At Holualoa Inn in Hawaii we do have seasons. The shifts are subtle, but we know it is fall with the arrival of our winter guests, the humpback whales. We are happy to report the first sightings are in and it is official, the humpbacks are here! Over the next few months, locals and guests will be entertained the frolicking of our 80,000 lb friends!
Here are a few facts about these great cetaceans, or kohola.
The humpbacks arrive here to breed and give birth. These gentle giants journey from Alaska to either calve or mate in the warm, predator-free waters of Hawaii. It is estimated that around 10,000 humpbacks make the journey every year! With a number like that, you are almost guaranteed to see whales while you are visiting the Kona Coast.
The Pod-The typical pod is around 2-3 whales and if you are lucky, up to eight may be gathered in one spot. A lone whale is usually a male and is known as a “singleton”.
The Blow-Usually the first sign of whales nearby is their spout. It may be seen from some distance as the water shoots nearly 25 ft in the air. An adult humpback will take several breaths before diving and they will stay under anywhere from 15-45 minutes! Juveniles need to breathe every 3-5 minutes.
The Dive-When you see the fluke (tail) straight up it means they are diving down. A smooth flat circle on the ocean’s surface is also a sign that a whale has just dived below.
The Breach-The most exciting of all whale acrobatics, humpbacks are the only whale to hurl their 40 ft long bodies almost completely out of the water, landing with a massive splash and wake. Probably a form of play and communication, some say the whales breach to have a look at what is above the waterline!
The Tail Slap-A loud sound is heard from this slap and theories are that the whales are chatting, showing off or perhaps just knocking barnacles off.
The Pectoral Fin Slap-Humpback whales have the longest pectoral fins of any whale, reaching nearly 1/3 their entire body length. The fins allow the whales to maneuver under water but when one or both fins are slapping, the whales are again communicating.
The Deed-When courting a female to mate, competitive singletons fight and perform for the females’ attention and calves need to watch out as the water churns frenetically with their maneuvering.
The Birth-A rare sight to witness but a gift if you are lucky enough to experience it. Females stay close to shore when birthing and for about a week after the calf arrives. At a certain point, a male “escort” will arrive to accompany mother and calf safely out to deeper waters and will stay with them for several days.
The Songs-A beautiful and complex mystery, much is still to be learned about whale song. We do know that the male humpback is the most vocal, singing the same song repetitively during the mating season to communicate availability. The song can last for 20 minutes and can be heard up to 20 miles away. The tune appears to morph every few years with large groups across the pacific singing similar adaptations. See and hear whale song here!
There are many wonderful options for enjoying whales while visiting Hawaii’s Big Island. Call Holualoa Inn today and let our experienced Ohana guide you to the best viewing sites and outfitters on the Island.