Being in Hawaii during humpback whale season — January through March (peak) — is magical. To see these amazing creatures come to the water’s surface to breath or breach is thrilling each and every time.
During our recent trip to Kauai, Maui and Lanai, we took every opportunity that we could to watch for humpback whales. It was addictive and mesmerizing.
Experts report that most humpback whales gather between Maui, Lanai and Molokai. From our anecdotal observations, we agree with the experts. We saw far more whale activity from Maui and Lanai compared to Kauai.
On a Maui sunset sail
After spending mornings and afternoons distantly watching for whales from our room’s lanai (balcony), we took a sunset cruise on the Pride of Maui. (Money saving tip: Note that during whale season, many snorkeling and sunset excursions essentially double as a whale watching tour.)
Within about five minutes of leaving Maalaea Harbor, we spotted whales — a mother and calf. To our delight, the calf was showing off with breach after breach. The calf must have breached ten times or more.
Thankfully, we were able to get some decent photos of this calf. Andy captured the best ones with his Nikon DSLR.
I was thrilled that I was able to capture one of the breaches with my iphone.
The wind was very strong that day, with wind advisories warning of 30 mph winds with gusts of 50 mph. The captain mentioned that it has been their observation that the whales tend to be more active when the seas were rougher like what we were experiencing on that windy day.
As you can see from the following photo, the whales weren’t the only great view on this sunset tour.
Mother with her young calf at Hulopoe Bay
From Maui, we moved on to Lanai. From our room’s lanai, we watched a mother humpback with her very young calf two mornings in a row. The mother and calf were probably 200 yards or less from the shoreline. They were close enough to shore that we could hear the breaths.
The following photo shows the view from the lanai. It’s not an exciting whale photo, but I wanted to give you a visual idea of this scene. You can barely make out a black speck in the water in the center of the photo. That’s the mother whale.
The calf was so small that when s/he breached, the resulting splash was very small.
It was clear that the mother was teaching the calf. At one point, the mother slapped her pectoral fin three times. Then the calf immediately followed with one tiny pectoral fin slap. It was adorable to watch!
We also observed the mother lifting the calf on her back so that the calf was above the water’s surface. It seemed as if she wanted to give the calf a view of the world above the water.
One of these two mornings, we watched this mother and calf for about three hours. We couldn’t tear ourselves away. We even opted for room service for breakfast so that our watching could continue.
Don’t do that!
While watching the this mother and her young calf at Hulopoe Bay, we observed a swimmer trying to approach them. Boats, kayaks, and even swimmers are prohibited from approaching a humpback whale within 100 yards. This person kept selfishly swimming directly towards the mother and calf. This swimmer must have scared the mother as they moved about 400 more yards from the shore. It makes my blood boil to see people aggravating whales and dolphins as if these mammals were put on earth solely for their amusement.
From the end of the pier
We rented a Hummer for one of our days on Lanai. (We were given the permission to drive it anywhere we wanted.) On this day, we wanted to focus on Lanai’s east shore sites — making sure we found desserted Club Lanai. We did indeed find this beautiful spot. The highlight of the day occurred while standing at the end of the pier in the below photo.
From the end of this pier we must have seen at least a half dozen whale breaches. These breaching whales must have been adults as they looked huge and the resulting splashes were large, too. Though we must have been standing 1000 yards or more away from these whales, each breach was thrilling. The word wow was repeated over and over between us.
I’ll share some of these very distant photos Andy snapped with his Nikon.
The island of Maui is in the background of each of these photos.
We must have stood at the end of that pier for 15 minutes. We had to force ourselves to leave this scene.
Have you taken any neat whale photos from you visits to Hawaii? If so, please submit them for our Aloha Friday Photo feature.