Whale Watching with Redline Rafting

March 2021

Whale Watching with Redline Rafting – Maui, Hawaii

One reason I was so excited to travel to Hawaii this time of year was the opportunity to experience peak whale season. Humpback whales make their migration to Maui and surrounding areas for breeding and birthing season but Maui especially gets a very high density of the traffic due to the ideal condition of the waters.

Let’s review some fun facts about humpback whales in Maui:

  • Whale season is December to April – people reported seeing whales as early as October this past year and can sometimes witness then as late as June but it is those whale season months where the density is highest and the ocean is full of whales
  • These guys are giant – 60 feet long and up to 40 tons! The tail alone can be 18 feet wide. The females are larger than the males.
  • When the humpback spouts through the blow hole, it actually makes a “v” shape – that is because there are actually two blowholes – one for each lung (that is the size of a compact vehicle)
  • Whales have distinct markings on the underside of the tail – like a fingerprint – and it is how they are identified and tracked
  • Only the males can sing and it is one of the biggest mysteries among the humpbacks – and the song changes every year – and they all sing the same one – mind blown
  • These humpbacks come down from Alaska to Maui for breeding and birthing but what is interesting is that they do not eat anything when they are in Maui – nothing – there is no krill in Hawaii to eat – and can lost up to a third of their body weight – sometimes more for females that have the additional need to feed their calf, which is a 12 foot, 2000 pound baby

When we kayaked in Alaska, our guide Emma previously worked some seasons in Maui and was able to give us some great recommendations. One of them was taking a whale watching tour with Redline Rafting. I opted to go with the earliest time slot of 7AM to minimize the risk of seasickness as the winds are lighter and the sea is calmer. I still medicated with my handy meclizine but more and more I am noticing my sensitivity to the motions of the boat is going up despite max medication doses.

Redline’s COVID precautions were great – the boat was limited to a max capacity of eight people which is probably half the size the boat could carry and everyone also had to wear masks on the entire journey which I was pleasantly surprised to learn. At check in, they also preformed temperature checks and would be able to contact trace based on the guest information at booking. 

Our guides were extremely knowledgeable and friendly. As we boarded the boat, we went through some required safety messages and then we were off into the ocean in site of humpback whales. The driver put on some Hawaiian music and it felt like we were in a dream. The sky here is so enormous – you feel like you are in a globe. Everywhere you looked was big sky.

It did not take us very long to get our first glimpses of humpback whales. Seeing blow holes are a good sign, seeing tales are a bad sign. Tales – while the coolest thing to see – means the whale is diving down and may not surface again for several minutes, sometimes up to twenty. This means tale sightings are often not pursued on a two hour tour. 

Before long, our guides got excited at the spotting of a competition pod. A competition pod indicates that there are several male humpback whales vying to be the primary escort to a single female. These occur close to the surface and create quite a stir – the males perform difference techniques to bump and tire out the other males to be the last standing male for rights to mate with the female.

While we had to stay a distance away, it was incredible to see this in action! The whales would take turns coming up for air, one would fill its mouth with water popped its head above water and then pound down to be heavier than the other males in the competition. Another would stick its fin high in the air and then propel it downwards. It was really hard to believe we got lucky enough to see this in action. 

We stayed with that group for a majority of the tour. Towards the end we started back to the coast to see if we could find a mother and calf but were unsuccessful – and that was ok. We had such an incredible showing! 

Now it goes without saying that with all nature tours, there is never a guarantee of seeing what you are in search of – weather it be humpback whales or a sunrise at Haleakala. The tour after us ended up seeing no humpback whales – zero! So while we had a very fortunate experience, the guides do their best to provide the best time with their guests and sometimes nature does not always cooperate. 

I would definitely recommend Redline Rafting as the staff were awesome, I felt that the tour was reasonably priced, and the company is taking COVID precautions seriously. 

How did this experience different from whale watching in the water? Coming soon!

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