Snorkeling with the Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a
We can't have entries about sea creatures and snorkeling in Maui without mentioning the Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a. Renowned as Hawaii's state fish, its name is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language—it's often joked, "the name is longer than the fish!" Also known as the "Wedgetail Triggerfish," or humu-humu for short, their conspicuous geometric pattern makes them easy to recognize. And fortunately, learning its Hawaiian name isn't as complicated as it looks. In fact, if you break the word into syllables and know what sounds the vowels make, it's actually one of those words that's fun to practice and inexplicably gratifying to say with once you've got it down!
There are two vowel sounds in the Hawaiian language you need to know, "u" sounds like the "oo" in "moo," and "a" sounds like "ah" in saw. So here's the word broken into syllables and easier pronunciation:
"hu-mu | hu-mu | nu-ku | nu-ku| ah-pu | ah-ah"
You'll also notice a bit of repetition which makes it easier to say and remember: humu-humu... nuku-nuku... and ah-ah (at the end). Now throw in "ah-pu" right before the "ah-ah" and you've got it made! The real trick is when you can say it five times fast!
The Humu-humu is very common in Maui's waters. They tend to be solitary creatures and a bit wary of snorkelers. In fact if they're guarding a nest of eggs, Wedgetail Triggerfish can be rather aggressive toward the unknowing snorkeler. We once had a humu charge directly at us with its dorsal fin raised—it was clear he meant business! As with all snorkeling adventures and encounters with sea life, remember "you're the visitor" to their underwater world. Give creatures plenty of space and you'll be rewarded with the opportunity of seeing marine life interacting naturally in their home environment.
To learn more about Maui's sea creatures and snorkeling tips for Maui, be sure to bookmark our blog and check back often, or pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!