Just like tourists from the Pacific Northwest looking to avoid the cold and snow, humpback whales migrate to the Hawaiian Islands every winter looking for warmer climates. Marine biologists have found that the humpbacks tend to spend the warmer summer months in Alaska, where food sources and krill populations are abundant. Come winter time, the huge mammals make the long journey to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to breed and give birth.
While a majority of the whales are still in route to Maui this winter, some are starting to be spotted in Hawaiian waters. Traditionally the first humpbacks will arrive in November and return to Alaska in May, with the peak whale-watching months occurring in February and March. Whale-watching cruises can be booked out of Kihei, Lahaina, and Ma’alaea.
I remember this last March I had some college friends visiting from the mainland. The four us of booked a whale-watching tour out of Ma’alaea with the Pacific Whale Foundation. My friends asked me if they thought we would be lucky enough to see a whale during our cruise. I chuckled at their ignorance. We must have seen about 10 pods of whales during our two- to three-hour cruise.
NileGuide Insider Tip: When you are snorkeling at some of Maui’s fine reefs and beaches this winter, listen for whale songs as you swim. The low frequency sounds can travel for miles underwater, and surprisingly quite audible.
[Photo source: NOAA’s National Ocean Service]