"" Writer's Wanderings: Maui - Whale pec slapping

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Maui - Whale pec slapping

The pectoral fin of a humpback whale can be up to 15 feet in length. The size/weight of the pectoral is about 1/3 of the size/weight of the whale which, for an adult, can be 52 feet in length and 30-50 tons in weight. When that pec fin slaps the water everyone and everything around it knows.

On our first whale watching expedition, we came upon a whale that seemed to be just enjoying his swim. He would roll and lift his pectoral and slap it down in the water creating a huge splash. The splash is what got our attention and we headed in his direction. Some say the pec slapping is a form of communication. Others say the whale is just enjoying his leisure swim.

The whale we observed seemed to fit the latter category. He even got on his back and extended both pectorals in the air as if he were going to do the backstroke. We watched, fascinated. These creatures never cease to amaze.

Some tips for those of you who might want to go whale watching in Maui. There are all sorts of companies eager to take you out. Be sure you check out what kind of boat you will be on. Some of them are semi-inflatibles which means the top of the boat is like a rubber raft. It may not be the best way for you to travel if you are prone to motion sickness. There are also catamarans and large boats resembling passenger ferries. We prefer the larger boats and on both of our trips to Maui have used the Lahaina Cruise Co., aka Hawaii Ocean Project.

Time of day is not necessarily important for seeing the whales. You will see whales--especially in February. The whale season runs from December through May. What we found though is that it seemed easier to spot the whales earlier in the morning because of the angle of the sun and temps were cooler than on the late afternoon run. Both the first run and the last afternoon run are a reduced price and there is a package deal if you have the time to do seven trips during your stay. The package deal worked for us.

Don't worry about where you sit on the boat. Everyone ends up getting out of their seats and walking around for the best whale views. Topside is generally best because you can get a panoramic view without too much trouble. The lower deck on some of the boats is very easy to get around as well and you can position yourself out of the sun mostly--unless of course the whale shows up on the sunny side.

The guides on board are very informative and know their stuff about whales. They put it in terms most of us can understand, i.e. "a whale is the size of a schoolbus."

And of course, there are lots of trinkets available to buy with much of the proceeds going to fund whale research. This was emphasized. I believe the owner/captain of the fleet is committed to making sure legitimate researchers are funded.

Hana Ho! Thar she blows! Whatever the lingo, it is an amazing experience.

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