The humpback whale-watching season in Hawaii usually runs each year from November to April. The first whale of this year’s season, however, has already been spotted.
A lone, juvenile humpback whale was spotted last week near Maui by Nick Moran, helicopter flight instructor and chief pilot of Go Fly Maui, and a student while on a flight. Moran and the student were able to take videos of the whale with their cellphones.
“We were doing some training flights, some patterns out at Hana Airport, and we spotted some splashing offshore,” Moran said, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. “We flew over, and sure enough, it was a little humpback whale. And it stayed on the surface for about another minute.”
A number of humpback whales were then seen over the weekend near Kauai.
Why The Whales Travel To Hawaii
Humpback whales, which can weigh up to 40 tons and be 60 feet long, live between 80 and 90 years. They can be found in oceans all around the world and migrate thousands of miles each year.
One of the humpback whale populations lives in the northern Pacific, near Alaska. Every winter, they migrate to Hawaii — swimming 3,000 miles in as little as 28 days, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Once in Hawaii’s warm, shallow waters, they mate, give birth, and raise their young, before making their way back toward Alaska.
The humpback whale gets its common name from the distinctive hump on its back. Humpback whales are a favorite of whale watchers for two reasons. First, they are found close to shore, so they are easy to see — even from land. Secondly, they are very active and can frequently be seen breaching (or jumping) out of the water and slapping the surface with their pectoral fins or tails.
Humpback Whale Sightings Increase
While humpback whale season in Hawaii is generally considered to begin in November, it isn’t unusual to begin seeing the whales earlier. Last year, for example, the first whale of the season was spotted October 8.
After the first humpback whale of this season was spotted by Moran and his flight student last week, more were seen over the weekend near Kauai.
The next sighting was on Saturday, by Captain Cole Burton of Blue Dolphin Charters, who was out with a tour west of Waimea, an article on The Garden Island reports. Some of his passengers saw the whale, so Burton turned the boat around so they could wait to see the whale again, which happened at 9:10 a.m.
Also on Saturday, Blue Dolphin Charters Captain Evan Hurd spotted a whale around 3:35 p.m. while also out on a tour.
Finally, also on Saturday, while on an evening tour, Captain Mike Lynch of Holo Holo Charters saw a baby humpback whale breach the water six times. That whale was spotted about a quarter-mile off Nohili Point.
Know Before You Go
If you’re interested in traveling to Hawaii to see the humpback whales, the good news is that there are plenty of opportunities.
The Hawaiian Islands explains that humpback whales can be seen from all of the Hawaiian Islands. That said, one of the best places for whale watching is the Auau Channel between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, the group explains. Humpback whales are also frequently seen from the southern shores of Oahu — especially at Makapuu Lighthouse and along the seaside overlooks near Leahi.
A number of companies offer humpback whale-watching tours so you can get relatively close to the whales. On the other hand, the whales can also be seen from the shore when they breach. Using binoculars from the shore will make it easier to see the humpback whales.