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What Will I See Snorkeling at Turtle Canyon?

A snorkeler surfacing in the water near a boat along the shore of Honolulu, Hawaii

One of my favorite trips is the daily excursion to Turtle Canyon. For those who have never been, I thought you might enjoy hearing more about what to expect and what you’ll see.

What’s at Turtle Canyon..Besides Turtles?

Turtle Canyon is popular with turtles (and therefore, snorkelers) because it’s known as a “cleaning station.”

Tiny wrasses nibble gently on the turtle’s shell to remove any parasites that have accumulated on the turtle’s shell.

You’ll see the wrasses immediately when you see the turtles, they look like they are “hitchhiking” on the turtle’s shell. Wrasses are often multi-colored and distinguished by their elongated shape. Sometimes you’ll see a big group of them hovering together over a turtle who sits patiently waiting for them to complete their “job.”

Turtles and wrasses are only part of the eco-system at Turtle Canyon. Sometimes you’ll see bigger sea life like this spotted sea ray, smoothly gliding over the reef looking for shrimp, octopus, clams or oysters.  So where there are spotted rays…you’ll occasionally see octopus or “tako.”


Octopus are actually very hard to spot as they tend to stick close to the reef, on the ocean floor. But once in awhile, our crew may spot one and bring it to the surface for everyone to see. Likewise with the spiny sea urchins who spend their lives on the reef.

While sea urchins and octopus are at the bottom of the ocean, you’ll also probably see many fish while snorkeling at Turtle Canyon.


​You’ll also probably see fairly large schools of “bat fish” These are the black fish you see swimming with the spotted ray video above. They are also sometimes seen cleaning the turtles.  Sometimes you’ll also see tangs, which are yellow or yellow-striped in color. Tangs in particular are popular with kids because they recognize them from Disney films like Finding Nemo.

I never really know who will be hanging out at Turtle Canyon on any given day, but I do know that everyone who jumps from my decks into the warm Pacific always comes back with lots of stories and full of excitement!

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