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The Return of the Humpback Whales

Humpback breach by Kai Kanani

The whales are on their way!

Humpback Whales (what Native Hawaiians call Koholā and what scientists refer

to as megaptera novaeangliae) have begun to say goodbye to their nutrient-rich

Alaska summering grounds and are swimming for the warmer waters of Maui. In

celebration of you, us, and the whales getting together again, here are some fun

facts about what life looks like for our Humpback Whales when they travel far from


Humpback Whales Rack Up Lots of Frequent Swimmer Miles

3,000 mile one-way trip, or 6,000 miles both ways, of all the world’s Humpback

Whale populations our Pacific Humpback Whales have one of the longest

migrations. The journey takes anywhere from over a month to three months to

complete. Yes it’s a long journey, but everyone must take it, including newly born

calves. But calves travel first class, feasting the whole way and they get lots of

nourishment on the trip, guzzling up to 100 gallons of milk a day.

Humpback Inspection

Singing Takes Time

Did you know that migrating whales sing a different song than the song they sing

in Maui? Some whales sing consistently throughout their migration. Where the

general swimming speed during the migration is about the same as a leisurely

stroll through the neighborhood at 2.5 mph (4 km/h), whales that sing throughout

the migration travel noticeably slower than their non-singing friends. And in case

you’ve wondered how fast Humpback Whales can swim, the fastest recorded speed

was almost 10 mph (15.6 km/h), which is pretty fast if you happen to be 50 feet long

and weigh 48 tons.

Singing an Alaska Song

Humpback Whales are famous for their incredible songs, which may last up to

twenty minutes. During whale season on Maui our guests often enjoy listening to

these beautiful songs while on snorkel adventures. We know the song changes

during the migration, and when they make it to Alaska the song changes again.

That’s because when they are in Alaska humpback whales sing feeding songs that

help coordinate the hunt. In Hawaii the songs are about aloha, love and mating.

Humpback Whale

Diving Deep and Bubble Feeding

Humpback Whales have enormous lungs, which help them dive for up to 20 minutes

at a time and forage for food to depths of 500 feet. One unique way our population

of whales feeds is bubble feeding. Whales trap prey and force them to the surface

by blowing giant columns of bubbles. This method can secure a group of hunting

whales thousands of pounds of fresh food in one rise. A single whale can down up to

3,000 pounds of fresh seafood in a day.

Mark your Calendar – Whale Watching Season is December through March

As the whales return we look forward to seeing you, our returning friends and

family, who travel from all over the world to enjoy Maui and experience whales

in paradise. It’s part of the joy of the season at Kai Kanani to sail with Koholā, the

North Pacific Humpback whale, and you once again.