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Posts Tagged ‘Eco Tourism’

I have to admit, during our off season I do not check this blog very often. When the whales are gone, apparently, so am I! However, I have received a few comments recently which had reinvigorated me, and reinforced how very lucky I, along with my coleagues are, that we get to enjoy these animals when they migrate to our home.

At the moment, I am giddy for them to arrive. The first sighting has already occurred, about 2 weeks ago off of Kauai, but that does not mean I am any less excited for the first time I see my returning buddies!

After reading these recent comments, and reviewing the most recent footage, I remembered how special of an experience it is to look a whale in the eye. I recall once watching a very informative Hannah Bernard video (filmed in the early 80’s, clearly) which mentioned “looking into the eye of a whale is like looking into the eye of God.” Not being a very religious person, I didn’t connect with that too much at the time. Now, after having this experience several times for myself, I can truthfully say, it is unreal. In a single moment, a person can be humbled beyond any expectation of a humbled human life. To look a creature in the eye that is not only so large, but is also so old… is nothing short of magical. Even for the most non-beleiving among us, it would be hard to classify such an experience as anything less than spiritual.

For me, I realized in a very quick, very minute moment, that no matter how much science we have in our favor, we will never understand the world in which they live. We will never know what they know about our own planet. We will never see what they have seen. They live in a very close, yet a very alien world to us. I will forever consider them as inspirational, enduring, and incredibly wise creatures. I hope that the importance I place on these monumental examples of life that is sustained in our oceans will intrigue others, just enough, to make changes in their own lives to help this eco system prosper.

This, is my hope for our collective future.

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One of our passengers was able to capture this picture of an extremely mangled tail we saw on one of our trips, entirely putting the plane wing to shame! This picture really makes me wonder…what the heck happened?!

PHOTO PROVIDED BY: Allen Clark / Photoboat.com

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Recently we saw a cow/calf/escort combo and the baby was copying the tail throws of the male.  It appeared to be learning from the male, similar to how we assume the female teaches her baby.  It’s possible the calf is a sponge at this age, like our babies are, and can learn from anything in their environment. Check out the video below!

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As we head toward the end of March there has certainly been a change in what is happening out in the water.  we have been seeing primarily competition groups and calf/cow/escort combinations.  Captain dave recently told me a statistic: 85% of cow/calf combos at this time of the year will have an escort tagging along.  That is a high number and reveals how desperately these males will try to mate before having to head back 3,200 miles without food.  Yesterday was a fairly slow day, but on the last trip we got mugged by a cow/calf/escort.

We first approached the group because the calf was breaching and it was the most activity we had seen all day.  They made there way over to the boat, and the baby was large.  After spending 20 minutes with the whales we realized it was a little girl whale hanging out with her mom.  Mom was using the boat as a barricade between herself and the boat.  Although the calf was quite large, she continued to stay right on her moms nose while she was near the boat. The escort would snort and snarl as he cruised by and seemed truly irritated.  Every time the male came by the female would inch closer to us.  It was an incredible encounter the ended our day on a high note.  Kyle got some incredible under water footage, I will have it up soon.

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We went out on Thursday and had a couple of great muggings throughout the day.  For the most part we have been seeing cow/calf/escort combinations recently.  On the second trip yesterday one mother presented her baby to out boat.  They will do this to familiarize their calves with the boats in Maui, since the boats will be a part of their lives every year when they migrate down here.  The baby was on her moms nose and rolled over onto her back with both pec fins up in the air.  At one point the mom was coming over to the bow and the baby came too.  As she was rolling back to her tummy she looked up and made eye contact with me.  There are few things I enjoy more then watching a whale, watching us.

We got to see some of these whales up close as well, since the babies were either presented or just were interested and came over to check us out.  The middle two trips were amazing and left us feeling like it was another great day on the water!

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Ok, I had A LOT of technical difficulties getting this uploaded.  Turns out, I just needed a much faster internet connection! Here we go a couple videos of the False Killer Whale encounter:

Last year I used to go on a lot of whale watches for fun because I only worked once, sometimes twice, a week.  This year I have not gone on very many because I have been working a bit more. One of my good friends is leaving to hike the Appalachian Trail for the next eight months, so we decided to go out on a trip. Turns out she picked the trip of the century! We saw a species of whale that I have never seen in Hawaii.  Every day, people ask if there are any other types of whales in Maui and every day I say no, but today I realized my normal answer is not exactly truthful.

We saw a pod of at least 50 False Killer Whales.  They look like really big dolphins with rounder faces, and they display behaviors like our humpbacks, which was strange to see. Our boat was in the center of the group and they spanned a quarter mile in every direction.  We saw them tail slap, chin slap, and even breach.  The breaching was incredible; there was at least ten feet between bottom of the tail and the surface of the water.  For those of you familiar with Maui, we followed these animals from the end of the Lahaina harbor channel all the way to Black Rock. Once they reached Black Rock they joined up with Humpbacks and Spinner dolphins.  It was one crazy day! I have a few videos that are on the way and should be up within the next couple of days.

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We went out on the water on Tuesday, and I have to admit that up until very recently the later trips of the day had clearly been the better shows.  On Tuesday, that all changed.   The first trip of the day proved incredible.  We had a cow/calf pair come over to the boat.  The baby was older and was showing signs of developed motor skills.  He was playing around and came over to the bow and was rolling on his back with his peck fins in the air.  Mom, being the protective female she is, spy hopped no more than 10 feet from our boat as her baby continued to play.  It was stunning to watch and left our passengers in a state of pure bliss with a glazed over look of happiness on all of their faces.

The day continued on in a spectacular fashion.  We had a different breaching baby on every single trip.  All of these babies were also in close range, the furthest was 150 yards.  In retrospect, it is hard to recall each trip individually because all the flying calves began to blend together. Alas, the life of a whale watcher is so difficult! For me the most exciting part of the day was that I FINALLY caught my very own breach on film. It’s not great, but it’s a start.

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