Kauai Whale Watching
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In Hawaii, Humpback whales can be easily spotted from land or sea as they frequent Hawaii’s nearshore waters. Remember, by regulation, Humpback whales cannot be approached closer than 100 yards. Here are a few tips to help you enjoy your whale watching experience
Below are 13 simple tips that will help you get the most out of your Hawaii whale watching adventure. So before planning your next vacation, follow these guidelines and you might just have an unforgettable whale encounter!
10 Simple Tips
1. Plan Your Trip During Peak Months
Humpback Whales begin arriving in Hawaii in November and head back to Alaska in late May. If you have planned a Hawaii vacation during this time, you should have no problem spotting whales. However, peak Hawaii whale watching season occurs during February and March. So if you have not made your travel arrangements yet, shoot for these months.
2. Visit Islands Known for Whale Watching
Maui, Kauai and the Big Island are the most popular islands for Hawaii whale watching, so plan to visit one of these islands on your vacation. If you are visiting Oahu, you can see whales there too, they just won’t be as abundant.
3. Plan a Boat Tour
are ideal for seeing these spectacular animals in their natural habitat. Not only will you be in the whale’s environment, but because Humpback whales are curious about their surrounding, they will sometimes approach your boat. Plan a Hawaii boat tour to truly get the most out of your whale watching adventure. Boat tours are available departing from Lahaina Harbor many times throughout the day during whale season. On the island of Kauai, whale-watching opportunities abound with a full schedule of tours provided by seasoned, knowledgeable guides.
Humpback whales may also be observed from land if you prefer solid ground to the deck of a boat. On Kauai the Kilauea Lighthouse, Kealia Lookout and various high-points of land in coastal areas are good places to start. Once you’re in the right place, spotting the whales is easy: just look for the majestic plumes of water (“blows”) rising in the air and the playful splashes made by these gigantic creatures.
4. Check the Weather Conditions
Some weather conditions, such as increased wind and sea state, may decrease your likelihood of spotting whales. Pay attention to weather reports prior to heading outside.
5. Pack Outdoor Gear & Clothing
Depending upon weather conditions, you may want to consider bringing a light jacket to break the chill of the wind. Also be sure to wear appropriate footwear. If watching whales from a shoreline location that requires hiking closed-toed shoes are recommended.
6. Don't Forget Sun Protection
When watching whales always be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect your skin and eyes. Make sure your hat and sunglasses are secure so they won’t get lost. Polarized sunglasses are the best type to use for whale watching, but any sunglasses will be helpful. The combination of the sun and reflection from the water can increase your chances of getting sunburn even on a cloudy day so be sure to use sunscreen on any exposed skin as well as lip protection with sunblock.
7. Bring Binoculars or a Spotting Scope
Bring binoculars if you have them. Once you have spotted a whale with your naked eye use the binoculars to focus in and watch its behavior. Keep in mind that using binoculars on a boat for an extended period of time could increase chances of seasickness. If you’re viewing whales from the shoreline, a spotting scope, which can be mounted on a tripod, may come in handy as well.
Capturing photos or video of your whale watching experience will help you share your experience with others, but just keep in mind that your camera could get wet or at a minimum will be exposed to salt air. Also, don’t focus all your attention on getting the photos or you may miss the whales and the fun! If you do decide to take a camera, a camera with a zoom lens is best.
9. Remember to Bring Food & Beverages
Bring bottled water and snacks on your excursion (whether by land or sea). Some whale watching boats may have food available so find out before you head out and plan accordingly based on the amount of time you will be gone. It’s also a great idea to take a bag along for your trash - please be sure to keep all trash from entering the water and endangering sea life.
10. Be Prepared for Seasickness
If you are prone to seasickness, consider taking motion sickness medicine prior to your trip (consult a doctor to find out which type is best for you). Most medications should be taken at least one hour before the trip. Once on the boat be sure to drink enough water to stay hydrated. Sipping on carbonated beverages can help seasickness as can eating crackers, bread, and products containing ginger (candy or cookies). Other special products such as motion sickness wristbands can be purchased at most drug stores. Keeping your eye on the horizon and keeping yourself cool throughout the trip can also help with seasickness.
