Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hawaii Day 4: Whales!!!!!!

OK, enough playing with kittens and goofing off in the yard.  Time to get back to blogging about our Hawaii vacation. 

Day 4 was all about whales. I wanted to see whales.  That was the whole reason I begged Drew to go to Maui instead of another island.  Humpback whales hang out in Auau Channel, sheltered from the trade winds on the west side of Maui.

We had a leisurely morning drinking Kona coffee on the lanai

and feeding the birds our trail mix.

And then we were off to Lahaina to depart on a 35-foot Zodiac boat to see if we could see some whales in the sea.  There were about 20 passengers, a captain, and a marine biologist (in blue t-shirt) on the trip.

We were cool sitting up front in the boat on the pontoons.

Almost as soon as we were away from the harbor, we spotted two whales traveling along. We were thrilled.

We stopped and watched them while the biologist told us a few facts about humpback whales.  
An adult whale usually ranges between 40-50 feet long and weighs approximately 36 tons.  The deeply-notched flukes (tails) are up to 12 feet wide. Humpback whales are baleen whales that filter feed tiny crustaceans, plankton, and small fish. An average-sized humpback whale will eat 4,400-5,500 pounds of food each day during the feeding season in the cold waters off Alaska.  Then they swim to Maui (or Baja Mexico or a few other places) to calve and breed in the warm sheltered water.  They do not eat while they are wintering in Maui!

We motored farther out into the channel to see if we could get a closer view.  Our captain spotted a couple of whales traveling roughly parallel to the direction we were going, so she steered ahead of them a little and they came straight at us.  She killed the engine and we sat and waited for a minute as they drew closer.  We were all hoping to see them up close, and man did we!!!   Here is the video of our first close sighting. I apologize in advance for the sailor's language.

I was really excited!
They were just so close!

Then they started playing with us.  For about 45 minutes, the two whales twirled and dove under and around our boat!  Even though we were a mile or more off shore, the surface of the water was terribly full of floating debris.  Still, we could clearly see the whales under our boat. Here I'm looking down past the gray pontoon of the boat to the nose of one of the whales pointing to the left of the picture.

There is no mistaking this! This is the underside of a whale swimming away from the boat.

Another video of the whales under and around the boat.

The water was so calm and warm I would have loved to jump in and swim with them.

It was an amazing experience to be there on that boat.  It was an experience neither one of us been expecting or had dared hope to have.  Drew was thrilled to look a whale in the eye.

A special treat came near the end of our time with them.  Biologists think the whales pop their snouts straight up out of the water in what they call a spyhop (this is the end of one, when the whale is sinking back down into the water)

just to see what is up there.  They were clearly checking us out. 

Finally, the captain was getting antsy.  She needed to get the boat back for the next tour, so she called another vessel over to our location so the whales would go check them out and leave us alone so she could start the engine and get back. (It is illegal to run a motor when you are within 100 feet of a whale.)  So we had our whales stolen and we motored back to the harbor.

We were still on high from the whaling experience, but we tried to appreciate this one gigantic tree growing the town square of Lahaina.
It was still early in the day so we headed north to Kaanapali Beach to test out our rented snorkel gear.  We didn't take the camera down to the beach, so I don't have any pics to share, but it was fun and we saw lots of cool fish, including my favorite blue trumpet fish. (Picture not mine.) 

The beach was beautiful and warm and relaxing and we hated to go, but we heard a tropical drink somewhere with our name on it.

Which we found back in Lahaina where we watched the sunset and closed up a phenomenal day.


  1. Wow!! That video is awesome! Way to go and thanks for sharing! I've spotted humpbacks a few times before (California, Mexico), but never anywhere near that close.

    Your bird BTW (sorry, I can't help myself) is a Red-crested (or Brazilian) Cardinal. Like the majority of birds you see in Hawaii it's an import, native to South America and introduced in the 30's, now common throughout the islands. And despite its name (and appearance) it's not technically a cardinal, but is more closely-related to tanagers.

    (OK, I'll shut up now.)

  2. Incredible experience and photos - thanks for sharing. I think I'd have been too excited to remember the camera. wish I knew what the whales were thinking.

    Very glad to have the bird ID'd. I wondered.

  3. Thanks for sharing! We are headed to the Big Island in a few weeks, hoping there are no quakes or tsunamis when we get there! Hoping we get to see a fraction of what you saw with the whale encounter :)

  4. Watcher, glad to have the bird IDed. I had wanted to ask you if you knew what it was, but figured you were off IDing parrots in Nicaragua. Miskit, I was lucky to get all that footage, but I wish I had caught the spyhop when the whale was really far out of the water. Ruth, I hope you see the whales because they were the 2nd coolest thing I have ever seen. But my all time coolest thing I have ever seen was on the Big Island watching Kilauea's lava entering the ocean at night. Check that out if you can!