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Whale Season Has Begun!

Well whale season 2015 is officially up and running!  This year begins a new chapter of whale watching for me as I begin the season with running the trips as a captain for the first time in my seven years as a whale naturalist.  So far we have had some exciting trips complete with the full run of behaviors: competition groups, mother/calf combos, escorts, adolescents, breaching, etc. etc. etc.  Another exciting aspect to the start of this season is that I was just published for the first time.  Check out the article here:

10 Reason To Go Whale Watching In Maui

Stay tuned as videos and pictures will start to roll in from this season.

Merry Christmas!

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Caleb’s Footage

I have not seen too many muggings so far this year, but fortunately some of my coworkers have! Check out Caleb’s footage from a whale watch a couple weeks ago…

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/86491383″>Whale Watch 2-11-14</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user8667081″>Caleb Dunham</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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I can finally say that it now feels like whale season.  Although the calendar turns to December 15, it doesn’t always mean that the whales know that.  The last few days on the water, however, it has actually felt like my favorite time of year has begun.  Yesterday, we were crossing to Lana’i and had to stop several times for a variety of groups that popped up.  I had my first close encounter with a very active competition group.  There were a few boats watching them, we slowed as we approached and the female made a turn toward our boat, Trilogy VI. The five whales in the group, plus calf in tow, blew by our port side.  Mom was on a mission to get out of there, but hesitant to move too fast, in the event it would leave her little one behind. It was a “drive by” style sighting, but exciting to see.

Today, I worked a whale watch and sunset sail, on both trips we were focused on one group, while watching several others simultaneously.  Now, typically, this can be discouraging because it distracts our passengers from the main show which is right in front of us.  But seeing it today was reassuring and made me think that we have a good season coming our way.

No pictures or videos yet, but I am sure the good footage is just around the corner. Stay tuned…

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The Time Has Arrived... It's December 15th!!!

That’s right, it’s officially the 2014 whale season!! Who’s excited?? Well, lots of new and fun stuff coming up. So far, I personally, have not seen too many whales. But, hopefully, this will change soon with the holiday tourist season starting to pick up this week, which for me translates to more water time. A few cool things to report still: orcas are in Maui (3 sightings so far), I saw my first competition group, some fisherman have been reporting sperm whale sightings south of Lana’i, and (my personal favorite) I got my captain’s license about a month ago!

There will be plenty to come in the next few days as we gear up for another amazing season. In the mean time, please enjoy the picture attached to this post. It is my prize shot from last season! I took it on my iPhone while using a Lifeproof case, amazing, right? I was pretty impressed especially since it was due to shear luck, no skill was involved in this… at all!

I’m happy to be back and to report regularly with the Maui whale activity… Cheers!

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And So It Begins…

The first whale has been spotted off of the coast of Makena by Kai Kanani on October 6, 2013.  Although whale season has yet to officially begin, they are well on their way.  This is the time of year I get antsy with anticipation and have a constant grin on my face…they are almost here! Stay tuned for updates as the season progresses.

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Competition groups are a difficult thing to judge sometimes.  When whales come together and fight for the right to mate with a female, the number in the group grows.  Especially once we have passed the peak of the season and the number of females in  the area begins to decline, the amount of aggression and activity from the males seems to increase drastically.  It is as if you can sense to desperation that the guys will have swam all this way and potentially leave without meeting a nice girl.  As the number in the group grows, it becomes more and more difficult to figure out exactly how many animals you are looking at.

I would imagine that we were looking at about 15-20 whales yesterday morning.  They were not especially active but as time passed we started to see it picking up.  We had to go but I kept hoping we would run into them later on once the battle really got going.  It is amazing anytime you can see animals of this size but when they come together in these large groups it always leaves me in awe.

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After years of watching these giant creatures, I am still reminded, each day, of why I respect them and am in awe of them.  I think for all of us whale lovers, there is a pivotal moment that catches our attention and makes us interested for life.  I had this type of experience on my very first whale watch, which in hindsight, led me to create this site and always seek jobs that have allowed me to whale watch.  I continue to experience these moments out in the Maui Nui Basin, the only difference being, it’s not my first rodeo anymore.

Two days ago, we had a whale deliberately approach the boat.  He very obviously turned, approached, and hung out.  Our captain mentioned that this was the same whale he had seen the day before.  To me, certain whale encounters are remarkable and will never leave my memory bank.  Do whales have the same experience with us?  Is it possible they remember our boats? The sounds of our engines?  Or, perhaps, if they don’t remember, do they instead have engine noises they are more attracted to?  Dr. Jim Darling recently made a comparison from whales to dogs.  He claimed that dogs live in a world of scent that is 10,000 x greater than what we know, they beleive the same is true of whales and sound.  Maybe the smallest click makes a difference and interests them more than another boat.

At each company I have worked for, there has always been the cliche, “Whales love (insert boat name here.)”  They have each been of the belief that there is one boat in their fleet that the whales prefer over any other. Maybe this is the case.  Personal experience certainly backs this up.  But maybe it is observational bias, the idea that we want them to like the boat we are on and the company we work for.  Who knows? But until they tell me otherwise, I choose to beleive they remember us, our enthusiasm, and the love we have for them.

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Eaves Dropping

Eaves Dropping

If you have ever been to Maui during this time of year and have gone snorkeling, you will quickly realize that you can hear the whales under water very easily.  In Kihei, there is a buoy set up that has a microphone constantly recording.  If you are interested in listening in while not on Maui feel free to click the link here and listen in to what these guys are talking about!

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On February 25 we had 3 whale watches out of Lahaina Harbor. On the second trip we were only about a mile from shore when a competition group approached. There were three boats watching these whales and the four males made a large circle around the three of us. Two of them splintered from the group, and the two that stuck around gave us one incredible show. There were two males, but one of them (who we deciding to name Frosty) was desperately in need of some attention. He rolled, twirled, spy hopped, trumpeted, pec slapped, and checked us out for an hour. But what was really amazing about this day was that he not only hung out with us for our second trip, but he managed to come back and display the same behaviors on our third trip as well. On Monday we learned that, yes, lightning can strike twice…if you’re lucky!

Now, what made this trip even for spectacular for me, was that I finally decided to put my waterproof iPhone case to good use to try to get some underwater shots. I was successful not only with the still shots but with the video footage too. I have compiled it all into two videos, one for each trip. Here I have the 10:30 video, and the 1:30 is below. I hope you are as blown away by this as I am!

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February 25, 1:30 PM

Here you go! Video from the 1:30 departure…

On this trip he was joined by a second male (we are not sure if it was the same as the 10:30 trip) and about half way through a third male joined, we named him Freckles. Unfortunately, what I did not capture was Frosty opening his mouth for about 20 seconds, which was a huge highlight for me. Whales rarely open their mouths here since they are not feeding, and they do it less frequently when we have a good view of them. Enjoy!

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