I've been in the hobby for 3 years now and I've been snorkeling in the past, but I recently came back from a vacation where I went snorkeling on a lively reef in Kauai for the first time since getting involved in the hobby. It was a mind blowing experience for me to see so many of the fish and invertebrates we keep in the hobby in the wild. TL;DR: so many fat & happy fish, few corals and not looking too good. We were on the south side of Kauai and staying on Lawai Beach, which has a protected lagoon type reef that's protected from the waves by a bigger reef crest area about 100 yards out. There are so many fish, just teeming with life. All kinds of tangs and surgeonfish, fields of urchins and sea cucumbers. A wide variety of colorful wrasses. Not much in the way of coral, mostly 1-2 foot colonies of pocillopora and other hardy SPS. Almost no acropora or colorful corals. Mostly brown and light reds, many colonies with half of the polyps dead/dying. Hardly any visible algae, likely due to massive fish and invertebrate grazing keeping algae populations mowed down. There were several giant green sea turtles and it was amazing to swim with them while they hunted down hidden clumps of turf algae. I saw an Eagle Ray at one point, whose scrunched up face looked almost like a bull dog. We saw a monk seal swim up and flop down on the beach to rest. I found a day octopus a little bigger than my head being chased by a parrot fish and hiding under a rock. At one point a swam out too far and saw a white tip reef shark slightly bigger than me - I called it a day at that point. Visibility was quite poor except in the shallow and more protected inner lagoon due to general turbidity and microbubbles from the surf. I wasn't able to take any pictures of my own, so I'm going to fill the rest of this post with professional pictures of Hawaiian reef creatures like the ones I saw: Green Sea Turtles: Eagle Rays: Day Octopus: White Tip Reef Sharks: Tangs! There were tangs and masive surgeon fish all around. I saw schools of convict tangs with 50-100 fish swimming and foraging together - quite a sight. There were kole tangs and other similar bristletooth tangs around. I was surprised to see almost no yellow tangs, I only saw two on one of the days - but they were bigger than my head! So fat and healthy. Parrot Fish! Huge, brightly colored coral chompers may have been one reason for less large/delicate SPS colonies as I saw these guys chowing down on rock and coral skeletons alike. Moorish Idols! These guys were everywhere and huge! Many of them bigger than my head and all looking super happy. Angels! All kinds of different sizes of angelfish, but especially some smaller potter's angels and larger emperor angels. Sadly, no flame angels that I saw. Butterflies! Tons of butterfly fish in general and many different species of them. Many beautiful threadfin butterfly fish almost as big as my head who liked to swim with me, I think because I had yellow diving fins similar in color to them? Boxfish! Puffers! There were tons of small (3-4") boxfish or puffers of many different species. The most prevalent were these hawaiian spotted boxfish: Gobies! There were more types of gobies than I could identify, of all shapes and colors in the lagoon. In the tidepools the predominant fish species was a small Frillgoby native to Hawaii, you could easily see 8-10 of them in a small tidepool when the tide was out: Needlefish and Cornetfish There were several cornetfish swimming around the substrate but even more needlefish. Especially near the reef crest, there were needlefish between 6" and two feet long swimming right below the surface everywhere. It was strange swimming with them, because they liked to be right at the level of your mask and right in front of your face. Frogfish and Scorpionfish There were all kinds of predators perched on the rocks and reef structures looking for a snack, from small weirdly colorful frogfish near the substrate to larger rockfish and scorpionfish perched high up keeping an eye out for a meal. I've written too long of a post already and probably only described 1/3 of the fish life we saw. It was an amazing experience and a completely different one having studied the ecosystem, fish, and inverts we found for the last 3 years to be among them so close. I was surprised to see no anemones the entire time and much less coral than I would have expected. I imagine the coral suffer from too much tourism (sunscreen in the water, people stepping on colonies, increased nutrients/DOC) but perhaps the real issue is lack of light at 10-15 foot depths when combined with general turbidity.