From December through March thousands of humpback whales make the warm waters between Maui, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe their home. The first ones usually arrive from their arctic feeding grounds sometime in November and the last stragglers are gone by the end of April. While they’re here they mate, calve and, for months on end, do not eat. (Big exception – the calves who gain 100 pounds or more per day on their mother’s milk!) During much of the time the whales put on great displays clearly visible from the shore and awe inspiring close up. We often take binoculars to the beach to get the best views.
The photos in this post were taken in early April after the most spectacular displays of breaching and fin slapping were over. Nonetheless, we saw lots of whales on a beautiful pristine day.
Coast Guard regulations prohibit boats approaching whales closer than 100 yards, but some whales seem not to have read the regs. When a boat cuts its motor and drifts, a whale or two – like the mother and calf in the picture above – will sometimes come close to investigate. We were told that the mother will usually place herself between the calf and boat so we were lucky to get a picture like this. The calf was literally not more than 20 feet away. (Click on the picture to make it bigger so you can see the detail.)
There are many whale watching cruises – we took one by the Pacific Whale Foundation. The crew was knowledgable and the trip great fun.
In addition to the highlight of the mother and calf swim-by we saw lots of spouting and tail flukes like this small pod in the photo to the left.