Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary - 45 Ton Talks

For years we had been passing The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (wow, that's a mouthful!) on South Kihei Road, and until today I had never stopped to see what it was all about. Shame on me!!! Robyn Walters, who happens to be a neighbor or ours, was today's presenter for the talk.  She welcomed us in Hawaiian, and then asked if we minded if she spoke English for the rest of the presentation. Nobody objected.

Robyn emphasized that the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary is not the Pacific Whale Foundation as many people think, even though they work together at some levels.  The  main goals of the Sanctuary are education, outreach and resource protection and volunteers help with the various programs.  While on Trilogy's Blue Aina Reef Clean Up cruise in early February, I had already met volunteers, Jeep and Flo, who were on board to collect water samples for the water quality control, as well as to do counts of the various fish on that particualar reef.
Baleen in the foreground and mother and baby whale models behind
Robyn's talk was most informative and a big screen slide show, with some movies interjected, was a fantastic visual aid. She showed us some actual baleen from a humpback whale and explained how it filtered out the krill and other small fish that the whales eat while in Alaska, their summer feeding grounds. She also passed around a little jar of krill for us to look at. It was pretty unbelievable when we saw a photo of a whale with its jaw almost dislocated to take in food. They can ingest a staggering 30,000 gallons of water (the size of a backyard swimming pool) before the food is filtered through the baleen.

It never fails to astonish me that the humpback whales are in a state of starvation during the winter months they spend in Hawaii. No wonder they have so much blubber. We also learned that females are larger than the males because not only do they carry a calf that weighs 1 ton at birth, but they produce over 80 gallons of milk per day.  That is quite a lot of weight to be carrying around! Also when they are nursing they lose a lot of their body fat so it is necessary for them to be very heavy to begin with.

During the talk, Robyn threw out many whale related words such as Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), Nares (nostrils), Balaenopteridae (our whales), tubercles (little fist sized bumps on the whale's flippers), caudel peduncle (the part of the whale's body to which the caudel or tail fin is attached) and more. I guess we all went home a little smarter!  There were some amazing photos of tails, spyhops, breaches and fin slaps, mostly taken by volunteers, and at the end there was a video showing a whale that was tangled up in fishing line, being rescued. Robyn has a wonderful sense of humor and a great way of presenting. You can tell she loves sharing information and educating people about the humpback whales. As a former teacher, I think I am qualified to give her top marks!! If it is your first time in Maui you may want to attend a 45 ton talk and learn about these amazing mammals before going on a whale watch.

The sanctuary always welcomes volunteers and they even have training sessions at various times of the year.
There are many ways a volunteer can help including, going into the schools and educating children about whales, giving talks as Robyn did today, speaking in the education centre, doing water quality testing, counting fish, whales and other marine life and more. Read about 10 things we can all do to help protect our ocean resources.  The organization also does outreach programs at various hotels and other locations such as the Maui Ocean Centre.

After the talk I looked around the Education Centre, where there are many displays and also lectures and workshops at various times.
There were many interesting displays to look at

A display about the Sea Turtles found on Maui

During whale season the 45 ton talks are on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at 11:00 AM and on Thursday evenings at 7:00 PM.  In the off season the talks are just in the mornings.

If you go to the west side over in Kaanapali, there are also talks at the Whaler's Village every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, twice a day at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

For more information about this amazing organization visit the website of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. There is a calendar of events there and lots of great information.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Maui Whale Watch and Snorkeling Cruise - Pride of Maui

On Monday I was back on The Pride of Maui for an afternoon Maui whale watch and snorkel cruise with my friend Lucy. We were mainly here for the whale watch because February is peak season for whales on Maui.  While we were checking in at Maalaea Harbor, I snapped a photo of the catamaran coming in with its morning passsangers.  My husband and I been on the Pride of Maui back in December for a sunset dinner and cocktail cruise so I was familiar with this wonderful vessel.

