It’s that time of year again – whale season! The humpback whales are back in Maui for their annual mating and calving season. Alaskan humpback whales travel 6 weeks to Hawai’i (they particularly love the shallower waters between the Maui County islands – Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lanai and Molokai) where they spend approximately 6 weeks calving or mating before returning home. Believe it or not, they do not eat while they are traveling nor when they are in Hawai’i. We have no krill. Then they journey back up to the cold Northern waters of Alaska where I imagine they begin a feeding frenzy. Talk about a diet plan!
Humpback whales are large – they are roughly the length of a school bus. A calf is between 10-15 feet long at birth (compared to 40-50 feet for adults). Keep in mind, when whale watching, you only actually see the portion of the whale that pops out of the water, often only the water action associated with it.
The first whale usually arrives late September/October. However whale watches (with guaranteed sightings) typically run mid-November through mid-April. January through March is however when the largest number of them will be just off-shore Maui.
Where can you learn about whales?
If you have never gone whale watching, I recommend first learning a bit about humpback whales and their behavior.
- The visitor center at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei.
- The Maui Ocean Center made a new whale display during Covid. If you haven’t been in the past few years, check it out! It’s great!
- At minimum, check out this great Humpback Whale fact sheet from the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
Then I recommend going on an organized whale watch. There are numerous boats/companies that will take you out. I like the Pacific Whale Foundation, but have heard good things about other boats also. One thing to keep in mind, the discounted whale watches tend to be fuller which means more people jostling for a spot at the rail for best viewing.
If you don’t want to go on a whale watch…
January through March you will only need to look out at the ocean to see whale spouts (where they blow water up to 20 feet out of their blow hole), splashing, breaches, tail slapping, head lunges etc.
Also, if you go snorkeling early in the morning, listen for whale song. It can be heard from up to 10 miles away.
Here is a really cool drone video of humpback whales. Keep in mind, you must keep at least 100 yard distance between your boat/kayak/paddle board and the whale and immediately cut the engine on your boat if you notice a whale closer.