The crystal blue waters of Maui County serve as a friendly refuge to thousands of humpback whales that make immense journeys each year from their feeding grounds in the cool waters off the West Coast—an area that stretches from Northern California to the Bering Sea—to paradise to mate, give birth and care for their young.
According to marine studies, baby calves are born without a protective blubber layer, and to survive, they require a suitable ecosystem, such as our warm Hawaiian waters.
The harbors have begun to bustle, as charter boats fill for whale tale excursions, and near-shore traffic will soon slow to a crawl as commuters vie to catch a glimpse of these aquatic mammals’ acrobatic leaps and fluke slaps upon the open seas.
Breach for joy. Humpback whales flow in and out of our underwater paradise through mid-May, with the peak season falling between February and March. Happy whale watching!
Photo courtesy of Pacific Whale Foundation
Local businesses and nonprofits offer an assortment of fun and educational whale watching tours and programs, so visitors and residents can make the most out of the annual cetacean celebration.
To honor the return of the whales, and to commemorate 30 years of whale research, public education and conservation advocacy, the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) will hold Maui Whale Festival events from now through Sunday, May 15.
Last season, over 25,000 visitors and residents attended the Maui Whale Festival, so this year, PWF has expanded the merriment to make sure enthusiasts are able to satisfy their humpback whale watching wishes all winter long.
Maui Whale Festival’s signature event is Whale Day, which will be held on Saturday, Feb.19, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Kalama Park in Kīhei. Whale Day includes Maui’s Parade of Whales along South Kīhei Road in the morning, followed by performances by some of Hawai‘i’s top artists, grinds from popular island restaurants, keiki fun, local craft fairs and much more. And, the funds raised during Whale Day benefit marine education programs for schoolchildren on Maui.
Visit www.pacificwhale.org or call 249-8811, ext. 1, for more information on PWF’s plethora of community activities and leisurely expeditions.
The crew at Trilogy Maui Inc. are some of the island’s finest ocean stewards. The company was the first in Hawai‘i to be an “official sponsor” of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The Coon family’s eco-friendly business offers a variety of unique whale watching experiences and green-conscious community projects throughout the breeding season and beyond. Visit www.sailtrilogy.com for more information.
Also, check out the Whale Trust, a nonprofit research organization concentrated on these amazing mammals. As an educational group, they aim “to promote, support and conduct scientific research on whales and the marine environment, and develop public education programs based directly” on the results. Visit www.whaletrust.org.
Comprehension of scientific data gathered since the ’70s on humpback whales is still progressing, such as the definitive function of the melodious whale song, which remains a mystery to many scientists. Several researchers assert it’s the males’ version of a mating call as discerning females choose from a surplus of suitors.
Also, according to www.mauiwhalewatchtours.com, the female of the species is the boss in the humpback world and quite intelligent. During the competitive breeding season, she may not want the “aggressive, burly type that won the battle” to accompany her to father next years’ offspring. And if so, she will snub the winner and “pick another of her choosing.” Perhaps some land male mammals could learn a thing or two from these courting sessions.
Yet, studies reveal humpbacks are not monogamous and that the male leaves right after mating, so maybe not…