Get Up Close and Personal with a Humpback
The warm waters of the Hawaiian Islands support vibrant marine life. Every year, migrating populations of North Pacific Humpback Whales journey to this region between Autumn and Spring. The peak Maui whale season occurs between mid-January and March.
Locals and visitors alike enjoy a number of great options for observing these magnificent (and legally protected) creatures in a natural setting. The Alii Nui Royal Feast Dinner Sail, the Ultimate Rafting Whale Watch, and The Pacific Whale Foundation, all routinely conduct whale watching excursions on Maui.
They offer cruises permitting people to observe and photograph migrating Humpback Whales and other marine creatures. The activities of eco-tourism companies in the State of Hawaii now provide the Hawaiian economy with an estimated $20 million in revenue every year, an industry heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
About Humpback Whales And Their Migration Patterns
Several large populations of Humpback Whales exist around the world. Scientists have discovered at least four main migratory groups of these large whales, including one in the North Pacific. These whales feed on a variety of fish and krill and migrate to the South Pacific during the winter for breeding.
Although their numbers declined precipitously during the past century due to hunting, they are protected today by most nations (but not all of them) that observe international protections designed to prevent the extinction of Humpback Whales.
The species Megaptera novaeangliae reportedly resides much of the year in polar regions but prefers to give birth in warm, shallow waters like those off the coast of Maui. Humpback whales display long pectoral fins, thickset bodies with a visible black dorsal hump, and heads marked by distinctive tubercles.
The adults measure between 39 and 52 feet in length. During the course of a year, a typical Humpback whale may swim thousands of miles during seasonal migrations. Large sharks and killer whales sometimes prey upon Humpback Whale calves.
The Alii Nui Royal Feast Dinner Sail
Located at Slip 56 in Ma'alaea Harbor, the popular Alii Nui Royal Feast Dinner Sail is my personal favorite way to see the whales. While Alii Nui also offers traditional two-hour afternoon whale watching cruises, I really enjoy seeing them at sunset while having an excellent meal.
Passengers also sometimes select the Alii Nui for sunset sails, Molokini snorkeling trips, or wedding celebrations. The company's luxury sailing catamaran provides comfortable accommodations for enjoying Maui's scenic coastline. The sunset sail cruises feature a buffet dinner and a full bar.
During whale season, almost any ocean-going trip is a whale watch since they are everywhere. If you're staying at your condo in Kihei, Maalaea is a convenient place to leave from.
The Ultimate Rafting Whale Watch
The Ultimate Rafting Whale Watch (based at 675 Wharf Street in Lahaina Harbor, Slip 17) transports small groups on guided coastal excursions too. In business since 1982, the company's light craft facilitate whale watching on Maui between the months of December and April.
Its hard-bottomed rafts are able to get so close to the migrating whales that you can put on a snorkel mask and see them underwater.
Passengers frequently observe a variety of other ocean creatures also during whale watching excursions as well. Voyages vary in length from an hour and a half to much longer periods of time and they also offer private charters.
The company's staff includes captains and experts in marine biology. Nature photographers, in particular, prefer the use of smaller boat tours to obtain close images of migrating whales, dolphins, Hawaiian sea turtles, and other marine life.
For safety reasons, captains must keep their engines off when closer than 100 yards to Humpback Whales, but when done properly the captain can drift you in very close to the whales.
The Pacific Whale Foundation
The Pacific Whale Foundation at 300 Ma'alaea Road, Suite 211, also conducts cruises for people interested in whale watching on Maui. Founded by the late Greg Kaufman, the nonprofit organization works to educate and inform the public about whales and marine conservation. Profits from eco-tourism support its programs and ongoing research.
The nonprofit offers whale watching cruises on boats departing from Lahaina Harbor and Ma'alaea Harbor. Naturalists on board these excursions assist passengers in identifying whales. In addition to seasonal whale spotting trips, the organization also conducts sunset dinner cruises, snorkeling excursions, and stargazing voyages.
It uses the raw data from whale sightings obtained during these tours to assist in conservation and whale research studies.
Whale Watching: Learning Sustainability Through Appreciation
The development of eco-tourism in Hawaii has enhanced efforts to protect and preserve one of the world's most interesting and endangered whale populations. It also benefits the State's economy. Every year, many visitors travel to Maui in the hope of seeing migrating Humpback Whales in a natural setting.
The shallow waters of the Au'au Channel in particular supply a great location for observing a wide variety of whales, dolphins, and other marine life. So, if you're on Maui during whale season, there are many reasons why you should take some time to enjoy the majestic humpback whales up close and personal.
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