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Fish's-eye views of Hawaii at Waikiki and Sea Life Park.

Fish's-eye views of Hawaii at Waikiki and Sea Life Park

"It's like snorkeling, but without getting wet.' That's how one youngster summarized the new reef exhibits at two popular Oahu marine showcases.

At both the Waikiki Aquarium, in Waikiki's Kapiolani Regional Park, and Sea Life Park, on Oahu's southeastern point, dramatic new exhibits give fish's-eye views of the wave-washed lifestlyes of the creatures that populate Hawaii's tidepools and shallow reefs.

The Waikiki Aquarium

Right on the beach, the aquarium is within strolling distance of most Waikiki hotels. This University of Hawaii facility may be compact, but it contains the state's greatest collection of tropical Pacific marine life.

The new Edge of the Reef exhibit, a manmade tidepool, in many ways seems an extension of the ocean, which is just over the fence. A continuous infusion of plankton-rich sea water supplies the exhibit's delicately balanced ecosystem.

The tidepool is stocked with living coral, exotic invertebrates, and colorful fish. Docents help visitors handle the heartier creatures and explain tidepool life. Also take a close look at the poolside landscaping. Its profusion of native coastal plants includes some rare and endangered ones.

Wo endangered Hawaiian monk seals swim in an outdoor pool. Indoors, aquariums contain unusual coral and reef fish from throughout the tropical Pacific, chambered nautiluses, and a unique collection of sea anemones. "Hawaiians and the Sea,' a permanent exhibit, shows how ancient Islanders utilized the ocean's bounty; it includes a fishing tackle gallery with hooks, lures, and nets used to catch everything from octopus and small reef fish to 15-foot tiger sharks.

Sharks were especially important in the ancient Island culture; other exhibits focus on using sharks' teeth to make weapons and tools, and sharkskin for sandpaper and drum heads.

The aquarium is open from 9 to 5 daily; a $2 donation is requested from visitors 16 and older. For a schedule of field trips and educational programs, write to Waikiki Aquarium, 2777 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu 96815, or call (808) 923-9741.

Sea Life Park

This 23-year-old theme park has just put the finishing touches on a $1.1 million remodel that updated several exhibits and added a dramatic new one. The park is 15 miles east of Waikiki, right off State Highway 72 near Makapuu Point.

Make your first stop the renovated Hawaiian Reef Tank. A spiral ramp leads you 3 fathoms (18 feet) beneath the surface, where you can look face-to-face through 10-foot-wide acrylic windows at hammerhead sharks and graceful rays as well as a variety of open-ocean and reef fish, including such restaurant favorites as ulua (jack fish) and opakapaka (red snapper).

Exiting from the reef tank area, turn right for a look at the new Rocky Shores exhibit. Divided into three sections, it features the "wave zone,' where every 90 seconds 600 gallons of sea water crash against manmade black rocks that shelter small fish such as the Achilles tang. You walk up a ramp leading from deep pools beneath the waves to shallow tidepools; along the way, look for sea cucumbers, cowries, and feather duster worms.

The park is open from 9:30 to 5 daily, until 10 P.M. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays; admission is $8.25 adults, $6.50 for ages 7 through 11, $2.75 for ages 4 through 6. The daytime behind-the-scenes tour (featuring a false killer whale and her year-old calf) and evening dinner show cost extra.

For details, write to Sea Life Park, Makapuu Point, Waimanalo, Hawaii 96795, or call (808) 259-7933 or 923-1531.

Photo: Box of shells Waikiki Aquarium docent introduce youngsters to tidepool life

Photo: Swirling clouds of colorful fish found in Hawaii's nearshore waters surround diver during regular feeding time in the huge, newly refurbished Hawaiian Reef Tank at Sea Life Park near Oahu's Makapuu Point
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Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Waikiki Aquarium
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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