Maui Whale Festival gets under way with “Welcome Home” humpbacks celebration


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Maui’s Pacific Whale Foundation is hosting its annual Welcome Home the Whales celebration on Sat., Nov. 26.

The celebration features an open house event at Pacific Whale Foundation’s headquarters in Maalaea is set for 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Visitors may tour the foundation’s research labs, education classrooms and meet the research team and staff.  Also: special whale-watching cruises with Pacific Whale Foundation’s researchers and a benefit lunch. For additional information about the celebration, click here.

Welcome Home the Whales kicks off of the 2011-2012 Maui Whale Festival, a six-month series of events hosted by Pacific Whale Foundation.

In a news release issued by Pacific Whale Foundation, the nonprofit’s chief operations officer – Eco-Adventures, Cynthia Mayer, said: “The whales are back and we’re ready to celebrate.” She added, “This event honors the thousands of humpback whales that arrive here each fall, and marks the official start of Maui’s whale-watch season.”Hawaii_Maui_whales_festival

This season’s first whale-spotting occurred on Sept. 26 in Honaunau Bay, which edges the Big Island and is within the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary, which lies within the shallow (less than 600 feet), warm waters surrounding the main Hawaiian Islands, constitutes one of the world’s most important humpback whale habitats.

Scientists estimate that there are 20,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific. An estimated 12,000 swim to Hawaii each winter to mate, give birth and nurse their calves in warm Hawaiian waters, where they are protected.

Whale-watching season in Hawaii typically spans the months between November and May. The whales arrive throughout the season, moving in and out of Hawaiian waters through the winter. Peak humpback whale viewing months in Hawaii are January through March. The last remaining mothers and their calves usually depart our Islands for Alaska by early May.Hawaii_Maui_whales_festival

This year’s first sighting was a bit earlier than most years. Last year, and in 2009, the first humpback whale of this year’s season was spotted on Oct. 20. According to the Pacific Whale Foundation, which has records from the last dozen years, the earliest arrival of the first humpback on Sept. 16, 2000, and the latest, Nov. 11, 2005.

The Maui Whale Festival, which will be under way through mid-May, features a paddle board and kayaking event, a golf tournament, a fun run, free lectures, a citizens’ count of whales, “World Whale Day” (formerly Whale Day) and other special cruises and events. For more information about the festival, click here.

For suggestions on shoreline outlooks, check out our HAWAII Magazine’s Landlubber’s Guide to Whale Watching in the Islands. And don’t forget your binoculars. 

Categories: Culture, Maui