Honestly – most visitors to Kauai, Hawaii during winter completely under-anticipate any up-close Hawaiian Humpback Whale encounter. Most are here envisioning sitting under a pristine coconut-tree- lined beach, possibly drinking a mai tai with an umbrella in it, or for honeymooners, maybe a hiking trek interlude to a secluded romantic waterfall. And that is all great, but were they to experience an encounter with a great Hawaiian Humpback Whale, they would be hooked, or call it to be whale addicted. There is no cure for this addiction. We see the same visitors year after year coming back for just these whales. One couple did five days straight of whale watching on my raft. I told them they would have to sign up for whale cancellation class before they can come back next year. They laughed, but were not deterred. Whale season really starts about December-May. Most visiting whales stay an average of 2-3 months, and moms and new calves longer. A great whale show may be the best day of your vacation and possibly one of the best days of your life.
It is hard to put into words the experience or feeling seeing a 50 ton creature that is 50 feet long floating right next to a puny 30 foot Zodiac raft, but I will give it my best shot here. First thing that comes to mind is they are similar in size to dinosaurs, so the size of these mostly gentle creatures is intimidating and kind of staggering to the mind. A modern whale watch raft trip to see them is about as close as you will get to a real Jurassic Park experience. The great news is that Humpbacks do not eat people, rather they eat the abundant krill and herring up in the northern Pacific Ocean between Russia to Alaska all summer long. That is where they bulk up to gain over a third of their fatty reservers. They need this to survive their mating and birthing winter vacation here in Hawaii.
Lets get something straight. I am a whale addict too. Every encounter is different for me. Sometimes it’s experiencing the love a feeding baby Humpbacks has, snuggled next to its mom. How is it possible to be so humanly drawn to whales? What is so exciting or addicting about Humpback whales? There are many explanations, but this is my best answer: There are very few animal mating behaviors that come close to the adrenaline-exciting mating battle-chase of a male Humpback whale. I will describe it like this: imagine an out-of-control speeding whale train going in any direction. The female is the engine, with no fewer than a dozen on average male whale boxcars in tow, the smaller younger, novice whale box cars at the back literally coming off the track. Each will try to slam on top of the whale in front – anything to achieve that box seat position behind the female at the lead. This is the time when breaching of the whales is greatest. The breech is described as a Humpback Whale launching itself airborne. Seeing two to three whales at once airborne is not uncommon. Most of the time it must be just for fun, but in a whale battle it is more an intimidating tactic. For a Humpback that does this correctly, and at the right time, it may be as an aggressive whale WWA wrestling move to get his whale adversary out of position, especially that whale in prime position up front by the female. And yes there are some bloody battles that go on. You can clearly see raw battle wounds on their humps. To the whales this is their Superbowl mating game. They live for this moment. This is what it is all about. The males have been patiently waiting, living for this mating game. Eight months of the year they feed in the north Pacific 2300 miles away, bulking up to store reserves for the body to feed off, and just as much to be able to throw more weight around during the mating game.
I encourage everybody to experience a Kauai Whale Watch this winter, to find out what this Humpback Whale mating thing is all about. The only thing I do ask of you is do not call me in the middle of the night asking about whales. Just remember whale addiction lasts forever.
Sincerely, Captain Chris, Napali Riders