Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm at Keahole Point at Kona in Hawaii is a marine life sanctuary for preserving rare aquatic life. This three-acre oceanfront sanctuary has the world's only live gene bank, with over 30 species of endangered seahorses and sea dragons. Over 20,000 seahorses and other aquatic life are raised organically in blue tanks while adhering strictly to good farming practices at the farm. This family-owned farm was established with the mission to eliminate the need to take wild seahorses from reefs and raise them in a healthy, eco-friendly, and domesticated environment.
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm was started in 1998 by aquaculturists Carol Cozzi-Schmarr and her husband, Craig Schmarr. The couple, with their entire life savings, financed the whole farm and started to produce farm-raised seahorses targeted at the global pet trade. They did this to minimize fishing pressure on coral reefs worldwide for these rare seahorses.
Pollution and pet trade decimated seahorse populations in coral reefs at Hilo, Kailua, and Waikiki bays. Though classified as endangered species, in Hawaii, seahorses were not protected, unlike in other countries, which led to them being overfished. Others were exported to Asia to be used in alternative medicines and put in Chinese teas as the main "herb." The overfishing also resulted in coral reef damage where seahorses lived.
Two years after it was founded, Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm produced enough high-quality farm-raised seahorses to supply the whole global seahorses' pet trade. That farm's impact led to the shutdown of the collection of wild seahorses. Today Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm has illustrated the significant impact tiny aqua farms can make to protect endangered aquatic species and minimize the pressure on coral reefs and sea-grass beds.
Seahorse Breeding Pioneers
Before the Schmarrs started Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, seahorses had never been successfully bred in captivity. The couple was the first in the world to start a seahorse farm and breed seahorse offspring outside the ocean waters' confines, to great success. Their seahorse breeding and conservation activities inspired a 2014 award-winning documentary film, A Different Kind of Farm, that chronicles their work with seahorses and its impact of it.
Families with children are likely to appreciate tours to Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm due to their engaging nature. During the tours, visitors see seahorses, including pregnant males, babies, and leafy and weedy sea dragons. Children aged five years and over are allowed to feed and hold the seahorses while learning about them. The seahorse visitors hold are the ones that are "retired" from breeding, and these can be up to 12 years old. They coil their tails on the visitors' fingers.
The world's only sustainable aquarium with over half of the world's 36 seahorse species is here too. The farm also has an interactive tide pool and a feeding spot where children can feed the seahorses. Visitors are given tiny crustaceans called copepods that they pour into tanks using plastic cups for seahorses to consume.
Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm tours are also suited to visitors keen to learn about the aquatic marine life and technologies implemented in rearing them. Visitors also learn why it's important to conserve the oceans, coral reefs, and waterways. It's possible for visitors to be lucky and witness the male seahorses giving birth. Private tours are offered to visitors keen to learn in-depth about ocean conservation but cost more.
The farm has a shop where visitors can buy seahorse-themed items like toys, videos, coffee, greeting cards, books, T-shirts, jewelry, souvenirs, hats, and many more. Money made from the shop helps run this seahorse farm. Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm tours typically last 60 minutes.
A professional and certified biologist leads the tours around Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm. The biologist's minimum qualification is a Bachelor's Degree in Biology with hands-on training on seahorse husbandry and culture. They also have special training in environmental biology, marine conservation, and public speaking. Those solid qualifications ensure visitors get credible information and have fun learning.
Tour hours at Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm are 10 AM, 12 PM, and 2 PM from Monday to Friday. May and September are low season months, so only the 12 PM tour is available. Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm has guidelines visitors need to know while preparing to tour: These are:
- Bring a hat, sunglasses and comfortable walking and sturdy shoes with rubber soles, like sneakers.
- Tour terrains are sloppy, wet, and rocky or combine the three traits.
- Visitors can wear a shirt, trousers or shorts but not swimsuits.
- Temperatures are hot and humid, and at times, it rains. Tours are in shaded sections, but visitors can be in direct sun for 10 minutes.
- Children must be accompanied by adults and be five years and older to be allowed to hold a seahorse.
- Running and rough play are forbidden.
- Visitors who visit other aquatic farms on the same day are not allowed into the farm for the seahorses' health sake.
- The farm's management requires visitors to be still when holding the seahorse in the water to prevent injury or stressing them.
- Before entering the farm, visitors are required to wash up their elbows and pass their shoes through a disinfectant bath at a designated spot.
- Tour times and admission tickets are subject to change without notice.
- Management advises potential visitors to buy tickets in advance online.
- Ticket refunds are not offered.
- Visitors' arrivals are 30 minutes before tour hours to have time to wash up, get briefed, get a name tag and sign the credit card receipt.
Other Things To Do At Kona
- Walk the Ka hu Mo Olio Beach next to Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.
- Visit the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park nearby.
- Dine at the Pine Tree Cafe and dine on Hawaii's "best" local foods.
Admission tickets to Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm can be bought online or at the gate. Below are their general costs:
- 11 years and over $77
- Military/Seniors (65 years and over) $76
- Local Residents (have ID) $72
- Children 5 to 10 Years $72
- Military Children $71
- Local Resident Child $70
When planning tours to Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm, it's advisable to first contact the management on +1-808-329-6840 or email email@example.com to get an idea whether tours are open or learn if there are changes.