3 More Simple Tips
11. Respect Humpback Whales' Space
In Hawaii, whale watching is an avid activity, and like with most outdoors activities, there are rules. Observers may not approach by vessel or by swimming within 100 yards of a whale (known as the 100-yard minimum rule). However, there is no rule that keeps whales from approaching people. Experienced leaders of Hawaii whale watching tours know how to gently approach these animals and encourage them to come closer.
12. Know Humpback Whale Habits
Humpback whales can be seen performing a variety of behaviors during the winter months in Hawaii. Begin by scanning the surface of the ocean from left to right, looking for the Humpback’s blow, which can be 10-20 feet tall (for an adult Humpback). Depending upon ocean conditions, the blow can be spotted easily. Adult Humpbacks surface approximately every 10-15 minutes to breathe; however they can remain submerged for longer periods of time. Calves will surface every 3-5 minutes to breathe. Once you have spotted a Humpback, use your binoculars to get a closer view of their behavior. If you’re lucky you will have the opportunity to see a whale breach right in front of your eyes.
13. Help Preserve the Humpback Whale
Humpback Whale preservation is vital because these magnificent creatures almost came to extinction in 1966 after mass commercial whaling during the early 20th century. Today there are approximately 30,000 to 40,000 Humpbacks worldwide. Federal laws protect them, but there are things we can all do to help preserve this amazing animal for future whale watching generation.
• Keep beaches and waters clean and debris-free
• Participate only in responsible whale watching activities
• Support efforts to stop illegal whaling
• Support legislation, research and preservation programs
• Patronize eco-friendly companies and organizations
You can read books about whales, but with so many opportunities to see them up-close and personal, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start thinking now about your next Hawaii whale watching tour. It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s a great experience for the whole family
Humpback Whale Facts
• Humpback whales are the fifth largest animal on the planet!
• Female Humpback whales give birth only once every two to three years, so each calf born is a treasure.
• Humpback females are 50- to 55-foot long, dark-colored with distinctive bumps on their noses.
• Humpbacks' pectoral flippers are unusually long, nearly a third of their body length.
• Adult Humpbacks weigh 40-50 tons.
• Adult Humpback males are 30 to 45 feet in length.
• An adult Humpback will eat up to a ton of krill per day in Alaskan water.s
• Humpback calves weigh around one ton.
• Humpbacks calves consume 600 liters of milk per day.
• Along the underside of Humpback's body they have up to 22 throat pleats running from their chins to their navel.
• Hawaii's Humpbacks travel 3,000 to 5,000 miles from their northern Pacific Ocean feeding grounds.
• Humpback Whales are Baleen Whales.
• During feeding season, Humpback whales eat approximately 4 percent of their body size!
• Humpback whales shed, like all other whales.
• Humpback Whales don't actually sleep; they take cat naps.
• While one half of the brain Humpback's is sleeping, the other signals it to come to the surface to breathe and keeps it alert to predators.
• Much like human fingerprints, the markings on each Humpback whale's tail are unique.
• Humpbacks are known for their complex underwater vocalizations or whale songs.
• Humpback whales make one of the longest migrations of any mammal, 3,000 to 5,000 miles from their northern Pacific feeding grounds.
• Humpback whales undergo prolonged periods of fasting while visitng Hawaii.
• Humpbacks completely separated feeding from breeding and calving activities during the winter.
• Humpbacks have a very rough and ragged appearance once you get up close
• Humpbacks' large, wing-like pectoral fins, that can extend to 14 feet, a third the length of their entire body.
• Humpbacks are very energetic, they often leap clear of the water (breach).
• Humpback whales begin arriving in Hawaiian waters during November.
• Peak whale watching season in Hawaii extends from December through April.
• Approximately 25% of what Humpbacks eat during the summer is stored in the form of fat.
• Humpback whales spend the entire winter resting, mating and giving birth to a new generation.
• At the time that hunting of the Humpbacks finally ceased in the 1960s, there were as few as 500 left in existence.
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