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Maui’s Humpback Whales

Join us during whale season and combine snorkeling along with Humpback whale watching. View them in their environment onboard the Maui Magic Snorkel Adventure, watch them as they perform amazing acrobatics, and hear them in the water while you snorkel. You will see them in ways like never before, making for a personal experience that you will never forget.

Humpback whales perform their annual migration to Maui’s coastal waters as they come here to calve, mate, and rear their young, normally between the months of December and March. This is our favorite time of the year! With a large concentration of whales in one specific area, we get the opportunity on board the Maui Magic to see and interact with them daily during seasonal months.

Over the years, we have had some amazing experiences and encounters with these beautiful creatures. View the whales in action in all their graceful aerobatics, breaches, tail slaps, spy hopping, and more!

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are the gentle giants of the sea and can weigh up to 40 tons! Humpback whales are omnivores and consume cod, krill, anchovies, sardines, mackerel, capelin, and other schools of fish.

Usually the first indication that whales are nearby is by their blow, which is how the humpbacks exhale air. The vaporized water that they displace when exhaling shoots 20 to 25 feet up into the air. On average, the mature humpbacks come to the surface to breathe every 10 to 15 minutes, but they can remain underwater for as long as 45 minutes. When near the surface of the water, the whales will generally take 3 to 6 breaths before diving deeper into the water. The juveniles, called calves, need to rise to the surface every 3 to 5 minutes.

A whale breach is an acrobatic display where the humpback uses its tail flukes to launch itself out of the water and then lands back onto the surface of the water, creating quite a splash!

Tail Slap
A tail slap consists of a whale raising its tail flukes out of the water and slapping them forcefully on the waters surface, resulting in a tremendous splash that can be heard both above and below water. Humpback whales are known to keep repeating this behavior over and over.

Pectoral Slap
The whale will slap the surface of the water with either one or both fins at the same time. The humpback has the longest pectoral fins in ratio to their body size of all the whales. While on the surface, the humpbacks will sometimes lay on their sides, lift their pectoral fins into the air and then slap them down on the water, creating a loud smack.

Head Rise or Spy Hop
This is truly a sight to behold. The whale will rise vertically up towards the surface, with its head almost completely out of the water. This maneuver allows the humpback to view activity happening above water and on the surface.

Fluke Up Dive
The ‘fluke up dive’ is usually a signal that the whale is departing and diving deep. The humpback arches its massive tail flukes up into the air, which gently propels it into deeper water.

The most common pod size we see here in the islands is between 2 and 3 whales. The next most frequent sighting is that of a single whale, also called a “singleton”, which is usually a lone male. Sometimes pods of 4 to 8 whales will be encountered and only rarely, pods of 20 or more. It is thought that the size of the pod has a lot to do with the activity of the whales, such as swimming, playing, weaning, courting, nursing, mating or fighting.

Fun Facts About Humpback Whales

Whales don’t eat while in Maui waters; they live off their body fat. The Humpback whales hunt and feed during the summer months in the cool waters off the shore of Alaska before they migrate towards Hawaii to mate and give birth.

Whales often travel in pods. In most cases, a pod may consist of a mother whale and her child or escort or friends who have formed a bond to help protect the young calf while migrating.

The Humpbacks majestic “whale songs” are often heard during mating season when groups of males sing, in order to attract a female to mate. These complex songs can be heard for miles and can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours!

A female whale can bear offspring once every 2-3 years and average duration of gestations for the calf is 12 months. Although, even if not carrying a calf or mating, a female will still make the trip from the cold Alaskan waters annually to Maui.

Adult whales can reach 45 feet in length and weigh up to 40 tons! One of the largest ever recorded Humpback whales measured in at 89 ft. long

Calves are born weighing in at around 3000 pounds and grow at a rate of 200 pounds a day during the first few weeks of life. Drinking as much as 600 liters of milk per day to help prepare them for the trip towards colder waters.

Humpback whales can hunt in cooperative groups of 15 or more when searching for food in Alaska.

Since 1966, Humpback whales have been protected and continue to remain on our endangered species list. It is estimated that as much as 90% of the Humpback whale population was eliminated during the whaling era. The lifespan of a whale is said to average 50 years.

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