The Giants of Maui: Maui Whales

Maui Whales

Humpback whales are incredible creatures. Weighing between 25 and 40 metric tons they truly are the giants of the ocean. Here in Maui, Whales start to appear in our waters in the winter months. Between December and April, these majestic animals are in abundance around the island – housing the world’s most populated school in terms of density. 

Throughout this time, you can enjoy unforgettable sights of the Humpbacks by enjoying one of our up close and personal Whale Watch activities. Whether you choose the Kayak Whale Watch, Canoe Whale Watch or Stand Up Paddle Board Tour, you can catch a glimpse of the Maui whales in all of their beauty. 

Each year, over 10,000 Humpbacks come to visit Maui to take advantage of the shallow and warm waters. With the season beginning in early December (although with some sightings in November) you will be able to enjoy a one-of-a-kind, personalized interaction during one of your aquatic adventures with the assistance of one of our fantastic tour guides.

Maui Whales

The Great Humpback Migration 

Before heading to the tropical waters of Hawaii in the winter, Humpback whales live in the cold waters of Alaska. Mostly feeding on krill and plankton, they feast before heading to our warmer waters when the food runs out. 

As we don’t have plankton or krill in Maui, it’s clear that they need to get all of their feeding done before heading to our shores. As well as Maui, the humpbacks also head to Japan, Mexico and Baja California in the colder months.

Why Do Humpback Whales Migrate To Hawaii?

As mentioned above, the main reason as to why they migrate to Hawaii is the warm waters. However, that’s not the only reason why they are drawn to our island. 

Humpback whales also head to Hawaii to breed and give birth each year. The warm waters of Hawaii help with this process, making it easier for the expectant mothers to birth their calves – far away from the freezing waters of Alaska. 

When Humpback whales are born, they lack the extra weight needed to stay alive in the colder water – therefore the waters of Hawaii is an ideal solution.

Maui Whales

How Far do Humpback Whales Travel Each Year?

Traveling in a constant speed of 3-5 MPH, Humpback whales make the long voyage between Alaska and Maui. Taking them up to six weeks, although they rest for 30 minutes at a time, they are determined to get to Hawaii so they try to move as fast as possible before the waters are too cold. 

As they make the voyage every year, it’s clear that they retain the memory of how to get to Hawaii. However, one of the main theories as to how they remember their way, is that they have magnetite in their brain. The naturally-occurring magnetite can be used to navigate (almost like a built-in GPS). A scientific marvel, it’s a clever technique that we will never fully understand.

For humans traveling south from Alaska to Maui might initially seem difficult. How can they possibly know the exact route without getting lost along the way?

But for the Humpback whales, it becomes a journey that they complete without any issues – one of the reasons as to why these extraordinary mammals amaze people around the world.

Do The Humpback Whales Have Any Predators?

humpback whale

Another reason as to why the Humpback whales make the Hawaiian waters their home for the winter is the lack of predators. Unlike the colder waters of the north, the shallow waters of Hawaii don’t have any Orcas – the Humpback whales most fearsome predator. 

With shallow waters (the channel between Lanai, Molokai and Maui is only 200 ft deep) throughout the islands, you can see why the Humpback whales love them and return each year. However, once the whales head back to the north, they are open to the predators of the open ocean – which includes the Orcas and sharks. They are also in danger from longline debris – a major killer of whale calves every year.

Humpback Whale Breaching: Why Do They Do It?

Humpback whale breaching off of Maui

There isn’t a more incredible sight than witnessing a breach of a Humpback whale. Showcasing the beauty of these animals in all of their glory, you will discover the power and the might of the whales right before your eyes. A sight that is very rare, it is an image that you will never forget.

Whether you head out on a whale watch tour, enjoy a few hours in one of our boats for rent or are camping on the shores in one of our campervans you could catch a glimpse of this spectacle.

But why do Humpback whales breach in the first place, you might ask? Although there isn’t a definitive answer, researchers believe that it might be one of three reasons – either they want to see the landscape around them, they want to remove any barnacles on them that they got from the long voyage or they are simply having fun splashing in the water.

We hope that it’s the latter!

Fun Facts About Humpback Whale Calves

Did you know that Female Humpback whales give birth every two to three years? With a 12 month pregnancy, they need to get to the warmer waters to give birth.

Maui Whales

As with any baby animal, Humpback whales will stay with their mom until they are old enough to go out on their own. After being born in the waters of Hawaii, the mom will show their calves how to feed and navigate the waters for almost 1 year. 

Nursing with their moms each day throughout the year, they will start to grow an average of one inch every day. Humpback whales’ milk contains an impressive 40% fat, which drank in abundance (they are said to drink up to 100 gallons per day) will ensure that the calf grows big and strong. 

When the Humpback whales migrate north to Alaska, the new moms will show their baby the journey whilst ensuring that they are protected from any potential predators along the way. After a year, the baby – that’s now a teenager – will go out on its own, leaving the mom to go back to the pod.

It’s possible to see the calves when you are out on the water (a great way of doing this is during one of our Kayak Tours). Just remember, that where there is a calf (they usually appear on the surface every 10 minutes to take a breath as they have smaller lungs) there mom will be somewhere close. 

So even though the baby might only be 15 feet, there might be a 45 foot adult Humpback whale nearby!

What are you waiting for? Head to Maui and enjoy a remarkable aquatic adventure with us and see these magnificent mammals for yourself! Once you see a whale calf or a Humpback breaching, you will be in absolute awe. One of the incredible sights in Maui, you can enjoy it through any one of our activities. 

Whether you head out to the ocean in one of our whale watch activities, rent a snorkel, or stay nearby in one of our nearby campsite accommodations you will have the holiday of a lifetime.