With their boxy shape and polka dots, stripebelly pufferfish look like cartoon characters of the sea!

Snorkeling with the "Stripebelly Pufferfish"

The chances of seeing a Stripebelly Pufferfish are pretty high when you're snorkeling in Maui.  Their chunky shape and polka-dots make them fun to spot and observe.  You'll typically find them meandering about coral reefs or even resting on the sandy sea floor appearing to take a snooze. The stripebelly is the largest pufferfish you'll see when you're snorkeling in Maui; reaching up to 19 inches in length—they're about the size of a small dog!  When pufferfish feel threatened, they can inflate by gulping water until they're nearly ball-shaped, making them difficult to be eaten by predators.  In all our snorkeling experiences we haven't seen a stripebelly reach these inflated proportions.  We keep a reasonable distance from them and always give wildlife their space.  As cartoon-like and harmless as puffers appear, their skin and some internal organs contain a very powerful neurotoxin.  According to John Hoover's book, "Hawaiian Reef Fishes," at least seven people in the Hawaiian islands have died from eating pufferfish; so not surprisingly, it's illegal for restaurants in Hawaii to serve them!  But no need to swim away if you see a stripebelly—just don’t make a meal of one! 

To learn more about Maui's sea creatures and snorkeling tips for Maui, bookmark our blog and pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!

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