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Yesterday I stopped by the Diamond Head lighthouse to enjoy the view. Through the haze, I could make out the splashes of several whales in the distance. Standing among a group of enthusiastic first time tourists, I also found myself enjoying the whale sighting. It got me wondering about our large, gentle winter residents and why us humans find them so fascinating.
Approximately 10,000 Humpback whales visit Hawaii each year between the months of November – May with February being the peak month. The annual migration begins early fall from the Gulf of Alaska. The whales select one of three “winter whale vacation hot spots” the coast of Baja in Mexico, islands off the south east coast of Japan and the largest group (nearly 60%) coming to cruise Hawaii. The whales travel nearly 3,500 miles from their feeding grounds in Alaska, taking about 4-8 weeks round-trip. While the majority of the whales end up in the waters off Maui, they can be seen from many of the Hawaiian Islands – including Oahu.
So why do these whales come winter in Hawaii? For the same reasons as all tourists – great weather (warm waters create a suitable environment for newborn calves), beautiful ocean (protective shallower waters within the deep Pacific), lack of stress (no deadly Orca whales in Hawaii), and to drink a tasty Mai Tai!
It is an amazing once in a lifetime experience to observe the Humpback. I recommend you come see these amazing creatures for yourself and you will understand why ancient Hawaiians believed the whale to be the god of animals in the ocean.
Photo By Pacific Whale Foundation