Reef Critters Hawaii App

There are numerous guides to the reef life found around the Hawaiian Islands. Most are superficial, suitable for the casual tourist snorkeler at best. Short of delving into the professional level publications there are two sources I use all the time. The books by Hoover, one on fish and the other for the invertebrates, are my first stop when attempting to identify an animal. These well thumbed references are usually found on my desk beside the computer.

Reef Critters Hawaii
Screenshot of the Reef Critters Hawaii App
Another source I use regularly is the fantastic collection of photographs found on Keoki Stender’s Marinelife Photography website. This is well organized and fairly comprehensive collection of photos that allow a good shot at identification. One advantage of the website over the books is that there are often numerous photos of each species on the website showing variations between individuals and ages of the critter. More than once we have used this website to ID a species from a smartphone on the boat between dives.

What about an app to do that?

To my pleasant surprise I have found that there is indeed an app. Combining information from John Hoover, Keoki Stender’s excellent photography, plus information from a few other contributors, you can now download everything to your phone for easy reference, even without a data connection.

Actually there are several apps in the series. As with Hoover’s books, fish and invertebrates are handled separately. You can get the phone version or the iPad oriented HS version.

This snorkelers guide to the most common invertebrates and other commonly seen water inhabitants in Hawai’i includes 374 gorgeous photos together with extensive notes for each. All content is by an experts in the field: Keoki and Yuko Stender, and snorkeling guidebook authors, Judy and Mel Malinowski. As a bonus, links to underwater videos by Keller Laros, Rob Whitton, Mel Malinowski and others are provided. – Description of Reef Critters Hawai’i

The apps are well organized and quick to use. As with any book, it helps to be able to recognize at least the family of fish or critter, this helps in navigating to the correct section. Scrolling though a list of species, each with a thumbnail image, allows quick choice of possible identifications.

It is unlikely that the apps will replace my use of the books… The listings are not as complete as the books or websites, many of the less common species are missing. There is generally only one photo per species, neglecting some color phases and juvenile stages. Still, a quick ID reference in the phone is quite convenient. There are a number of videos which I find fairly useless, I would gladly trade the memory requirements for a more complete species listing.

I have no trouble with the $4.99 cost of the apps, I consider it a contribution to the folks who have put together the great references I have used for many years of diving Hawaiian reefs.

Postcard from the Reef – Not a Nudi

Two dives, almost two hours underwater, much of that time spent combing the reef face and cave walls for small invertebrates to photograph. I was well into my second dive of the day, a nice cave called Henry’s, where I had now spent over forty minutes carefully searching the interior and entrance areas of the lava tube. My real target is nudibranchs, but so far the day’s diving had revealed only two, both species I had found and photographed many times before.

A splash of color at the base of a large antler coral got my attention, it was shaped just right, but I was not in a position to see it clearly. Getting closer it looked better, about the right size with white raised features. It was only after circling to the other side of the coral and getting in close that I saw that this was probably not a nudi. It took a moment to realize that this was probably a dark purple sponge with bright white osculum. Even in the photo you have to look close to realize what it is.

Except in a few obvious cases, I make no real effort to properly identify sponges. This is a task that takes an expert, a collected specimen and a proper lab to do. I did check briefly through the book to see if there was a clear match, but as I expected, this sponge will remain identified simply as… a sponge.

Not a Nudi
A colorful sponge mimics a nudibranch