HONOLULU (KHON) – A beautiful, natural phenomenon is creating pink-looking water in Kealia Pond on Maui, and no, it is not fake.
The color is believed to be from algae that thrives in water with high levels of salt.
Travis Morrin is a chef by trade but has a passion for photography in between his restaurant jobs.
A friend called him on Wednesday, Nov. 7 to tell him that Kealia Pond had turned pink.
“And I’m like, ‘There’s no way.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t. I don’t believe it, it can’t be that pink!'” Morrin said. “So at sunset, I was just driving by on my way out of Kihei and I looked over and I was like, ‘That does look very pink!'”
He then parked his car and sent up a drone.
“‘It kind of looked like the color of Pepto-Bismol!'” Morrin said. “I think part of the reason why it was so vibrant was it was the time of the day, there’s less glare, there’s less reflection.”
The Pacific Whale Foundation said Kealia Pond used to be connected to the ocean, but not for the last few years, and the drought conditions West Maui also added to the situation.
“That has caused some algae and bacteria to bloom, some species that are very salt-tolerant and that thrive in a salty environment,” explained Stephanie Stack, chief research biologist for Pacific Whale Foundation. “The freshwater is evaporating and leaving behind a lot of salt and so that’s leaving it with this beautiful pink color.”
“It seems that those type of algae, they have beta carotene pigment in them, which is like what give carrots the color that they have,” Stack said. “It’s nothing manmade or toxic that we need to be concerned about.”
“It’s not a joke. It’s not, it’s not a Halloween prank or anything of that nature,” said Stack. “It’s real life. Nature is sometimes pretty amazing.”
Stack said the pond is home to fish and birds who do not seem to be affected and no large die offs have been reported.
“I mean, I would not recommend anyone go out there and taste it, but I’m pretty sure it’s extremely salty water right now,” Stack said.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the Hawaii Department of Health collected samples and sent them to the University of Hawaii for analysis, KHON will follow up on what they learn.