticulously grooming fish and other intriguing reef inhabitants such as sea stars (Pe ̀a / pe ̀ape ̀a / hōkū-kau), sea cucumbers (Loli), and sea urchins (wana / ‘ina / hāwae / haukèke), all of which contribute to the overall biodiversity and ecological balance of the reef.
The Mid Reef Exhibit is where visitors are treated to marine life indigenous to Hawaiian waters. This dynamic exhibit, curated with special permits, allows guests to view at over 20 different species of reef fish, showcasing the rich diversity of the reef community. Each fish’s unique physical characteristics indicate their relatedness within distinct families, offering a captivating insight into their ecological roles. Venturing further, the Deep Reef Exhibit takes visitors 100 feet below the ocean’s surface. Despite the challenging conditions, it’s home to an array of intriguing creatures, including juvenile blacktip reef sharks (Manō Pā‘ele) seeking refuge from larger predators. This exhibit underscores the importance of understanding and preserving these lesser-known aspects of the ocean, as they play a pivotal role in the overall health and biodiversity of marine ecosystems.
KAHO‘OLAWE: HISTORY AND HEALING
The Kaho‘olawe: A Story of History and Healing exhibit at Maui Ocean Center is a testament to the profound cultural and historical significance of Kaho‘olawe, an uninhabited island deeply revered by Native Hawaiians. This exhibit, a collaborative effort between Maui Ocean Center and the Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC), serves as a comprehensive tribute to the island’s past, present, and future. It augments KIRC’s existing content from esteemed institutions like the Smithsonian and Bishop Museum, offering deeper insights into Kaho‘olawe’s role in navigation, its marine biodiversity, and the pivotal work undertaken by KIRC and its dedicated volunteers.
This exhibit meticulously traces Kaho‘olawe’s journey from its earliest settlements to ongoing restoration endeavors, spotlighting the profound impact of positive and negative transformations. Through vivid illustrations, it conveys the island’s cultural, geographical, and historical significance, radiating hope for Kaho‘olawe’s future and emphasizing the potential for individuals to enact meaningful change.
HAWAIIANS AND THE SEA
The “Hawaiians & the Sea” exhibit at Maui Ocean Center is a profound tribute to the rich cultural heritage of the initial Hawaiians on the islands. It offers visitors an immersive journey into the past, allowing them to experience the essence of a bygone era. Within this exhibit, you’ll encounter a captivating array of artifacts, traditional tools, and intricate artwork, all of which vividly illustrate the deep-rooted connection between Hawaiians and the sea.
Delving into this exhibit provides a unique opportunity to gain insights into their sustainable fishing techniques, masterful navigation skills, and the legends that surround marine life. It’s an exploration of how these early Hawaiians interacted with their environment and utilized their profound knowledge of the ocean.
The Turtle Lagoon is a dedicated area designed specifically for the care and exhibition of Hawaiian green sea turtles, also known as “honu”. These turtles, which are native to Hawaiʻi, are showcased in both above and underwater views. Up to six sea turtles are on display at any given time, providing visitors with an intimate look at one of Earth’s most ancient animals.
These turtles have a special origin story. They were born at Sea Life Park on Oahu and received as hatchlings by Maui Ocean Center. The center raises these turtles for roughly two years until they reach a size suitable for release back into the wild.
HUMPBACKS OF HAWAIʻI EXHIBIT & SPHERE
The Sphere at Maui Ocean Center is a revolutionary exhibit that provides a unique opportunity to experience Maui’s humpback whales in their underwater habitat. It offers a captivating 3D experience, allowing visitors to delve into the dynamic lives, journeys, and social interactions of these intelligent and spiritual creatures beneath the sea.
The film featured in the Sphere includes footage from two seasons in the waters around Maui, providing a comprehensive view of the humpback whales’ activities and behaviors.
The Sphere integrates state-of-the-art visual and audio technology. It incorporates 4k imagery, 3D active glasses, and a 7.1 surround sound system, providing an immersive and high-definition encounter with humpback whales.
The Open Ocean Exhibit
The Open Ocean Exhibit features over 50 species of fish, including various sharks and rays, with a regularly updated population. A unique underwater tunnel allows visitors a 360-degree view, providing a close encounter with the ocean’s biodiversity. The exhibit includes Hawaiian broad stingrays, known as “lupe,” and diverse shark and fish species.