Whale watching boats must stay 100 yards (90 metres) from whales.

The whales of Maui

Thirty-three years ago, Greg Kaufman, founder of Hawaii’s Pacific Whale Foundation, climbed the ocean-side cliffs of Maui to look for whales. When he spotted a humpback, he would climb back down, jump into a boat and approach the whale for his research. Now, travellers have only to climb the steps of Greg’s whale-watching boats to see many whales.

Thirty-three years ago, Greg Kaufman, founder of Hawaii’s Pacific Whale Foundation, climbed the ocean-side cliffs of Maui to look for whales. When he spotted a humpback, he would climb back down, jump into a boat and approach the whale for his research. Now, travellers have only to climb the steps of Greg’s whale-watching boats to see many whales.

In the 1960s, scientists estimated there were less than 1,000 humpback whales left in the northern Pacific. Fortunately for the whales and the people who love them, whaling was significantly reduced, and in 1992, U.S. Congress established the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

From December to April, whales like Maui as much as the tourists, but for different reasons. At 100 metres deep, the water is relatively shallow, and warm; perfect conditions for mating and giving birth. Orcas, the main predator of humpback babies, seldom visit.

Whale populations have grown about seven per cent a year and now, scientists estimate that around 10,000 whales visit the Hawaiian Islands each year.

The less-scientific description of the whale numbers visiting, was articulated by our guide, Jackson, who said, “It’s like whale soup out here today!”

On a single two-hour tour, we counted over 60 whales, some in the distance, others close enough that you could see the barnacles on their skin or feel the boat rock as they swam by.

Regulations prevent tour companies from approaching a whale within 100 yards (90 metres), but whales do not read, and will often come much closer, sometimes at great speed as they compete for a mate.

Over several days, we watched whales breach singly, in groups, and as moms taught babies how to jump.

We saw pectoral slaps, tail slaps and peduncle throws (when the whale snaps their tail like a whip).

We saw groups of males called competition pods push each other out of the water or race under the boat to gain a female’s favour. If a whale does something, they do it in Hawaii!

If you get seasick, you can whale watch on a large boat or from shore. Whales can be seen from Maui’s southern beaches from sunrise to sunset, and moms with new babies swim surprisingly close to shore.

If you hear a funny noise while snorkeling, chances are it is the whales singing. The song of every male is identical and if one whale sings, the other males join in, singing an identical song. Scientists cannot explain the cetacean karaoke, but some think it makes females more receptive to breeding.

The breeding and conservation are working. As whales have become more numerous, more people enjoy whale watching. Over 300,000 people took tours with Pacific Whale Foundation last year and experts estimate that more money has been generated by whale watching worldwide than was ever made from whaling!

Greg Kaufman probably did not foresee that economic success in his early gazes over the ocean, but winter visitors to Maui now find their vacation significantly enhanced by this conservation success story.

If you go:

• Look for whales from the beaches near Kihei or Kaanapali. The viewpoint at McGregor Point provides a panoramic view of the Hawaii Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

• Get a membership with the Pacific Whale Foundation. You save 20 per cent on tours, board first for the best seats, and help conservation projects (www.pacificwhale.org).

• To see what you might encounter, watch my video at http://youtu.be/ZLj-qHL3ldE

Carol Patterson helps businesses and people reinvent themselves through adventure. When she isn’t travelling for work, Carol is travelling for fun. More of her adventures can be found at www.naturetravelgal.com.

Just Posted

Sylvan Lake council adopts waterfront plan

Sustainable Waterfront Area Redevelopment Plan to guide development for next 20 years

Two people die in Rocky-area collision

Rocky Mountain House RCMP investigate

RDC launches week of activities focusing on student mental health

Learners invited to join the discussion at #MakeSomeTimeRDC

Husky Energy walks away from its hostile takeover bid for MEG Energy

CALGARY — Husky Energy Inc. is walking away from its hostile takeover… Continue reading

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

Teen vaping is an epidemic: US government

E-cigarettes are now the top high-risk substance used by teenagers, outpacing cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana

‘I never said there was no collusion,’ Trump lawyer says

President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani says he has ‘never said there was no collusion’

Body of Canadian miner found after African kidnapping

Kirk Woodman’s body was discovered 100 kilometres from the site where he worked for Progress Mineral Mining Company in Burkina Faso

Canada’s Conners on his way to full PGA Tour card with fast start to 2019 season

Corey Conners was working on his putting last Friday when fellow Canadian… Continue reading

Canada’s Milos Raonic, Denis Shapovalov advance at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada’s Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov have advanced to… Continue reading

Study finds more than half of food produced in Canada wasted

The study released Thursday is the world’s first to measure food waste using data from industry and other sources instead of estimates

AP Exclusive: A peek at how Disney resort shows are made

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — With excitement building over a new “Star… Continue reading

Justin Bieber’s ‘Steps to Stardom’ hometown exhibit makes plans for a book

STRATFORD, Ont. — Justin Bieber’s meteoric rise to pop stardom will be… Continue reading

Most Read