One of the benefits we have been tauting of the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument could be the visitor's center that would be built by the NOAA sanctuaries program. The benefits of a visitor's center are two-fold: There would be education benefits for local students and residents and there would be an added tourist attraction for our overseas visitors.
The Papahanaumokuakea visitor center is called the Mokupapapa Discovery Center and it is right on the water in Hilo on the Big Island. I tried finding the meaning of Mokupapapa, but couldn't find it. Any help would be appreciated.
The Discovery Center is in an historic looking shopping center and I have to admit that I was not impressed by the front door.
It looked like an antique furniture shop or an ice shaved parlor, not a museum. The front entrance to the American Memorial Park visitors center is much more impressive.
Looks can be deceiving. The inside more than made up for the lack of a grandiose front door.
As soon as you walk in the door you are greeted with a giant map of the Pacific Ocean highlighting all the monuments, national parks, sanctuaries, and other significant marine protected areas in our part of the world. Points on the map light up to show you the different parks' locations.
Hanging from the walls and the ceilings are some models of a giant manta ray, sharks and other apex predators, like giant trevally. The predator density in Papahanaumokuakea is one of the highest in the world. That is one of the many things that make it special.
One of the areas inside the proposed Mariana Trench Marine National Monument has the highest shark densities in the Pacific. We're special, too.
In the front room, in addition to the big fish and a coral reef mural, there are several interactive video displays with information on volcanoes, the Hawaiian Islands, birds, fish, conservation, and biodiversity.
In the next room there is an aquarium with fish that one finds in the monument, like the convict tang, known locally as kiyu.
The back room has a theater with displays on the history of the islands on the walls. A movie was playing and a double hulled canoe was hanging from the ceiling.
Probably my favorite display was the life size mock up of a submersible. There were buttons and switches that lit up, you know, for the kids, but the best part was the remote control arm, you know, for the kids. I refuse to admit how long I spent trying to pick up the little foam balls with the arm.
There were also displays on marine debris and its affect on sea life as well as a looping video of a Hawaiian chant explaining the creation of the Hawaiian islands.
All in all we spent a good hour in the visitors center, but could probably have stayed longer if we watched all the videos and read and played with all of the interactive displays.