January un-officially marks the beginning of Humpback Whale Season in the Hawaiian Islands and generally ends sometime in March when these majestic creatures make their way back to their feeding grounds (waters?) in Alaska. (Officially it’s Mid-Dec through mid-May but I’m using a local, non-sciency calendar). The Hawaiian Islands are a favored place for the whales to mate and have their calves. You can see whales around all of the islands but they seem to have a fondness for the leeward side of the Big Island and Maui. The whales coming from Alaska to Hawai’i are considered the “central stock”. Other groups migrate to Mexico or all the way to Japan. Here is more in depth information on humpback whale migration.
Having lived on Maui a while, I’ve seen quite a number of these gorgeous creatures from varying distances. If you are in a boat you are not allowed to approach these giant mammals and should keep at least 100 yards away from them. But if they decide to come closer to you. . . then you have to sit tight and gawp at them until they leave. That’s not a problem for me. It’s thrilling every single time I see them.
Here is a video I took last week while paddling outrigger canoe. Yeah that whale was right behind us!! I had to swing around so as not to un-balance the boat and accidentally huli us (flip over). Keep an eye on my Instagram for more Maui Whale adventures. More whale fun below.
If you are on Maui or plan on visiting during whale season (Jan-Mar) I recommend taking a whale watch trip! My two favorites are Ultimate Whale Watch and Trilogy Excursions. Ultimate uses super zippy zodiac boats with a max capacity of 12 people so you won’t feel crowded. They have a knack for finding whales right away and can maneuver quickly and safely through the water. You have to hold on tight as you zip around but it’s SO MUCH FUN!
For a more plush experience, I recommend Trilogy. I’ve lost count of the trips I’ve gone on with them and have always been impressed with their boats, crew and ono (delicious) food. You will see whales and feel nicely pampered.
If you are planning a wedding on Maui, check out Trilogy for a unique and beautiful venue for your wedding or post event. Tell them Rev. Jules says Aloha! http://www.sailtrilogy.com/groups
Most of the time during the season you can even hear whale song while swimming. Depending on conditions you can just dunk your head and hear them – or sometimes you have to dive down a bit and hold your breath to listen to their other-worldly songs. It’s astounding and unforgettable.
Here is a video I shot while snorkeling – trying to chase an octopus. You can’t see whales but you sure can hear them!