Whale watching is an experience you really should not miss if you pln to visit the islands between December and May. Kohola (humpback whales) are one of the larger species of baleen whales, with adult males ranging between 40 and 52 feet and weighing up to 45 tons. If you follow ua on Youtube or Facebook you have seen some of the amazing encounters that we have experienced. Sometimes they actually pop up within arms length and just look at us for a while, when you look into their eyes you know they are highly intellegent and soulful. Despite their size, humpback whales are surprisingly graceful acrobats. Keep your eye on the ocean and you might see one “breach,” propelling up to 40 percent of its body out of the water and landing on its side with a spectacular splash. And yes you may get wet, they have been known to breach quite close to the boat. If you’ve ever heard a whale song, you’ve listened to a male humpback whale. Their haunting melodies can be heard underwater from up to twelve miles away.
Just as our idyllic weather beckons to tourists around the world, the warm shallow waters (less than 600 feet) surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands are a favorite destination for humpback whales. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the entire North Pacific humpback whale population returns to Hawaii to breed, calve and nurse their young. They race over 3,000 miles from the Gulf of Alaska to Hawaii in less than two months, then stay for a lengthy vacation, frolicking off our shores and entertaining spectators from December through May.
In Hawaii, the return of the kohola is considered more of a homecoming than a visit. Humpback calves are born in Hawaiian waters, making them “kamaaina” or native born. Some Native Hawaiians also believe the kohola are aumakua (family guardians), and so these gentle giants are treated with great respect. Along with respect they are also legally protected. This makes what occurs on our whale watches all the more amazing. We are not allowed to approach them and must keep quite a distance. We see a group a ways away and approach to a safe distance and shut our engine off. As we quietly drift they approach us and even swim right under the boat. We take groups out for two hour trips throughout the day from Lahaina harbor. Stop by slip 8 or book at www.hawaiioceanrafting.com.