Pacific Whale Foundation:
We enjoyed Maui’s top-rated whale watching aboard one of the Pacific Whale Foundation’s catamarans, where they provided us with professional narration by an expert marine naturalist. Our naturalist was outstanding in her knowledge of whales, their behaviors and explanations. We learned some amazing facts; a female humpback whale weighs approximately 60,000 to 80,000 pounds. A Humpback becomes sexually mature between 4 and 8 years of age. The whales mate during the winter months in the warm waters of Maui. A female is pregnant approximately 11-12 months before she gives birth to a single baby calf. Calves are 10 to 12 feet in length when born and usually weigh 1 to 1 ½ tons. The calf lives off of their mother’s milk, drinking up to 100 pounds a day for a period of 5 to 7 months. The baby will stay by its mother’s side for up to a year. A female usually bears one calf every 2 or 3 years. Humpback whales make the 30,000 mile journey from Alaska to Maui each year to mate or to give birth. Scientists feel that the reason humpback whales have chosen Maui is because of its warm shallow waters and the protection it provides to the whales from their number one predator, sharks.
Amazingly, whales don’t engage in feeding behaviors while in Hawaii, essentially they are fasting for 4 to 6 months. They may feed opportunistically, but there is actually very little food for them here. Keep in mind that the most nutrient-rich areas of the world’s oceans are the cooler, polar regions. These areas support large populations of small fish. In contrast, Hawaii’s warm waters contain much less nutrient material (which is why the ocean is so clear). Humpback whales of the North Pacific spend their summers feeding in an area that stretches from the Aleutian Islands of Alaska to the Farallon Islands of California. A whale can consume nearly a ton of food per day. (In the North Pacific, humpbacks feed primarily on small teleost [bony) fishes such as herring and capelin.) A humpback whale can lose up to 1/3 of their body weight….too bad that doesn’t apply to us humans while on Maui, entirely too much good food to consume!
It was absolutely breathtaking to see these huge humpback whales breaching, slapping their tails and their flippers. We observed females with their calf and pods of males fighting amongst each other. Male whales will literally head slap, and tail slap each other. Some even breach right on top of another male, perhaps to “impress” the female and ward off the competition. This competition can become extremely aggressive. We were simply in awe of these enormous whales and their behavior. We saw so many whales, they were everywhere. Truly an experience, I will personally never forget.