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Humpback whale migration to Hawaii

a whale jumping out of the water

Beautiful weather, a clean and warm Ocean, and a breathtaking snorkelling experience are not the only reasons why Waikiki, Hawaii, is a perfect destination for all sorts of vacationers. It is an excellent opportunity to observe the Kohalas, or Humpback Whales in their natural habitat, as these magnificent creatures see this blessed land as an ideal place to breed and nurse their young ones.

Marine experts claim that today over two-thirds of the entire North Pacific Humpback Whales population choose this area as the safest and most comfortable to grow and nourish their offsprings. And that is why Waikiki, Hawaii is one of the best places on Earth to see those magnificent creatures in their natural environment.

During the season, from November to May, you can see with your own eyes how the most mysterious and majestic animals the world has ever seen are flocking carefree in the warm, clean ocean waters.

In this article, we shall talk about the environmental and cultural significance of the Humpback Whales and explain where and how you can meet those magnificent creatures.

Things you need to know about Humpback Whales.

First of all, let`s talk about Humpback Whales themselves. Ironically, one of the largest creatures on Earth is the most mysterious one. We all have heard of them, their breathtaking singings and graceful dance in the Ocean, but hardly anyone really knows anything about the nature, habits, and role of Humpback Whales in Earth’s evolution and environment.

Adult Humpback Whales are truly enormous creatures. They measure between 40 and 50 feet and can weigh up to 40 tons. Female Humpback Whales usually are larger than males.

Such a large animal definitely needs a lot of food! In fact, every adult Humpback Whale eats just about 1,5 tons every day. That said, it is particularly surprising that these whales don`t hunt for big sea creatures but mostly eat krill and small fish that they collect using a special “water filtering” anatomy of their mouths.

Technically, they just swim with an open mouth all day long, pushing out the enormous amount of water and filtering food out of it. However, the Humpback Whale`s hunting is one of the most thrilling and exciting phenomena in wild nature.

Humpback Whales are extremely social animals—their ability to cooperate and communicate becomes most striking in their unique hunting techniques. For example, these creatures have their signature move called “A Bubble Net.”

Swimming in circles just below a group of small fish, several whales trap their prey in a corridor of bubbles. Then they just swim through this “Bubble Net” and collect the fish that got caught in it.

Even though Humpback Whales live in the Ocean, they cannot breathe underwater. However, they are the world champions in holding their breath. An adult humpback whale would resurface to catch a breath just once in 20-25 minutes. It allows them to spend as little as 10% of their life out of water.

And when they do get on the surface, these massive creatures perform unbelievable acrobatic stunts. Some marine experts say that this behaviour is an expression of their playful and freedom-loving nature. Others claim that it is a part of their unique communication techniques, which, however, still remain understudied.

Another touch to the Kohala’s uniqueness is the structure of their tails, or Dorsal Fins and Flukes, as experts call them. Each whale’s tale is as unique as our human’s fingerprint. And unlike in the human world, we have never seen “twins” in the Humpback Whales` population yet.

The significance of Humpback Whales for Hawaii

The Koalas play a tremendous role in the ecosystem as well as the culture of Hawaii. You can see the mentioning of these magnificent creatures in numerous legends and tales of the Native Hawaiians, including the most significant, origin ones.

The first mentioning of Humpback Whales in Hawaiian culture goes as far as the world-famous Petroglyphs. Those are the ancient lava rock carvings found here that describe the life, culture, and beliefs of the Native Hawaiians. Among distinguished carvings of male and female human forms, boats, fish, and turtles, you can often clearly see silhouettes of the Koholas – the Humpback Whales.

These magnificent animals are considered natives to Hawaii, and therefore their migration cycle around the islands is celebrated here as an ultimate homecoming rather than just a part of the annual migration.

Indeed, over 70% of Humpback Whales are the Kamaiinas, which means that they are native-born to Hawaii, which is entirely true as this area is the Whales` favourite place to breed, nourish and raise their youngsters.

