Mai huhū iā Pele!
Don’t anger Pele!
The Pride of Maui will give you a smooth, comfortable ride out to incredible Molokini snorkeling. The history of this islet is fascinating.
As Hawaiian legends go, this one is reasonably consistent: The fire goddess, Pele, was in love with a prince (who took the form of a Mo’o, or sacred lizard), but the prince fell in love with another woman. In her fury, Pele took revenge and, depending on which version of the story you hear, rendered either Mo’o or the woman in half in a jealous rage.
Molokini Island, just off the West coast of Maui, is not really an island but an islet, a very small island with minimal vegetation and no inhabitants. The more scientific but less romantic version of Molokini’s creation is that Molokini is most likely the result of a volcanic eruption dating back 230,000 years.
Researchers estimate that the Polynesian voyagers first discovered Hawaii and Molokini around 500 AD. Based on the evidence found there, the ancient Hawaiians were apparently fishing around Molokini for many years. The crescent shape forms sheltering arms favored by coral reefs, and those reefs are home to abundant fish and other marine life.
Molokini provided an excellent fishing ground for Hawaiians who trawled its calm morning waters with nets made of ‘olona (a shrub in the nettle family), firebrand, and stone sinkers. These ancient Hawaiian relics can be as big as your hand. Hawaiian fishermen also used to chew bits of the kukui nut and spread them over the water’s surface to make the water clear and glassy.
For the rest of the world, the volcanic islet of Molokini was uncharted until French explorer Jean-Francois de Galoup recorded it in 1786. Captain Cook’s crew, who left the islands in 1779 after their captain’s death, never mentioned Molokini. It`s likely they had too many other stories to tell about their time on the islands.
You may still find ancient Hawaiian relics from the old fishing days in Molokini waters. If snorkelers or SCUBA divers find large, smooth stones that look like they have been worn soft by waves, these were brought in by Hawaiians for a fishing practice known as palu (chum). It was a bait mixture of ground fish, octopus ink, and plants.
Sadly, Molokini’s history turned dark during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, martial law declared the islands as “federal property” to be used as bombing practice for the military. The military selected the island for target practice because its narrow shape made it comparable to submarines and battleships. The bombing profoundly damaged the islet, the reefs, and the life they contained.
The reef is now monitored by the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, the University of Hawaii Marine Options Program, and the Division of Aquatic Resources. With the establishment of the Conservation District, a new era for Molokini Crater began. Local divers got involved to remove the remaining ordinance, risking their lives to save the existing reefs.
Molokini has become a world-renowned snorkel and SNUBA diving spot because of its excellent visibility–up to 80 feet. It has an area of 23 acres and is almost a half-mile wide. The water depths range from only a foot near the shore to 20-50 feet in most dive spots to over 300 feet at its deepest points. There are many options for exploring the crater, depending on what you want to see. For shallow-water snorkeling, the protection of the crescent-shaped crater makes for a very comfortable and serene swim.
A unique snorkeling destination
If you love to swim, snorkel, scuba dive, bird watch, or simply feel the history of somewhere new, this place is incredible. You cannot call your visit to Maui complete without a Molokini snorkeling experience.