Welcome Back The Whales!

After spending the summer consuming roughly 5,000 pounds of food in Alaska, the humpback whales are completing their arduous 3,000 mile journey to Hawaii. How lucky we are!

Though we witness these 30-ton beauties every winter, the sight of a humpback whale breaching is ALWAYS exciting. Even folks who have lived here for 80 years still get a thrill from the whales. We love the whales and we never take them for granted.

Recent reports say the number of humpback whales arriving in Hawaii are shrinking and that’s a definite concern. Last year, just 529 whales were counted, down from 984 in 2016. But, the total number of whales that arrive in Hawaii, according to NOAA are still around 10,000, which means the whales are still in abundance in Maui’s waters. The discrepancy in the count numbers is due to that fact that most whales don’t venture into the waters near populated locales and the whale counts cited were taken by people standing on the shore.

To help celebrate the return of the whales to Hawaii, here are five interesting facts about the humpback whales’ migration from Alaska to Hawaii that you can share with friends and family…

  1. The humpback whales that come to Hawaii are from the North Pacific humpback whale family. There are three distinct groups of these humpbacks: the eastern stock from Northern California travel back-and-forth to Mexico, the western stock go between the Aleutian Islands and Japan, and the central stock migrate from Alaska to Hawaii. The 3,000 journey from Alaska to Hawaii is one of the longest mammal migrations in the world.
  2. Hawaii’s waters provide such an important habitat for these whales that Congress designated the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in 1992, where the whales would be protected as an endangered species by both federal and state law.
  3. One of the most popular places for whales to congregate is in the waters of Maui County, meaning the area between Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kaho’olawe. It’s no mistake that this is exact area we take our passengers on our whale watches!
  4. Marine scientists have made an interesting discovery about the order of the whales’ arrival in Hawaii. Nursing mothers generally arrive first in early-to-mid November. The next to arrive are juveniles and newly weaned yearlings, followed by a surge of adult males and females. The last to arrive are pregnant females, who feed in Alaska as long as possible before beginning their migration.
  5. The whales do NOT feed while in Hawaii. They store up enough food in Alaska prior to their journey to last until they return to Alaska in the spring.

To book a whale watch adventure with Hawaii Ocean Project with guaranteed whale sightings**, head on over to our Whale Watch page.

By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the Island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promocode VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.

 

** If no whales are spotted on your adventure, you will receive a voucher to book another whale watch adventure.

10 Fun Facts About Jellyfish

There are two schools of thought when it comes to jellyfish. When seen in an aquarium, like the fabulous Maui Ocean Center, they are stunningly beautiful. Watching them glow and glide is a sight to behold. On the other hand, when you’re wading waist deep in the ocean and spot a jellyfish, your first thought is usually to high tail it out of the water like you’ve just seen Jaws. It’s true the sting of some jellyfish can be nasty. Generally, though, Maui’s waters are pretty clear of the largest stinging jellies. On the Hawaii Ocean Project Lanai Snorkel and Dolphin Tour, we avoid snorkel locations with stinging jellyfish. Here are 10 fun facts about jellyfish…

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Fish Guide for Snorkeling Maui

Book a Lanai Snorkel and Dolphin tour with Hawaii Ocean Project and save $10 by following this special link.

Achilles Tang
These blackfish have a distinctive orange patch near the tail and some seriously beautiful orange, white, and blue stripes that look like they were painted on. Growing to 10 inches long, the Achilles Tang can be found in surge zones, along rocky shores and coral reefs. While you should always try to keep a respectful distance from fish while snorkeling, it’s especially true of the Achilles Tang, as their tails consist of sharp spines that can cause deep wounds.

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Fishing on Maui: HOP to it

Some people come to Maui for the beach, others for the hiking, most for relaxation. But if you’re coming to Maui and want to try your hand at fishing, there are some things you need to know. In this article, we’ll talk about regulations, where you might want to fish and finally, what you may be catching. Please note, this article is by no means comprehensive. Rather, it’s a place for you to begin your research. Let’s dive in…

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10 Facts about Sharks in Hawaii

When you visit Hawaii, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time in the water. Visitors often ask about sharks, as in “should I be worried about them?” The fact is, many more people run into personal health-related issues while in the ocean (shortness of breath, increased heart rate) than shark-related issues. That’s not to say you should ignore the dangers of sharks. Most sharks around Hawaii’s shores are safe, but sharks are wild creatures and like all animals in nature, must be respected. Here are 10 facts about the sharks in Hawaii.

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Five Turtles You Could See on Maui

Turtles are the rare creature you can see both underwater and on shore. While you’re more likely to spot turtles, on Maui at least, in the water, if you know where to look you can see the largest of them, green sea turtles, resting on the beach. Hawaii is home to three native sea turtle species and has a total of five sea turtle species in its waters. Here are the types of sea turtles you may find while wandering and snorkeling around Maui, listed in order of the likelihood of you spotting one.

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10 Facts about Rays in Hawaii

One of the most exciting fish to see while snorkeling in Hawaii is a ray. A distant cousin of the shark, rays can often be seen in Maui’s waters fairly close to shore. Highly photogenic, seeing rays is always the highlight of any snorkeling adventure. Here are 10 facts about these lovely fish.

