December – April
Roughly 7,000 humpback whales migrate to Maui’s warm, shallow waters every winter to calve, mate and rear their young. That means from December to April, we don’t just take you snorkeling, we take you whale watching!
You’ll see more whales with us than you would a whale watching tour and here’s why:
While our boat was specifically designed with snorkeling in mind, if you’ve never seen a whale playing at the ocean’s surface from a low profile boat such as ours, you are in for a treat. Being closer to the water makes it much easier to see, photograph and even hear the whales. When we’re really lucky, a whale will ‘spy hop’ to get a better view of us before putting on a big show!
The whales call the shots which means every trip is unique! Sometimes we’ll hang out watching a mother assist her newborn calf to stay at the the surface, or we’ll be treated to five or six whales all together in a ‘competition pod’ – a group of males vying for one female’s attention.
If the whales are staying in one area we’ll drop a hydrophone in the water so you can experience the intricate and eerie humpback whale ‘song’, a complex series of sounds repeated by males within a specific population (i.e., Hawaii’s humpbacks).
Whale behavior we see during our winter trips is a gift. We respectfully share the water with these majestic creatures and are honored to share these special moments with you.
Have you see those little puffs of ‘smoke’ in the distance? That’s the most common way to spot a whale because those blows can reach up to 20 feet! What you are seeing is air being expelled from the blowhole when the whale reaches the surface. As the warm air from the whale’s lungs meets the cooler temperature of the air outside, it condenses into water vapor. Hearing a whale empty its lungs up close gives you a sense of just how large these creatures are!
A whale leaping out of the water is, of course, everyone’s favorite! Using its powerful tail, a whale will propel its entire body into the air, often spinning before landing back on the surface with a thunderous splash. Scientists are unsure why whales breach – it could be to remove barnacles from their skin, to display dominance to other males, or simply a form of play. Regardless of the reason, breaches are cause for big smiles – and amazing photos!
Sometimes a humpback whale will point its body straight down in order to raise its tail flukes out of the water and repeatedly slap its tail on the surface. When the powerful flukes hit the water the sound can be heard for miles, so it may be a form of communication or warning to other whales. This can go on for several minutes.
Similarly, a humpback whale will often roll on its side and raise its pectoral fin and slap the water, either by letting its fin drop or forcibly exerting itself. The pectoral fin can be fifteen feet long, so it makes quite a splash and a sound. Again this may be a form of communication with other whales, or maybe it’s just a very friendly whale waving to us!
We love it when a whale ‘spyhops’ the boat – it definitely feels like they are popping up to say, “Aloha!” The whale uses its natural buoyancy to rise in a vertical moment and lift its head out of the water so it can get a view of the surface. It seems like they like to look at us as much as we like to look at them. Perhaps they call this “people watching season”!
You know the classic ‘whale tail’ photo? We see this magnificent display as a whale prepares to make a deep dive. Just before the tail emerges, the whale arches its back forming a hump, which is how humpback whales earned their name. As the whale dives, the iconic, yet distinct, tail is perfectly displayed for a moment before it gracefully slips beneath the water’s surface.