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  • Where to watch BIRDS and

  • other wildlife in the world
  • Photograph of Apapane

    An Apapane in Koke'e State Park on the island of Kauai by Dubi Shapiro.

    HAWAII

    Photograph of Iiwi

    An Iiwi in Hosmer Grove, Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui by Dubi Shapiro.


    Best Wildlife in Hawaii

    Mammals
    Humpback (Nov-May, mostly Jan-Mar), False Killer and Short-finned Pilot Whales, (Indo-Pacific) Bottlenose, (Long-snouted) Spinner and Spotted Dolphins, and Hawaiian Monk Seal. Also a chance of Sperm, Melon-headed, Pygmy Killer and Cuvier's Beaked Whales, and Rough-toothed Dolphin.

    Birds
    Laysan Albatross (Nov-May), Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great Frigatebird, White and Grey-backed (Spectacled) Terns, Red-footed Booby, Hawaiian Petrel, Newell’s (Townsend’s) Shearwater, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Black-necked (Hawaiian) Stilt, about 25 possible endemics (out of about 30) (to see all possible endemics it is necessary to visit Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai): Nene (Hawaiian Goose), Koloa (Hawaiian Duck), Io (Hawaiian Hawk), Hawaiian Coot, Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu Elepaios, Omao (Hawaiian Thrush), Puaiohi (Small Kauai Thrush) and the honeycreepers; Palila, Maui Parrotbill, Hawaii, Kauai and Oahu Amakihis, Anianian (Lesser Amakihi), Akiapolaau, Hawaii, Kauai (Akikiki) and Maui Creepers, Akepa, Kauai Akepa (Akekee), Iiwi, Akohekohe (Crested Honeycreeper) and Apapane, as well as Wedge-tailed and Sooty Shearwaters, Brown Booby, Black-crowned Night Heron, Common (Hawaiian) Moorhen, Pacific Golden Plover, Wandering Tattler, Sooty Tern, Black and Brown Noddies, Short-eared Owl and, unfortunately, many introduced species. Also a chance of Black-footed Albatross, Christmas Shearwater, Bulwer’s and Mottled Petrels, and other seabirds.

    Reptiles, Amphibians and Fish
    It is possible to snorkel or scuba-dive with Manta Rays, (Pacific) Green Turtles (at known cleaning stations) and Whitetip Reef Sharks, as well as numerous spectacular coral reef fish. About 450 species of coral reef fish occur around the islands including the state fish which is one of two triggerfish known as Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, one of which is shown below. Also a chance of Leatherback Turtle.

    Photograph of Picasso Triggerfish

    Picasso Triggerfish, or Humuhumunukunukuapua'a, by Marie-France Grenouillet.


    Other Natural Wonders of Hawaii

    Hawaii Volcanoes NP, Big Island Occasionally active lava flows spilling spectacularly into the sea, from Kilauea, one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world, and a lava tube; a 120 m (400 ft) stretch of which is accessible to the public.

    Haleakala, Maui A giant ‘crater’ about 800 m (2600 ft) deep, 3.2 km (2 miles) wide and 11 km (7 miles) long.

    Mauna Kea ('White Mountain'), Big Island This mountain is 4205 m (13,796 ft) above sea-level but measured from its submarine base it is the 'highest mountain on Earth', 10,205 m (33,480 ft) above the bottom of the sea, 1357 m (4451 ft) higher than Everest at 8848 m (29,029 ft).

    North Shore, Oahu Massive Pacific rollers, some of the largest waves in the world.

    Waimea Canyon, Kauai Hawaii’s ‘Grand Canyon’, 20 km (12 miles) long and up to 800 m (2625 ft) deep.

    Best Sites for Wildlife in Hawaii

    Best Times for Wildlife in Hawaii

    Humpback Whales are usually present from November to May, with their numbers peaking from January to March. Seabird diversity and numbers usually peak from late February to April with Newell’s Shearwaters usually returning by mid-April. April is also the time when many forest birds are at their most active and attractive.

    Recommended Books etc. for Hawaii

    A Field Guide to The Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific by H D Pratt, P L Bruner and D G Berrett. PUP, 1987.

    A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Hawaii by J Denny. University of Hawaii Press, 2010.

    Hawai'i's Birds and Their Habitats by H D Pratt and J Jeffrey. Mutual, 2013.

    Ultimate Guide Hawaii Reef Fishes, Sea Turtles, Dolphins, Whales, and Seals by J P Hoover. Mutual, 2008.

    Reef Fish Identification: Tropical Pacific by G Allen et al. New World, 2015 (Second Edition).

    Trip Reports for Hawaii

    Many trip reports, some for Hawaii, are posted on the websites listed here. On some of these websites some reports are independent and some are posted by tour companies who organize tours to Hawaii. These tour companies and others also post their own reports on their websites, which are listed under 'Some Organized Tours to Hawaii' below.

    Local Guides and Tours in Hawaii

    The costs of organized tours partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ. If you are travelling independently, employing such local guides will greatly increase your chances of seeing the wildlife you wish to see.

    Accommodation in Hawaii

    Some Organized Tours to Hawaii

    There are many tour companies who organize tours to see mammals, birds, other wildlife and other natural wonders. The cost of these tours vary considerably according to such variables as the airlines used, the number of days the tours last, the number of sites visited, the number of people in the group (an important consideration if you wish to see such wildlife as rainforest mammals and birds), the number of tour leaders, the standard of accommodation and transport, and the percentage profit the company hopes to make. Generally, where the number of days tours last and the number of sites visited are similar, the cheapest tours are those that use the cheapest airlines, accommodation and local transport, that have the largest groups with the least number of leaders, and that make the least amount of profit. The most expensive tours tend to be those which are exceptionally long, use the most expensive accommodation (ridiculously lavish in some cases, even for single nights) and which make the most profit. Some tour costs partly reflect the quality of the tour leaders. Some leaders are certainly better than others and many companies claim their leaders are the best but even the best rely at least to some extent on the exceptional skills of the local guides they employ.

    While tour companies organize tours with set itineraries many also organize custom tours for individuals and private groups who instead of taking a tour with a set itinerary want to follow their own itinerary to suit their own personal tastes, whether it be mammals, birds, other wildlife, other natural wonders or even man-made attractions, or a mixture of them all. Many organized tours with set itineraries are also fast-paced and target as many species as possible, whether they are mammals, birds or other wildlife or everything, which usually leaves little time to enjoy the best sites and individual species, but on a custom tour those taking part can specify the pace and the sites and species they wish to concentrate on. Custom tours also suit people who like to travel with people they already know, rather than with a group of strangers, and people with partners with different interests. Individuals and small groups will almost certainly have to pay more than the price of an organized tour with a set itinerary but a large group of friends may be able to travel for less than the price quoted for a set tour.

    Tour companies who are running organized tours to Hawaii in the next couple of years include the following. Many of these also offer custom tours.