  1. Hawaii is home to three types of rays: manta, stingray and spotted eagle. The manta ray is the most common, especially near shore.
  2. The manta rays you’ll see near Maui’s shores average 5-to-8 feet, but can reach over 14 feet.
  3. Rays have been around in their modern form for at least 20 – 25 million years. Manta rays, however, have only been around for about 4.8 million years.
  4. Because manta rays can be identified individually by researchers because of the distinctive spots on their bellies.
  5. Manta rays have the largest brains amongst the 32,000 species of fish.
  6. The “stinger” on a manta ray does not work. So no fear of being injured (from the tail, anyway) of a manta ray. However, should you come across the aptly named stingray, watch out. Their tales are still very much venomous.
  7. The easiest way to distinguish a manta ray from a stingray is by color. Manta rays are black, while stingrays are brown. Stingrays also sport shorter tails.
  8. If you’re one of the lucky ones who sees a ray breach (leap from the water), the ray you’re most likely seeing is a spotted eagle ray. They are known for the colorful (white, yellow and green) dots on their backs, which contrast nicely against their black skin.
  9. Rays are distant cousins of sharks. Like sharks, instead of bones, their vertebra is made of cartilage. They also must constantly swim in a forward motion to pass oxygenated water through their gills. They cannot swim backwards.
  10. As of 2009, manta rays in Hawaii’s waters are protected against killing and capturing. Offenders will receive criminal penalties and fines of up to $10,000.

Please tell us about any rays you have come across in Hawaii in the comments below. Thanks!

10 Facts About the Hawaiian Monk Seal

We love our monk seals. But if you’re lucky enough to see one, remember to keep your distance. They are endangered and should not be touched or harassed in any way. Beyond that, Hawaiian monk seal mothers of newborns will aggressively protect their pups. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) recommends keeping a distance of 150 feet, allowing them to remain undisturbed.

  1. The official state mammal of Hawaii, the scientific name for the Hawaiian monk seal is Neomonachus schauinslandi. The Hawaiian name is “Ilio holo I ka uaua”, which translates to “dog that runs in rough water”.
  2. The average lifespan of a Hawaiian monk seal is 25 to 30 years. Adult males grow to about 7 feet long and weigh between 300 and 400 pounds. Meanwhile, females can grow to 8 feet long and can weigh between 400 to 600 pounds.
  3. The Hawaiian monk seal is unique in that they live in a tropical climate. Most seals prefer frigid water.
  4. Hawaiian monk seals do not have external ears and they cannot rotate their hind flippers underneath their bodies.
  5. Breeding season is between June and August, with birth usually occurring between March and June. The average gestation time is nine months. Mothers of newborn pups are devoted to their offspring while nursing. For the first 5-to-6 weeks of a newborn’s life, the mother is so busy safely raising her pup that she will not eat. The pups go from 35 pounds at birth to roughly 175 pounds while being nursed. The mothers, though, will lose hundreds of pounds during this time. Once finished nursing her pups, the mothers will abandon their offspring and head out to the ocean to feed.
  6. Hawaiian monk seals feed primarily in deep water coral beds on fish, lobster, octopus and squid.
  7. Humans are the biggest threat to Hawaiian Monk Seal survival. Though we don’t outright hunt them, they will often get entangled in fishing nets and gear. We also encroach on their coastal resting places. Tiger sharks and Galapagos sharks are known to prey on them. Finally, male Hawaiian monk seals will often group up and kill or injure females and immature monk seals of both sexes during a mating ritual called “mobbing”.
  8. Native to Hawaii, the Hawaiian monk seal and the Hawaiian hoary bat are the only two mammals endemic to the Hawaiian islands.
  9. The Hawaiian and the Mediterranean monk seals are the last two surviving monk seals in the world. The Caribbean monk seal, which was once the third type of monk seal, was declared extinct in 2008. In 2016, it was estimated there are 1,400 Hawaiian seals in existence.
  10. The Hawaiian monk seal was officially declared an endangered species in November, 1976.

Have you seen a Hawaiian monk seal on Maui? If so, where? Please tell us your story in the comments below…

10 Facts About Spinner Dolphins

Seeing whales on a whale watch tour is awesome. No doubt about that. But do you know what else is awesome? Seeing dolphins! One of the best ways to see them is on our snorkel tour to Lanai. Spinner dolphins, the type you are most likely to see around Maui, are considered one of the most athletic sea mammals for their amazing aerial leaps.. Here are 10 facts about these beautiful creatures.

  1. The scientific name for spinner dolphins is stenella longirostris.
  2. There are four sub-species of spinner dolphins and they are often called long-snouted dolphins. The spinners in Maui’s waters are often referred to as Gray’s dolphins (named for John Gray, the researcher who first described them in 1828) or Hawaiian spinner dolphins.
  3. Hawaiian spinner dolphins feed mainly on small fish, squids and shrimps. They feed at night and will often dive over 250 yards to eat.
  4. Female spinners reach sexual maturity between 5.5 and 10 years, while the males can reproduce between 10 and 12 years old. The gestation period for the dolphins is 10 months
  5. Hawaiian spinners are primarily three colors. The skin on the dorsal area is a deep gray, while its sides are a lighter shade of gray. The bottom portion of the dolphin is white. The dorsal fin area has small white spots.
  6. Because dolphins need to consciously think about breathing, when they sleep only half of their brain rests at a time. The awake half needs to tell it breathe and monitor its surroundings.
  7. Though the dolphins primarily breathe through their blowholes, Hawaiian spinners have developed a method of breathing without surfacing from the water. They blow a bubble when near the water surface and then quickly draw breath from it. Dolphins are so smart!
  8. When spinning, the dolphins can make up to seven complete rotations in the air!
  9. Though no one knows for sure, it’s believed the dolphins spin for the following reasons:
    • To clean their bodies of parasites (this is the most common assumption)
    • For courting members of the opposite sex
    • To communicate with other dolphins
    • For fun!
  10. Besides spinning, they are also known to do full aerial somersaults(!), head slaps, tail slaps, and spyhops (when they stick their heads out of the water to take a peek).

Have you seen spinner dolphins? Tell us about your experience in the comments below. Thanks!