It is whale-watching season here in Maui: the humpbacks all swim to warmer waters to mate and give birth in January and February, and that makes for some prime opportunities to see these giant sea mammals in action.

On recommendation from Fodor’s Maui, we decided to take a whale-watching tour with Trilogy Excursions, which uses a smaller boat than the Pacific Whale Foundation (holding only 35 people, versus PWF’s 100 or so), but who also give a portion of their profits to help sustain the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary as well as the Blue Aina reef cleanup program.

We boarded the catamaran at Lahaina Harbor, after a light lunch a few blocks away in the touristy part of town. The crew was friendly and informative, but they warned us that they had no set destination; we were just going to sail around until someone saw a whale. “Humpbacks are the biggest things in the ocean around here,” the naturalist told us. “So if you see something that looks like a whale, it probably is.”

The first part of our tour was fairl uneventful, other than getting my pants soaked from a hug wave that crashed onto the front of the boat right where I was sitting. I began to despair that we would see any whales at all.

Then someone shouted, “Thar she blows, five o’clock!”

Sure enough, there were a couple of whales, far away, engaging in what our naturalist called “aggressive male behavior.” Apparently the males, when in competion for the females, tend to do lots of tail slaps. Which is good for us!

We couldn’t get too close, though, since both whales took off really quickly as soon as we headed in their direction.

Now we all knew what to look for, though, and everyone had their eyes trained on the horizon, scanning for the telltale spout.

We saw about 10 whales in all, but none of them came really close to us, and by law we could not come within 100 yards of these protected creatures. When a whale breaches or slaps its tail, it only spends about 2-3 seconds in the air, and that is barely enough time for your brain to send the signal to your finger to click the “shoot” button on the camera, and for the camera to make its own adjustments. I spent the first part of the trip just trying to figure out the best way to capture these moments, when I remembered that my iPhone shoots in HD!

So I spent the rest of the trip with my phone in the air, pointed at the horizon, hoping it would capture something. And amazingly, it did!

Poor Ray wasn’t able to enjoy any of it, I’m afraid. Sea-sickness was his companion for the entirety of the trip, and he spent most of the time in the back with ginger, water, and ready access to the railing.

After we made it back to land, it was to say goodbye to my mom. She had to go back to Oahu for work, even though Ray and I still have several more days left in our adventure here.

Call Me Ishmael
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