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Maui snorkelers, want to be BFFs with an octopus? It just could happen

Snorkel Store offers personalized trips off Maui, helping visitors to see sea critters up close

Here’s something that can turn a Maui snorkeling trip into an adventure to remember: holding an octopus or sea urchin.

The Snorkel Store's Snorkel Safari can’t guarantee such an encounter during each swim, but the guides do promise an interactive, personalized experience.

Bobby Twitchell, a Lahaina native and the lead guide, said the two-hour snorkel trips were created to offer an alternative to the short swims offered by various boat tour operators.

“It’s wildly different in terms of the experience,” Twitchell said. “The difference is the fact that it’s a group of eight or less as opposed to a group of 140.”

Tours depart Kaanapali at 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily. A customized van takes guests to one of about 10 west Maui snorkeling sites.

Twitchell said the guides’ goal is to identify the places with the best opportunity to view marine life, which varies depending on weather.

The guides provide expert narration and often will “free dive” to the ocean floor to retrieve animals for their guests to hold.

Free diving "is just holding your breath underwater, basically, and diving down,” said Twitchell , an award-winning free diver known for his ability to hold his breath underwater for more than six minutes.

Two of his most popular retrievals are octopus and bright red urchins. He said the sea creatures are not harmed during the up-close encounters.

Info: The “Snorkel Safari” retails for $100, but is available online for $74.99.

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