It’s fair to say Hawaii’s wildlife is exotic. Rare, endangered and many unique to the islands, Hawaii’s location makes it a prime spot for ticking off more than a few unusual finds. Whether you’re wet-suited and booted for a dive to the endemic spiny lobster’s lair or gazing up into cloud forests to spot a honeycreeper, Hawaii is THE location for a wildlife holiday. Yes, the islands are low on big predators – but for sharp teeth and stellar hunting skills, you can take to the sea. Plenty of sharks call this location home. And seeing a tiger or hammerhead shark come into sharp focus through the ocean is a thrill you’ll never forget.
How do you feel about catching sight of the world’s rarest goose? If that very sentence hasn’t prompted an immediate purchase of binoculars, perhaps the other birds of Hawaii will. Make space in your birding books for 34 species you won’t spot in the wild elsewhere. Raptor fans will want to seek out the Hawaiian hawk. The main island is your best chance, as it’s the only known breeding ground. For a suitably exotic spot, the Hawaiian honeycreeper is a great shout. Sporting the bird equivalent of a mohawk certainly gives it character. As for that world’s rarest goose we mentioned? Focus your gaze on the islands of Maui, Kuaui or Hawaii. If you’re not into rare species, the islands have 100 bird species in total to spot as you explore.
If we had one sea life tip? Allow at least a day to go whale watching in Hawaii. From December until May, the local waters are teeming with thousands of humpback whales. Looking to find a mate or give birth, the whales have travelled around 3,000 miles to be here. It’d be a shame not to give them a warm welcome. Their chosen island is Maui and your best month is February. Pac Whale Eco-Adventures have racked up some impressive eco-credentials if you’re looking for a low-impact tour. Not here in humpback season? No matter. The waters are still well-stocked. You’re looking at 40 species of shark, 13 species of dolphin and 600 species of exotic fish. At this point we have to mention green turtles too. Catch a glimpse of one gliding by and you’ll be in snorkelling heaven.
Orbzii tip: Divers will want to notch up some rare spots. And, as it happens, Hawaii has high numbers of endemic sea life. Saddle wrasse, Hawaiian black coral and Hawaiian spiny lobster are an impressive trio for your list.
Hawaii’s wildlife stats lists just two endemic mammal species, and they’re rare. Do have a bash at seeing them, but don’t get your hopes up. The easier of the two is the Hawaiian Monk Seal. Mostly spotted when sunbathing on the shoreline of Kauai, they do occasionally pop into the water for a playful swim. Narrow your search to the Na Pali Coast State Park for optimum results. Seals do clock up the cute factor, but bats? Only truly keen wildlife fans may want to seek these out. The Hawaiian hoary bat may not be a looker, but some do find them adorable. Incredibly endangered, they roost in the island’s trees. Start your search at dusk when bats are easier to see – and opt for any island except Oahu, where they are extinct. In terms of non-native mammals? Deer, mongoose, wild boar and rock wallabies are the highlights.
Orbzii tip: Spotted a seal in the ocean? Don’t celebrate too soon. Elephant seals have also taken a fancy to Hawaii’s sun-blessed shores. Get a good look (without getting too close) to make sure you’ve seen the rare monk seal.
Mooching about with some binoculars and a pocket guide to Hawaii wildlife is only going to get you so far. To REALLY get to grips with the flora and fauna on these islands? It has to be a rainforest tour. Hawaii is good starter for your tropical traipsing. Though, there are a lot of ATV tours, which really do cut down on the physical exertion in the muggy heat, but those engines ensure the wildlife scarpers before you’re even close. It does give you a chance to scope out waterfall jumping in Hawaii though. Back to the wildlife, and you can swerve Hawaii’s well-beaten tour track by visiting the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary. There you’ll find 70 acres of privately owned, endangered cloud forest. Do drop the owner’s a message to book though, you can’t just pitch up and explore this unique spot.
Orbzii tip: Hawaii isn’t the only island with rainforest to rummage about in. Bike Hawaii tours offer visitors the chance to explore Oahu’s volcanic rainforest. Local experts guide you through 2.5 miles of rare plants and rainforest on the side of an ancient volcano.