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Whale Watching in Maui

Posted by on Feb 24, 2008 | 0 comments

Whale Watching in Maui

Okay, so I first have to apologize for neglecting the website for the past week. I’ve gotten a number of concerned e-mails but, not to worry, I’m just fine here in Maui. Truth be told, I think the jetlag from Vietnam finally caught up with me this week and I’ve been spending a lot of time sleeping and just generally lounging around near the beach watching the thousands of humpback whales migrating by just offshore.

Though I have been to Hawaii a number of times, this was my first trip to Maui. On the 45-minute cab ride from the airport to Ka’anapali, I was struck by the amazing beauty of the island. From the spectacular lush green mountains to the royal blue waters surrounding it, Maui is quite a welcome sight for the weary traveler. Maui has been named the #1 island in the world in Conde Nast Traveler magazine 13 times and with good reason.

But it is not just the physical beauty of the island that is the draw. Every year, from December until April, Maui’s favorite wintertime visitors are in residence. The humpback whales, several thousand of them, migrate from their summer feeding grounds in Alaska to the warm and sheltered waters of the Hawaiian Islands. While in the Maui area they mate, nurse their newborn calves, and thrill locals and tourists alike with their playfulness and acrobatics. Once hunted to near-extinction, these magnificent marine mammals are now one of the worldwide conservation movement’s major success stories.

Lahaina Maui

Lahaina, Maui

Now, I knew Hawaii had whales at certain times of the year but I guess I’ve never been on the right island at the right time of year to see them. And I had NO idea just how many whales we were talking about here. On the cab ride from the airport as we wound our way along the shoreline to Ka’anapali, my cab driver kept encouraging me to look out at the water for whales saying that he usually sees 4 or 5 every day along this drive. I was skeptical as I scanned the calm water but after a just a few minutes of diligent observation, I was rewarded with the splash of a whale tail off in the distance. How cool is that!? On the rest of the drive I had four more whale sightings and I was hooked. I always thought you had to go out really far on boats to see any whales but here on Maui, all you have to do is look out at the water….from the beach, your hotel room, your car, wherever. They are literally everywhere.

Whale watching Westin Ka'anapali Maui

A sunset whale show from the Westin Ka’anapali

So, I have to admit that for the next few days I was perfectly happy to occupy a lounge chair on the beach of the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort, reading a book while scanning the water for whale “spray”. This is a seriously addictive pastime. In the evenings, I headed into downtown Lahaina, the former Royal capital of the Hawaiian Islands. Lahaina is a charming, ocean-front town with lots of shopping options and tons of restaurants with million-dollar views.

It is easy to get caught up in the laid-back Maui lifestyle over here and be unmotivated to do anything requiring much effort. However, later in the week I did get up the energy to book a snorkeling/whale-watching trip (any trip involving a boat doubles as a whale-watching trip this time of year) on a catamaran but unfortunately, the trip was canceled two days in a row due to high waves.

Whale Watching in Maui

So, deciding I needed to get closer to the whales I’d been watching all week one way or another, I headed into Lahaina on my last day to see about doing a whale-watching trip. Luckily, I was able to get a seat on a raft getting ready to head out. The best whale-watching trips in Maui are on smaller rafts holding about 30 people. There are also trips on larger boats but the rafts allow you to get so much closer to the whales and you don’t have to fight with 100 other tourists to get a good picture.

Whale watching Maui Hawaii

Whales off the coast of Maui

It was a gorgeous day and once out on open water we immediately located what our guide called a “competitive group” of whales out toward the island of Lanai. This is a group that includes several males fighting it out for the attention of the lone female in the group. The male whales lunge and bump into each other as they swim along and it can be quite exciting to watch.

Our raft glided alongside the group as it moved and I was amazed at how close we were able to get. They are really just mesmerizing to watch as they glide through the water and shoot water out of their blowholes. Being that close to the whales is probably one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. I really , really enjoyed the trip. Unfortunately, none of the whales we were watching ever did a full breach all the way out of the water but at least I was able to see that from the hotel a few days earlier.

Later that night it was time to (sadly) head back to the airport for the short 20 minute flight to Honolulu for my last night on the islands before heading home and back to reality. Sigh…

It’s been another truly incredible trip and I thank you all so much for following along with me once again. I have no doubt there will be a Round the World #4 and you can bet I’ll start planning a little earlier next year! Til next time…

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