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!


  1. Very nice write-up. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi! It's Lucy, thanks for taking me along Julie, I had a blast!.

  3. Great blog, Julie! We've always enjoyed our trips on the Pride of Maui!

  4. Hi Julie, It was nice to meet you! We really enjoyed our snorkel trip once again with whole family (4 generations Wow!) can't wait for our next trip with the Pride of Maui!

    The Nelson's