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by Mikaela Olsson-Prescott, staff writer

The Waikiki Aquarium, a marine science institutions in Hawai‘i was established March 19, 1904 and is the third oldest public aquarium in the United States. Situated beside a living coral reef on the Waikiki shoreline, the aquarium is home to more than 2,500 organisms and 420 different species of marine plants and animals. Each year, more than 350,000 people visit.

Visitors to the Waikiki Aquarium can view a startling variety of marine life from the tropical Pacific area and the Hawaiian Islands. The aquarium is especially proud of its reputation for excellence in coral reef exhibits, and it offers up-close experiences of reef sharks, living corals, endangered Hawaiian monk seals, graceful sea jellies, myriads of colorful reef fish, and much, much more.

While the aquarium offers a variety of marine life exhibits that appeal to ocean lovers, it has also carved a niche as a vital marine research and education center. One of its more unique activities is raising moi. The moi are donated to the aquarium from a state fishery for them to raise for stock enhancement. The aquarium keeps the moi for one to two years depending on how big they are when they get them. After that, they are returned to the state fishery that either sells, or uses them to reproduce. The moi are kept in a doughnut-shaped tank with air in the middle where they used to keep the mahi-mahi hatchery. It’s necessary for the moi to constantly be swimming in circles. While the moi are a fisherman’s delight, they’re also a favorite item served on Island menus.

Other exhibits include giant clams and new species of jellyfish. All the exhibitions are open to both natural and artificial light.

The aquarium has a variety of educational programs that are open to the public. Its “Aquarium After Dark” program, offered about once a month, allows guests to tour the different exhibits at night. The tour starts out in the classroom with a slide show of animals visitors will eperience on a flashlight tour that targets fishes that are nocturnal, or daytime fish that have extraordinary nocturnal habits.

Two other programs offered are “Exploring the Reef,” “By Day” and “By Night.” The daytime one spotlights the Hawaiian shoreline in reef flat and tidepool habitats. Visitors view three different tide pool locations: Kewalo Basin by Ala Moana, Ma‘ili Point on O‘ahu’s west coast, and the Makapu‘u tide pool near Sea Life Park on the Windward coast.

“ Exploring the Reef by Night” visits the reef life off Waikiki Beach. Participants go out into the knee-high water and pick out different types of fish that they think are cool. Divers also go out and grab different types of species for people to see.

The Waikiki Aquarium is located in Queen Kapiolani Park, at 2777 Kalakaua Ave. It’s open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission rates are $9 for visitors; $6 for local residents, active duty military with ID, students with ID, and senior citizens; $4 for youths (13-17).

The outdoor tanks include a selection of tropical fishes and starfishes for visitors to hold. Visitors are also able to view sea lions and watch them being fed by the caretakers.

Photo by Susie Lin



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