The humpback whale is one of Earth’s most majestic giants. I’m no stranger to seeing humpback whales frolic in the warm Hawaiian waters during the winter months and even though I grew up with this as part of the norm, seeing them never ceases to amaze me. This is precisely the reason why I wanted to take the husband out on the water to get his own up close and personal experience with something that we should never take for granted.
Now, how do you decide on which company to book your whale watching adventure? There are quite a few companies that offer whale watching tours but we’ve always chosen to tour with Pacific Whale Foundation. We wanted to share with you why we love the company and will continue to support their efforts.
Why Pacific Whale Foundation?
Our first and foremost priority when choosing an activity that involves animals is learning how we can have this experience while still respecting their natural habitat. After all, the humpback whales embark on a long migratory journey from Alaska that takes them about 6 to 8 weeks each way, travelling a total distance of 6,000 miles (round-trip)! We want to be respectful of their incredible journey to the Hawaiian waters to mate, give birth, and nurture their baby calves. We are entering their world.
Pacific Whale Foundation is a non-profit conservation company that promotes eco-tourism. Each cruise is led by a team of certified professional Marine Naturalists and biologists, making for a great learning experience on your trip. If you don’t know much about whales before your cruise, you will certainly take away some pretty good basic knowledge.
Here is a list of my favorite eco-features:
- 100% of the profits from their eco-adventures go to supporting their research, education and conservation programs on behalf of whales, dolphins and the ocean environment.
- Promotional materials and paper products on the ships are all made from recycled paper AND their utensils, plates, and cups are made from tree-free, petroleum-free materials. They even use biodegradable/compostable bags. There is NO plastic on the boat.
- They use Whale Protection Devices to guide whales away from propellers and running gear, and have sound-deadening vessel hulls and oversized mufflers which help protect sound-sensitive wildlife.
- They use Laser Range Finders to ensure accurate compliance with Federal and State whale approach laws (more on this below).
- PWF also supports local farms and companies by using their products on their cruises, thereby helping to reduce their transportation carbon footprint.
There is actually quite an impressive list of the reasons why PWF is a good choice for both having a great experience and for being eco-conscious. To read a full list of their eco-tourism features, please visit their website here.
What You Can Expect to See
Humpback whales are an endangered species which means approaching them requires utmost caution. As a protection for these gentle giants, Federal regulations prohibit you from approaching humpback whales within 100 yards by ocean, and 1,000 feet by air. They can, however, approach you – and they often do. There’s nothing like bobbing in the water and having a whale surprise breach just feet in front of you!
PWF will do their best to guarantee whale sightings, and I’ve never been on a cruise with them where we didn’t get any glimpses of whales. Of course, their activity can’t be guaranteed, but we’ve seen them do some pretty cool things – everything from breaching and diving (tails up) to flapping their fins and flukes.
Dolphin sightings are a huge bonus and they loooove swimming alongside the boats (Pacific Whale Foundation also offers dolphin-specific cruises). In Hawaii, the native species of dolphin is the spinner dolphin. Can you guess why they call them that? They spin when they jump out of the water, up to 7 times each jump! They really are quite the little showoffs. While I love to see the whales, seeing these little guys in action is sure to put a huge smile on your face.
What makes this experience even more special is that they are in their natural environment. They aren’t jammed into a small aquarium or forced to jump through hoops for human enjoyment. They are free (and happy) to do it on their own.
Let's Talk Cost
Another reason why we like Pacific Whale Foundation is that is doesn’t cost you and arm and a leg per person!
Booking online can typically save you 10% of the cost. Fares currently start at $33 per person, and you can book directly on their website here.
Again, you can feel confident that your dollars go towards helping conservation of marine life.
Pacific Whale Foundation offers several different eco-adventures that either embark out of the Lahaina Harbor or out of Ma’alaea. We personally like to take the cruises out of Lahaina because it gives you a chance to explore Lahaina town either before or after your cruise.
Lahaina: 612 Front St, Lahaina, HI 96761
Ma’alaea: 300 Ma’alaea Rd, Wailuku, HI 96793
Final thoughts – make sure you are prepared for a boat cruise!
- Sea sickness: If you get seasick or motion sickness easily, take a non-drowsy Dramamine an hour before your boat ride. I am notoriously easily affected by the sea and you do not want your special experience to be ruined by a bout of nausea.
- Sunscreen: This one should be pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take enough care in the sunscreen department. Apply it generously. With all the whale action going on, you might forget that you’re still out baking in the sun! PWF has reef-friendly sunscreen available for purchase at their stores (check-in points) that you can get prior to your trip.
- Cameras: It is a given that you’re going to bring a camera. Please protect your gear by making sure it’s secure – you don’t want your camera falling overboard in a rush of excitement! Make sure you’ve got a good camera strap to hold onto. Also, a telephoto zoom lens will come in handy. With the distance regulations, you might not get that epic shot you are wanting as they whales may be too far away.
- Hair ties: Ladies – this one is for you. You might notice that in all my pictures, I have my hair up. It gets windy out there on the boats and it does get quite warm. Keep your hair from blocking your view or making you extra sweaty by carrying some extra hair ties.
With that said, I hope we gave you some good information on how you can enjoy a whale watching eco-adventure with Pacific Whale Foundation! As travelers, we really care about how our travel impacts the environment and finding companies that are eco-friendly.
If you’ve been on one of their tours before, we’d love to hear about your own personal experiences in the comments below.
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