Coral polyps, algae, and sunlight are the powerhouses of every incredible reef!
This iconic crater wouldn’t be a world famous snorkeling destination without the marine life attracted by the expansive reef. We celebrate and describe the different species of coral found at Molokini below. With every storm Molokini faces, big waves break the coral within the inner core of the crater, creating space for new habitat.
Rice Coral (Montipora capitata)
Looks like tiny granules of rice. Every summer, the rice coral on Molokini spawns. Thousands of pink beads of eggs and sperm rise to the surface and mix together. The coral release these bundles when the moon is new.
Spreading Coral (Montipora patula)
In the dark spots of Molokini’s back wall, black coral provides a home to gobies, oysters, and long-nose hawkfish.
Red Pencil Urchin
The red pencil urchin is a stunning site for divers to see, an abstract sculpture of orangish red that stands out amidst the blue and rainbow-colored coral. Although this animal is not poisonous, it is recommended that snorkelers do not touch the urchin, as it is fragile. The red pencil urchin survives by eating algae. These beautiful creatures can be found in the surge zone along the outer rim, where the shallow water lets in a lot of sunshine and algae is abundant.
Toughest of the coral species; they have to be, to deal with the constant wave activity
Stubby and flat, unlike the long finger coral that would break easily in this area
Home to shrimps and crabs
Every spring, cauliflower coral on Molokini spawns several times. The coral spawn in synchronicity, at a precise time right after sunrise. This increases the probability of successful fertilization. The coral release billows of eggs and sperm that appear as clouds of smoke; the clear water becomes milky in just a few minutes, so much so that there is no longer any visibility at all.
Orange Cup Coral
Under the ledges of the wall of Molokini, the orange cup coral flourish in colonies. When the current is running, they gather plankton with their tentacles.