"" Writer's Wanderings: A Whale Of A Story

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A Whale Of A Story

Back in 2012 we stayed  for a period on Maui in Hawaii. It was whale watching time since January through March is when the whales come into that area to have their babies and mate. Here is one of my favorite stories from that trip.

A Whale Mugging

Some call it kidnapped. Others call it mugged. Whatever the term, it is one of the best experiences you can have on a whale watch. Regulations in the Maui Nui basin prohibit approaching a whale any closer than 100 yards. But no one has found a way to regulate the whales approaching a boat closer than 100 yards. When it happens, the boat must sit and idle until the whale is a safe distance away and the propellers can again be set in motion.

During one of our first excursions into whale watching several years ago it happened! We were mugged! Meaning, three whales began swimming around and under our boat. They played with us for almost 45 minutes as we idled in place and eventually turned off the engine to save fuel, making us late getting back to shore. It was amazing to see the creatures up close and personal. They would turn over, belly side up, and zip under the boat giving us a view of the beauty and grace of these gentle giants. We were treated to a spy hop--a behavior where the whale pokes its head above the surface for a look-see.

This trip, we wondered if it would happen again. We had purchased a package deal of seven whale watching adventures, each two hours long, and were on our seventh when we were again treated to a mugging. We were observing a small competition pod chasing after a female when all of a sudden we realized the female was underneath the boat. She had been beside us tail slapping the water--we took it to mean "get lost boys." It was easy enough to figure out that she'd hidden beneath us because the two males competing for her attention all of a sudden changed course and charged toward us. Breathtaking for a moment. Imagine two school bus-sized whales heading straight for you, water frothing as they are coming at full speed!

Just before reaching the boat, they dove and that's when the captain realized that the female was using us as protection. The three whales swam under and around us, between our boat and a smaller boat next to us, and even surfaced with a couple of spy hops (unfortunately, I wasn't in the best position for a photo this time). They circled and dove and splashed and blew whale snot at us for a time and then moved off far enough that we were released and could make a break for town. On the close up encounter of one of the males you can see where it looks like he might have some damage from fighting with other males--but then I'm not an expert and didn't notice it until I looked at my pictures.

Our two hour trip was over as were our whale watching adventures for now. We felt privileged to have had such close encounters one more time.

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