This is such an exciting time of the year, the arrival of the humpback whales to Hawaii. The whales are very special to all of us here in Maui. They awe us and we can’t help but respect their size, their gentleness, and their beauty. Many people here are whale advocates, and rightly so. We celebrate them, protect them, and love them. The good news is that the population of the North Pacific humpback whale is on the rise, increasing by nearly 5% to 7% each year. The humpback whales are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and protected by the Marine Mammals Protection Act, which means that you may come no closer than 100 yards to a whale. But, even at that distance, you can still feel the power and the awe-inspiring beauty of these creatures. Such an experience… that cannot be easily forgotten.
Humpback whales love the warm waters of Maui and come each year. You can see them frolicking, spouting, and leaping out of the water just off the coast. And when you’re swimming at the beach, go underwater and listen. You will be able to hear their mysterious “songs”. They communicate underwater through a perplexing series of sounds, which are both beautiful and haunting to hear. You will hear different voices, as well, as they talk to one another, some higher pitched (baby) and some deeper pitched (adult).
Although you can see them from the beach, the best way to see humpback whales is out in their territory, especially while kayaking and snorkeling. South Pacific offers a tours from January through March, the height of whale season. Any whale watch trip is great; however, you cannot beat whale watching from a kayak. By kayaking, you are at eye level with these magnificent animals and can see, hear and sometimes even smell them!
Scientists estimate that it takes the whales anywhere from 80 to 100 days to swim the 3,000 mile average from Arctic waters to Maui waters. They come to mate, or bear their babies conceived the previous winter. It can’t be argued, they are impressive to see in person. A typical adult humpback whale can weigh up to 40 tons and measure 45 feet long. The babies themselves weigh around 3,000 pounds at birth.
It’s been found that whales are seasonal eaters. They don’t eat while they are vacationing here in Maui for the winter. When they return home to the Arctic waters, that’s when they are known to eat 5,000 or so pounds of plankton, krill, and fish…. every day! Now that’s an appetite!
A little tip, although you will be able to see the whales spouting, jumping, or slapping the water throughout the day, the whales prefer calm waters, so the best time to venture out to see them is in the early morning when the ocean is glassy and the trade winds are mellow.