Lucy and I waiting to board

Just before boarding Captain Patrick introduced himself and gave the mandatory safety talk before we could get on the boat. I found out later that he has been a captain on the Pride of Maui for 15 years, and loves being out on the ocean because every day is different.  He was raised in Lahaina and grew up on boats so it was a natural transition for him to become a captain.
Captain Patrick
As last time we were greeted warmly by the friendly staff, and then we made our way up the stairs to the top of the boat.  The afternoon excursion isn't quite as crowded as the morning one so we had no trouble finding a great seat that even had storage underneath it for our bags.  We were barely out of the harbor when the captain called out that there were whales at 11 o'clock off the bow of the ship.  We were treated to a great show of breaches, pectoral fin slaps and tail waving by a mother and her calf. If you think a baby whale is small just because it's a baby, well,  think again.

Captain Patrick told us that a newborn calf is 12 to 15 ft. in length and weighs a whopping 1 to 2 tons.  Not only that but the baby drinks an astounding 100 gallons of the mother's rich milk every day. Girls, can you imagine even producing that much milk, especially in a state of starvation? I had learned quite a lot about whales on previous whale watches but it never fails to impress me that these gentle giants migrate each year all the way from Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii where they mate and give birth to their young. Their feeding grounds are Alaska because food is abundant in the North Pacific, however while in Hawaii they are literally in a state of starvation until they return to Alaska.
A beautiful sight ( I didn't take this photo but I own it royalty free)
When mother and calf had each shown their beautiful tail as they disappeared into the ocean, the captain announced that they could be down for up to 40 minutes before having to come up again and breathe. He also mentioned that the design on each whale's fluke is unique just as our fingerprints are, so that is how they can be identified by scientists and marine biologists or anyone else who knows what to look for. For more information about the humpback whales visit the Maui Whale Watching page on Pride's website.
What a start to the trip!  Now we were all actively looking for more whales as we continued on our way.

Heading out to sea
Lucy and I were so enjoying being out on the ocean on this sunny Maui afternoon that our troubles just flew away in the wind. Down below first mate Matt was serving sodas and a special concoction designed to help a queasy stomach for anyone who might be prone to sea sickness.  The drink was made with seven up and cut up ginger, so being a big ginger fan I decided to try it even though my sea legs were just fine.  Lucy tried it too because she was a bit worried that she might feel queasy.  It must have worked because she never complained! Great stuff!

First mate Matt with my ginger drink on the right
Almost everywhere we looked we saw whales either blowing, breaching, swimming, or showing off their tails. How exciting was that! We came across a competition pod of males and Captain Patrick stopped the boat the required 100 yards away from them. They seemed a little angry and I guess it was because they were all after the same female. Apparently when they are into this aggresive behaviour they can actually cut each other up with the sharp barnacles that are on their bodies. Wow, were we ever learning a lot about the humpback whales!
Finally it was announced that we were nearing Coral Gardens, the snorkeling site for today.  As we approached the little bay which is just below the end of the Pali, we saw a couple of other snorkel boats and amazing blue green water.

Approaching Coral Gardens
Earlier on, those who wanted to snorkel were given masks and fins and then the captain invited anyone who wanted a snorkeling lesson to assemble.  I thought this was great because there are always people who have never snorkeled before and also people who have never been taught properly.  For example I only just found out that for years I had been putting on my mask the wrong way.

Snorkeling lesson from Captain Patrick

Lucy and I decided not to snorkel this time, so we just enjoyed watching everyone getting into the water and having fun.  The crew were right there to help and they had lots of flotation devices for anyone who couldn't float or needed a bit of extra security. They even had boards for kids to hold onto, as well as a fun slide.  Jason, one of the four crew members was life guard for the day. Sorry Jason, that I never snapped a shot of you.

When I went below this time, I caught Stephanie, who had been one of the crew on our dinner cruise, cooking up hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch.  Then Captain Patrick took her place and barbequed up some chicken. Lots of choices. My mouth was already watering from the delicious smells so I couldn't wait to get my teeth into a cheese burger. Lucy chose the chicken and when we finally got our lunch it was delicious and eating outside in the sea air, made it even better!
Stephanie cooking hamburgers and hotdogs

The captain barbequing the chicken
After lunch we headed out to find more whales and we did. Eventually it was time to go back to Maalaea Harbor. Boy did that 4 hours ever go by fast!

Heading back to Maalaea Harbor
It seemed like every second person I spoke to on the ship was from Alberta Canada. First I met a couple from Clive Alberta, near Red Deer. Gary had just come in from snorkeling so I asked him how it was.  He said it was nice and clear and that he saw lots of colourful fish and even swam with a sea turtle. While he was snorkeling his wife Bev was looking after their grandson Liam. 

