Hawaii whale-watching is truly a memorable experience. In this article, we will focus on whale-watching off the island of Maui. Whale-watching season starts as early as November, but the largest number of whales travel through Hawaii waters from mid-December to mid-April. Each year during this time, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 humpback whales migrate south from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic. Scientists estimate that this 3,000 mile swimming trip takes them from 80 to 100 days.
A mature humpback whale is about 45 feet in lenth and can weigh up to
80,000 pounds. Their calves weigh around 3,000 pounds at birth and feed
off their mother's high-fat milk for six to eight months, consuming 100
to 130 gallons per day.
On Maui, the opportunities for whale-watching from land are extensive. A
good vantage point for seeing whales from land is basically anywhere
you get a pretty a wide ocean view. McGregor Point, at mile marker 9, as
you head from Maalaea, toward Lahaina, is a well-known whale watching
place. Continuing toward Lahaina, whales can also be seen off the
Olowalu Reef--between McGregor Point and the town of Olowalu.
Whale watching requires patience.
Scan the horizon for a cloud of spewing water that rises from 10 to 20
feet above the ocean's surface. Watch for a good half-hour or so; whales
need to breath every 7 to 20 minutes, and their spray is simply water
vapor that they exhale from their blow hole. So once you locate that
tell-tale spray of water, focus your eyes on the area for another one.
Here binoculars are especially helpful.
But the best way to see
humpback whales is out in their domain--and you can book a
whale-watching cruise for that. Maui is the home of the Pacific Whale
Foundation. A non-profit whale research organization, it supports its
research by offering whale-watching tours.
The whale may
play a little game with you -- he will poke his head just above the
water's surface to "scope out the scene." That kind of behavior is
actually called a "spy hop," meaning it's his way of showing off (if he
feels so inclined). He'll then leap completely out of the water. If he's
only in the mood to exchange nods, he'll slap his tail or wave his side
fins at you -- that's the humpback whale's way of saying "Hi!"