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Hawaii Whale Watching: Mating and Giving Birth, Wow!

Male whales will also return to Hawaii each year with one purpose: to mate. Giving birth and mating are obviously huge draws. Hawaii whale watching is becoming a huge industry!


Hawaii Whale Watching

by Shari Bookstaff

In the clear blue waters off Hawaii’s tropical coastline, a spectacular event occurs every winter. Humpback whales return each year to give birth and mate in the waters off Hawaii. Whale watching during the right season is truly a specia l treat. Humpback whales reach lengths of up to 50 feet, with 15-foot long pectoral flippers and huge flukes. In these warm, calm, protected waters, humpback mothers arrive each January to give birth to calves. Males will also return to Hawaii each year with one purpose: to mate. Giving birth and having sex are obviously huge draws. Hawaii whale watching is becoming a huge industry!

On the island of Maui, you can find whale watch trips out of Lahaina and Ma‘alaea Harbors between December 1 and May 15 of each year. Some groups are so confident that you will see whales that they actually give you a “whale back” guarantee! If you don’t see whales on the first trip, go again for free! Hawaii whale watching is a fun, educational way to spend the afternoon. Prices range from $20 to $30.

Hawaii whale watching can bring you pretty close to these magnificent creatures. Humpback whales undergo a massive migration from cold, productive feeding grounds in Alaska to this warm, tropical nursery each year. The summer in Alaska allows them to eat lots of food, and put on a thick layer of blubber for their journey south. Since newborn whales don’t have a thick layer of blubber to keep them warm, they must be born in warm water. So, in Hawaii whale watching, you’ll be observing mothers suckling newborn calves, and males attempting to mate. For more on their activities during their summer feeding binges in Alaska, see my Alaska whale watching article.

Male humpback whales have a unique ritual they go through in their attempts to attract a mate. They sing a long, repeating song over and over again. Males can sing a song that lasts up to 20 minutes, and they can repeat the same song for as long as 24 hours! Yes, that is 24 hours of a male hovering in the water, perfectly still, singing. All males in the same area sing the same song. If one changes a note, the others will pick up the change and continue it. I guess they don’t want anyone else to attract attention! On many Hawaii whale watching voyages, the naturalist will place a hydrophone (underwater microphone) in the water so you can hear the songs of the whale.

Since Hawaii whale watching is such a popular tourist activity, there are many companies that offer this fantastic experience. Try to look for a company that has a naturalist on-board. Many of the Hawaii whale watching voyages also contribute to on-going humpback whale research, so you could be a whale researcher for the day!

So, plan a trip to this tropical paradise, but if you’re there in the winter, don’t forget to look out yonder for the chance to yell “Thar she blows”!

Shari Bookstaff is a biology professor in northern California, where she lives with her two children. Shari is an avid nature lover, sports fan and photographer.


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