Gary and Bev Krochak with grandson Liam
The Nelson family, from Edmonton, were having a family reunion and 16 of them were on the boat representing four generations.  Mike and Tracy Nelson, who have a four year old son, told me that they always choose the Pride of Maui and have been on it at least 8 times. They said that they recommend the Pride of Maui to everyone they meet. I thought their reasons were most valid after our experience, so thought I would share them with you.

1.  The boat is nice and big so it is more stable which is especially good if you are prone to sea-sickness
2.  The crew is always super friendly and helpful.
3.  The captain is very knowledgable about whales and so the cruise is educational.
4.  There are boogie boards with site holes for kids, and all snorkeling equipment is provided.
5.  There are lots of food choices for adults as well as kids.
6.   Mai Tais, beer, wine and other alcoholic drinks are included in the price.
7.   Great value for a four hour excursion with all the above.

I asked Mike if I could take a group photo so I did just that when we got off the boat.
The Nelson family from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada representing 4 generations
 If you are interested in a combination Maui Whale Watch and Snorkeling Cruise have a look on The Pride of Maui website. If you book online it is only $37.95 for each adult and $26.95 per child so you save $8.00 per ticket. Great value for the money!!!!

Thankyou Pride of Maui for another fantastic excursion!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

World Whale Day in Kalama Park Kihei Maui

Saturday was World Whale Day and Kalama Park in Kihei was the place to celebrate our whales that return every winter to the warm Hawaiian waters to mate and give birth.

The Parade of Whales kicked off the day from 9:00 to 10:00 along South Kihei Road. I snapped a photo of this fun float as I walked up pretty Halama St. on my way to Kalama Park.


As I approached Kalama Park from my ocean side walk, a sea of tents were sitting beneath the Haleakala mountain ridge, and strains of Hawaiian music wafted my way, inviting me to attend this special event.

I found my way to the entrance and was immediately part of the throngs of people wandering around the park.  This was definitely a happenin' Maui event. Eco Alley had booths represented by more than 15 non -profits working on Maui to protect our resources. I thought this was so neat and one guy who was a volunteer for the Monk Seal Response Team let me take a photo of his back.

"Made on Maui" was the motto of the day and the many local artisans were displaying their wonderful hand made arts and crafts.

I was fascinated by a display called Bhakti Rocks.  Ane Colby-Takaha has created some beautiful paintings on stone. When I got home I looked up their website and let me tell you, it is interesting to read about her journey. Don't we all have one? 

I was also taken by some fun ceramic blow fish by an artist named Lynn. You can visit her website which is called Sparrow Seas to see all of her unique creations.
Wow. I couldn't believe this day. There was stuff for kids galore including shave ice, cotton candy and lots of inflatable fun rides.

There were a zillion food booths representing some of Kihei's best restaurants. You could choose from Shaka Pizza, Stella Blues, Monsoon India, and many more local restaurants. I think all you had to do was buy scripts which translated into dollars to pay for the food.
 I haven't even mentioned the amazing entertainment that was there for this event. There was everyone from John Cruz to Willie K, to Happa, to Lukas Nelson (son of Willie Nelson) to mention but a few popular Maui entertainers. We attended the performance by Willie K and OMG I can't begin to tell you the crowds he brought in. I was barely able to snap a photo between people dancing and getting right into his music.

Needless to say we had a fun time at the World Whale Day celebration in Kalama Park, Kihei, Maui.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Favourite Maui Sunset Photos

Maui sunsets are the best, and today I've decided to post some of my favourite shots for all to enjoy.  The first five photos were taken at Waiohuli Beach just across the road from where we live. Life doesn't get any better than this!

The next one was taken from Mulligan's on the Blue in Wailea where we enjoy Joyce and Gord every Monday night.

The next two were taken from Gannons, one of our favourite happy hour hang outs

The next one was taken in Kaanapali looking towards the island of Molokai

I took this final one on The Pride of Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise

If you are considering a Maui vacation this Spring, Summer or Fall, our Maui Garden House is available for rent. It is in a fantastic location for Maui sunsets.