There are many opportunities to see whales in Hawaii, but the best and most unique way to get up close and personal with these marine mammals is aboard the Hina, a Hawaiian Sailing Canoe or wa’apea – as it’s known in local speak – modeled after ancient Hawaiian navigation vessels.
When you are sitting on the Hina’s net you can see the water underneath you, feel the ocean spray on your skin, and bask in the beauty of the three islands (Maui, Molokai, Lanai) that surround you. Being on a sailing canoe puts you directly in the heart of the ocean’s action and in a prime location to see the Humpback whales that come to Maui for a few months every winter to escape the cold waters of Alaska and to nurse their newly born calves.
The real advantage of being on the canoe is how close the whales will come to the vessel. There is no motor to deter the whales away and, as curious as they are, they want to come say hello. When you are within fifteen feet of a roughly 79,000 pound, extremely powerful creature, you experience awe – that mixture of surprise, terror, and respect that rocks your soul deep down.
To take that experience to the next level, when you are within a safe distance of the whales, your guides might suggest you get in the water to hear the whale’s song. Don’t hesitate, jump in the water and listen to your new whale friend singing to you. It’s not difficult to do this as all you have to do is stick your head under the water, avoid splashing around and making too much noise, and you can easily hear the whales’ singing. The experience is magical.
Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Adventures never guarantees whale sightings, but their guides are well versed in their Hawaiian whale calls and have a pretty high success rate. If luck isn’t on your side, don’t fret, because your guides will help you discover many of the ocean’s treasures, whether they are pulling out an octopus to crawl on your arms for a few minutes or taking you to snorkel among sea turtles, manta rays, spotted eagle rays, dolphins, eels, urchins and colorful reef fish.
[Written by Meredith Donaldson, owner of World Citizen (an independent contracted company affiliated with Casto Vacations)]