Maui's Winter Visitors
Of all the famous visitors that come to Maui year after year, there is one annual visitor that is the most anticipated of all! If you guessed Oprah Winfrey, Steven Tyler or Paris Hilton – sorry, you’re incorrect! Travelling 3,500 hundred miles from Alaska, it’s the humpback whales that everyone comes to see!
Leaving their nutrient-rich waters each fall, a majority (over 60%) of the humpback whale population embark on a 4 to 8-week journey to the warm Hawaiian waters for breeding and birthing along the Maui shores – making this island the most ideal destination for this natural phenomenon.
February is peak whale season on Maui with an entire day dedicated to these most cherished marine mammals. This year, February 16, 2013 is Whale Day which kicks off with the “Parade of Whales” along Kihei Road in South Maui and culminates with “World Whale Day” at Kalama Park. This all-day, free celebration includes food vendors, live entertainment including music and hula, a keikicarnival and a “Made on Maui” artisans fair. Environmental displays hosted by Naturalists from the Pacific Whale Foundation are on hand to help answer any questions and provide information. Whale-watching hikes, a “Run for the Whales”, and the “Great Maui Whale Count” are some of the other events planned throughout the month.
Unlike other areas where the whales remain far from shore, a relaxing day on Maui’s southern beaches is ideal for watching these magnificent creatures. If you prefer to get up-close and personal, there are several whale-watching trips which guarantee sightings.
Although it’s hard for most visitors to leave these beautiful islands at the end of their vacations, the whales don’t face that dilemma. By mid-May, they are eagerly on their way back to the cold, nutrient-rich waters of Alaska to fatten up throughout the summer months. Turns out the clear blue waters of Maui are too warm to sustain enough food for the whales.
Quick Whale Facts:
Whales can be seen right from shore and even spotted while driving on Maui’s coastal roads. Remember to pull over if you want to watch the whales!
Whales breathe every 7 to 20 minutes and blow a double stream of spray that rises 10-13 feet above the surface of the water
Whales can grow as long as 40 ft and weigh up to 50 tons
Only the male whales sing
It is unlawful to purposely get within 100 yards of a whale, and within 300 yards of known calving areas
Calves will gain 200 pounds a day during the first few weeks of life and nurse for six months
Adult whales do not eat during their winters off Maui
Whale footprints are visible as an area of smoothness on the water’s surface, created by the whales tail as it moves through the water
A breach is when a whale lifts most of its body out of the water and lands on its back creating a large splash. Some believe this is to remove barnacles but may be the whales are just playing or trying to attract attention from other whales.
Winter courtship is generally fierce with groups of males (up to 20) gathering around a single female