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How to Spot Sea Life Scuba Diving in Maui

colorful bannerfish in blue ocean water looking back at a scuba diver

Sometimes the fish look at you too, Lahaina, Maui

The Art of Spotting the Good Stuff

When I go scuba diving in Lahaina, I often get asked, “How did you see that?” And it got me thinking, how DO I spot the tiny creatures that no one else finds? Or a camouflaged fish hiding in plain sight? The more I think about it, I realize that there are several factors at work: experience, patience, perspective, and dedication. Let me explain.

Your Underwater Experience Level

Unfortunately, you can’t teach this part of the equation. After logging over 10,000 dives, I can say that I’m comfortable underwater with a high level of awareness. Compared to a beginner diver I think less about my technique, less about my buoyancy, and less about my air consumption. These experience-driven components of scuba diving are second nature to me. I achieve neutral buoyancy without thinking much about it. I can estimate how much air I have at any time because I don’t have to focus so much on the basics of diving. My underwater experience level allows me to pay more attention to Maui’s aquatic life and ensures that I never have negative interactions with the surrounding coral reef.

Two of my favorite aspects of teaching scuba diving in Maui are mastery of buoyancy control and building one’s confidence underwater. Whether you are completing your PADI Open Water Course or continuing your dive education with the PADI Advanced Course, you will gain the tools to make breathing and swimming underwater second nature so that you can focus on finding critters.

Your Patience

a scorpion fish sits on the bottom of the ocean in maui

Scorpion Fish at Airport Beach in Kaʻanapali, Maui

For instance, if you are looking for scorpion fish at Airport Beach in Ka’anapali you may need to search one small area for several minutes, rather than scan across in a few seconds. You will need to move slowly, looking for hidden eyes, a slight movement, or a decorative fin.

I often find that certain species tend to stay in similar conditions. So if you have seen a scorpion fish amongst a specific type of coral in the past, that same type of coral is an excellent place to begin your search. Be prepared to cover less ground. Scouring every inch of the reef is the best way to find new and surprising sea life. You may search for fifteen minutes and find little interest, but your patience is suddenly rewarded when…TADA!! You spot a tiny purple Sponge Decorator Crab you have never seen before!

(go for a night dive in Lahaina)

Your Perspective

Maui macro of a colorful Gold-Lace Nudibranch at Mala Wharf.

Gold-Lace Nudibranch in Lahaina, Maui

Changing perspective is a crucial step in the process. The phrase, “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” definitely applies here. If you get too lost in each square inch, you will miss the sea turtle swimming overhead. If you are only looking for big stuff out in the blue you will swim right past a rare nudibranch.

It’s all about shifting your perspective and re-focuses often. Scour the posts at Mala Wharf in Lahaina, but also remember to glance behind you. It can be the case that something big is nearby!

Look into that crevice, let your eyes adjust to the dark, and spend time looking over each inch of perfect nudibranch hiding places, but occasionally glance away looking for mid-size creatures too. Nothing worse than being the only group who missed the sharks! Yup, that happens to the best of us.

Your Dedication to the Search

a frogfish sits on top of reef in maui

Frogfish at Mala Wharf in Lahaina, Maui

Keep at it. Keep trying. Spend time in the ocean, don’t give up. I often hear people saying things like, “I never find that stuff,” or, “My eyes aren’t good enough.”

I often find that once you find something hard to spot, you will keep seeing it over again. You learn their hiding places, you begin to get a feel for what’s around the corner, and before you know it, every Maui dive will surprise you with discoveries!

Happy Diving in Maui, Abby Cox, PADI Instructor since 2007