Humpback whales have always been and still remain spiritual animals and guardians for many Hawaiians. That is why they are treated here with great respect and care as the community’s Elders or spiritual messengers.

How do Humpback Whales migrate, and why is Hawaii the best place to see them?

Humpback Whales’ lives are roughly divided into two periods – feeding and mating. That is why they tend to migrate twice a year.

Cold polar waters are the perfect feeding grounds for those gigantic animals as they are the home for numerous species of small fish and shrimp that form the whales’ diet.

At the same time, warm shallow tropical waters around Hawaii Islands are ideal to mate, nourish and raise young Kohalas. The mating season usually takes place between the end of November and May. Therefore, it is the best time to come and see these mysterious animals in their natural habitat.

During the last several decades, the Whales migration habits have been altered due to climate change, global warming, and pollution of the Ocean. Today Humpback Whales are forced to look for alternative migration routes, compromise on food supplies, and other significant factors to find safe and comfortable areas for breeding.

Fortunately, Hawaii remains the Ocean’s sanctuary that manages to preserve ideal conditions for these majestic animals. Therefore, these waters attract more and more Humpback Whales every year, giving us a unique opportunity to get closer to those mysterious creatures, study them and help them preserve and multiply their population.

Another reason why Humpback Whales prefer the Hawaiian waters is the absence of predators that can harm their calves during the most vulnerable first months of their lives. That is why visiting Waikiki, Hawaii; you get a chance to observe the families of Humpback Whales during their most precious and spectacular periods, witness the ultimate miracle of nature.

Is it easy to see Humpback Whales in Hawaii?

Almost 15,000 Humpback Whales choose Hawaii as their winter breeding destination now. Considering the fact that they are extremely active with their famous acrobatic stunts and “dancing” during that period, it is really easy to witness Kohalas in Hawaii once they get close to the coast.

It means that if you come to Hawaii sometime between the middle of November and May, you are almost certain to witness Humpback Whales in their natural habitats. While, of course, due to streams, water temperature, and many other factors, some spots are more popular among Humpback Whales than others, Hawaii still remains the best destination to observe the Humpback Whales.

However, it still does not mean that you are guaranteed to see the dancing whales any time you glance at the Ocean. Like most marine animals, Koalas are most active at dawn and sunset.

That is why if meeting them is one of the main reasons for your visit to Hawaii, we strongly recommend planning your trip and considering special camping destinations and guided tours that will guarantee you a rendezvous with those mysterious animals.

What is the best way to see Humpback Whales in Hawaii?

As we have already mentioned, there are numerous special camping spots at beach parks that will allow you to observe Kohalas from the shore. However, it is important to remember that you will need to request a special camping permit beforehand. These permits can easily be purchased a year in advance through the camp reservation websites. Don’t forget to take a pair of quality binoculars as Humpback Whales won’t get closer than a few miles to the coastline.

However, a boat tour is definitely the best possible option to view the Humpback Whales. Not only are those tours guided by experts who are familiar with the whales’ behavior and habits, but they allow you to come as close as possible to those magnificent creatures and get a truly breathtaking and unforgettable experience.

Due to environmental safety regulations and naturally in respect for those admirable creatures, all boats have to keep at least 100 yards away from the Kohalas. However, we are talking about a 40-ton animal rising from the depth of the Ocean. Therefore, this 100-yard distance will seem surprisingly close and let you fully observe Humpback Whales without the risk of harming or disturbing them. It is a truly unforgettable experience.

Here at Hawai’i Ocean Charters, we offer private boat charters for small groups in Waikiki, Hawaii. It allows you to experience the ultimate unity with the Ocean and its greatest miracles, including Humpback Whale watching.

Spend your romantic vacation observing breathtaking sunsets or have a bonding and educational experience with your family and friends guided by professionals who guarantee your safety and comfort throughout the trip.

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