Trip Journal entry for Wednesday, February 18th.
We Were Mugged! By a Whale, that is.
Friday, February 20, 2009
This was the day we came here for, to get up-close and personal with the whales!
An Early Start
The morning started rather early for me, at least for being on vacation. Among other things, I managed to post another trip journal entry, and it was around 7:30am when Cindy woke up. She poked her head out on the lanai, and the first thing she saw was a rainbow starting off the coast of Lanai. By the time I made it out to see, she had already spotted the other part of a matching pair on the Molokai side as well. Even though the two were connected in a complete arch, it still look pretty.
We skipped the buffet breakfast, and as we were getting ready for the big day of whale watching, there was quite a bit of activity on the water outside of our lanai. I setup a camera with the telephoto lens on the tripod to try and get a head start on our whale watching for the day. Cindy manned the binoculars, and caught a few good glimpses with those. She also spotted the Superferry cruising on by Molokai, too. Those binos were strong enough to read the lettering on the side of the vessel all the way across the channel. Pretty neat.
While I didn’t get too many great photos from our lanai that morning, the weather conditions outside could not have been more perfect. The clouds that normally adorn the islands of Lanai and Molokai were confined to only small sections at the very tops. You could actually see the shapes of the trees on Lanai without the binoculars. I can’t recall ever seeing it the air so crisp and cloud free.
Time for a Walk
Around 11am we decided to head downstairs and checkout the beachwalk north of Black Rock. I had read back in November that they had done some work to extend the beachwalk there further north, so we wanted to check it out. According to what I read back then, the beachwalk went all the up to the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas, which is about where we had to stop and turnaround. It looks like we could have gone further, but we had to make it back to the resort and into town for our whale watch.
It was a nice walk, and not as crowded as the beachwalk that we’re used to using along Ka’anapali Beach. It was neat walking along the path and checking out some of the different cottage and villa areas, many that looked quite different than the tower resorts along the south route. Cindy’s aunt and uncle typically stay at the Royal Lahaina, so we walked passed some of the cottages there and see what they were about. I have a feeling those cottages might be similar to the ones we’ll see next week at the Hotel Hana-Maui, but time will tell.
My cousins also stayed in this area last year when they came over to Maui after their soccer tournament on Oahu. They rented a condo either at the Marriott of the Westin, I can’t remember. Aside from a few neglected vacant lots for sale nearby, it looked like a nice area they’re working on here.
In Search of Whales
By around 12:30pm, I had all my camera gear prepped and packed, and it was time to head down into Lahaina Town. Our first stop was to pick up a quick bite to eat. The plan was to grab just a sandwich at Quizno’s for Cindy and Jamba Juice for me. Well, the Jamba Juice part worked fine, but we found out that Quizno’s had closed back in October. She had to go with KFC instead, and neither one of us could remember the last time Cindy ate there.
The next stop was over at Maui Hands again, which was only a few doors down from where we had to check-in with the Pacific Whale Foundation for our whale watch. We were there again to make arrangements for our new painting of Front Street to be shipped home for us, the one from Mort Luby that I mentioned on Monday. With that taken care of, it was time for the whales.
We were still a little early for check-in for the 3pm whale watch, as the line to check-in for the 2:30pm vessel was still there. You probably wouldn’t be surprised at how many of these tours PWF does in a single day, but the good news is that all the proceeds help so many causes.
That Didn’t Take Long
Once we were out on the water, the naturalist on board wasn’t even finished with her introduction before we encountered our first group of whales. For a 2-hour tour and whale activity so early on, it was going to be a great time. First up, we saw a mother with her calf being accompanied by a primary escort. It was actually the first of two threesomes that we saw out on the water that afternoon.
With this particular set of whales, the calf actually swam right underneath our boat, right where I was standing. It was pretty awesome to see it directly underwater even if it didn’t come to the surface (this time). We only stuck with that group of whales for a little bit before heading out further into the Auau Channel. The boats prefer not to spend too much time with any one particular set of whales, as not to disturb or crowd their natural activities too much.
A little bit longer into the whale watch, we found another mother and calf couple. This particular mother whale was teaching her calf how to breach, which he did, over and over again. Probably 4 or 5 breaches in a row for this little guy right nearby where we were standing. By now, the oohs and aahs from just about everyone on the vessel were in full swing. It was something we were very excited to be witnessing for ourselves.
Further on south, we found another mother and calf, which we were starting to realize is the most popular whale encounter this time of year. This calf had quite a bit of a workout planned for him. His lesson for the day appeared to be tail slaps, which the naturalist on board led the counting of. All told, the calf did 20 tail slaps! That makes my legs hurt just thinking about how much kicking that would equal for one of us.
In accordance to three different federal laws, any vessel, whether it’s a kayak, sailboat, or catamaran, cannot come within 100 yards of a whale. Once you hit that point, it’s engines off. That doesn’t mean, however, that once you’re at 100 yards, the whale can’t come by own it’s own. What that happens, it’s called a whale mugging.
And that’s what happened near the end of our tour. I mentioned above that there was one whale that decided to scope us out underwater. Well, it so happened that a second whale decided to do the same. Only this time, as everyone was looking down in the water, it came up out of the water right behind us. What a thrill. I managed to snap a few photos, but it was a lot cooler in person.
The Fluke Goodbye
Cindy and I had a really great time out with the whales this year. So much so, that we’re contemplating going again next week, too. Having the PWF membership certainly helps, and we met one older couple that had been going everyday this week. We can certainly see why!
A Few More Photos
Here are a few other shots I was able to get. I was shooting with two cameras, one with a standard zoom lens for up-close, and one with a telephoto lens. I tried to keep them adjusted as as the conditions changed, but I didn’t realize until later that night that I had the wrong auto-focus setting selected. Bummer, but another reason to go out and try again next week.
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