Back to Holo Holo Blog

1st Kauai Humpback Whale Sighting

Kauai whale watching tour

Tuesday, October 1st: Captain Aaron and crew on Holo Holo Charters’ Adventurer II spotted the first humpback whale of the season about a mile off Ke’e Beach. The vessel was carrying 24 passengers who all witnessed the whale leaping out of the water, which allowed the Captain to properly identify the animal as a humpback whale. “No doubt about it, it was an adolescent humpback whale and it breached three or four times” said, Captain Aaron. It’s official, Humpback whale season in Hawaii is here!

During the fall, the Northern Pacific Humpback Whales, known as Koholā in Hawaiian, embark on an impressive journey from Alaska to Hawaii. They travel non-stop for one month, cruising at approximately three to seven miles per hour, powered by their massive tail fins. They depart their feeding grounds in the frigid waters off of the Gulf of Alaska, making it the longest migration of any mammal, to their annual breeding areas in Hawaii. The total round-trip journey is about 5,000 miles, the same distance as crossing the United States twice!

Once arriving in Hawaii’s warm, shallow waters, they will mate, give birth and care for their newborn calves. A humpback whales gestation period lasts eleven months, so the whales will breed one year, and typically return to the same waters the following year to give birth. The mother will nurse and care for her new calf in the warm and safe waters of Hawaii until it is strong enough to make the journey back to Alaska. There is no food for the whales in Hawaii, so they must eat enough during their summer to sustain them through this whole process.

One of the most captivating mysteries about humpback whales is their songs. Only the males are known to sing. The humpback’s evocative songs are among the most complex animal vocalizations; they sing units of sound that together form a phrase. Each song is composed of anywhere from two to nine themes, and the themes are sung in a specific order. Some of their phrases sound like the low moan of a cello and others are more like the chirping of a songbird.

 

Male humpbacks not only sing at breeding grounds, but they sing throughout their long migrations. Intriguingly, the songs they sing evolve; each year, a few whales in a breeding area will add new elements to a song that the other males will adopt. Amazingly, the entire male population will sing the same version of this ever-changing song, sometimes for several hours. The whales in the Pacific sing one song and the whales in the Atlantic, another. These talented male composers make the loudest sound on earth that can be heard underwater as far as 2,000 miles away!

The best time of year to view this spectacular odyssey in Hawaii is from December through March; although sightings occur as early as October and can last through May. While a distant spout or breach can be seen from Kauai’s shorelines, the best chance to see humpback whales is on a Kauai boat tour. The more time you spend on the water, the greater your odds of witnessing these amazing creatures in action; experience it all by taking a morning snorkel tour of the Napali Coast!

Holo Holo Charters provides boat tours that visit the Napali Coast, Niihau and explore Kauai’s unique shorelines. Vessels are equipped with hydrophones, an underwater microphone, so passengers can listen to the songs of the Koholā (whales), in addition to seeing them from the boat. The unique sounds of these incredible creatures are sure to delight any listener!

Whale watching from a boat must be the most incredible experience ever and is sure to keep ocean-lovers happy! Nothing quite compares to the pure enjoyment that comes from witnessing a humpback whale spy-hopping (lifting its head vertically out of the water), right in front of you. Be sure to take notice of their head and lower jaw as they are covered with knobs of tubercles, which are hair follicles.

Humpback Whale Season

It’s always a good idea to keep a safe distance of at least 100 yards when viewing these spectacular endangered creatures by boat. Holo Holo Charters participates in the NOAA sponsored program of Dolphin SMART, ensuring responsible and respectful viewing of all marine life.

A fun and fantastic way to enjoy the sightings of various marine life on your Kauai boat tour is to bring waterproof marine binoculars or try to capture your best shot with a long camera lens. You must be patient but react quickly to capture a worthy image of a humpback whale breaching (jumping out of the water)!

Join Holo Holo Charters during whale season for an adventure of a lifetime! When enjoying your time on the water, be sure to listen for a moment, as you may be lucky enough to hear these touching voices of the sea! Some keen ears may even be able to hear the whale songs while underwater when swimming or snorkeling.