Camp Captures Underwater World

Maui Ocean Center day camp is packed with education

By: Dawna Robertson

Through Sept. 2, children aged 8 to 12 can explore the vast underwater world in just one day. Maui Ocean Center’s summer day-camp single-day sessions introduce children to below-the-surface magic Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here, children spend the day with trained ocean naturalists and learn about Hawaii’s unique marine life.

“We have an exciting environment here at the aquarium where our guests are entertained as well as educated about Hawaii’s marine life, and this setting is perfect for a children’s camp,” commented Jonathan Hultquist, director of education for Maui Ocean Center. “Whether the kids are just becoming acquainted with the ocean, or they dream of being marine biologists some day, this camp is designed to suit many levels of interest.”

Hultquist explained that the small group sizes allow the center to focus on individuals, making it a more enriching experience for all children attending.

“The camp gives the kids an up close look at marine life, ocean ecosystems and how aquariums operate,” he said.

Each child receives lunch and a Maui Ocean Center coloring book as a part of the program.

While the kids are at camp, parents find the perfect opportunity to explore the reefs on their own, pick up a game of golf or just enjoy some alone time. The specific topics vary daily, and children completing a full week earn a Junior Naturalist certification.

“Kids have been having so much fun that they’ve returned for the rest of the week,” noted Hultquist. “Most campers sign up for one or two days, then just keep coming back.”

The two most popular programs, according to Hultquist, are Sharks and the Food Web and Turtles and Adaptations.

“The kids have really enjoyed the hands-on activities which range from helping feed the turtles to touching the tide pool animals and painting their favorite marine animal on the camp room walls,” he said.

In addition to the summer camp, Maui Ocean Center is offering sleepovers to groups of 15-30 participants of all ages. Sleepover guests are able to explore the aquarium after hours, peeking in on the nocturnal residents and observing the changes in shark behavior during the transition from day to night. The program includes educational games, an evening pizza party and muffins for breakfast. The fee for either the day camp or sleepover is $55 per person, with advanced reservations required.

The mission of Maui Ocean Center is to foster understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii's marine life. To enhance the experience, trained ocean naturalists share their insights through presentations at the Living Reef, Turtle Lagoon, Hammerhead Harbor, Discovery Pool and the Open Ocean. The aquarium is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in July and August.