Today’s Hawaiian word of the day is HONU. Honu is Hawaiian for turtle, and it is the green sea turtle you will most commonly see while snorkeling here in Maui waters. They are an ancient reptile, dating back to 75 million years ago. There are three main native turtle species of Hawaii, the green sea turtle, the hawksbill, and the leatherback, but it is the green sea turtle which is most plentiful. There are laws in place to protect the turtles, and their numbers have risen in recent years due to these laws and the efforts of many groups that help promote the species. People here in Maui love the honu, and it is important to remember to respect these gentle, beautiful creatures.
You will most likely see the honu (sea turtle) while snorkeling in most areas of the island. They may gently approach a slow moving snorkeler allowing for great photo opportunities. They are not intimidated by humans, and are actually a bit curious and very friendly, trusting humans to respect them in turn. Please keep a distance of ten feet, and do not try to touch them. There are laws in place to protect them, so please do not chase them. Simply enjoy them as they swim close. It is quite an experience, and one you won’t soon forget. You may even see them on the beach, sunbathing. Turtles will sometimes come ashore to bask in the sun!
You may have heard of Turtle Town. Although turtles can be found everywhere, and all of Maui could be considered Turtle Town, there is a large number of turtles in the southern parts of the island where algae is lush. Turtles are mainly vegetarian. They feast on limu (seaweed) and the occasional jelly fish. Many turtles are born on the southern shores, and so the turtles will often return to where they were born and where food is abundant.