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Hawaii Humpback Whale Migration

One of the longest migrations of any mammal involves yearly trips to Hawaii.
January 08, 2016

Hawaii Humpback Whale Migration

Maui Whale Watch Tours

The humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii seasonally have always been a source of interest among both visitors and residents. For those who keep an eye on that blue horizon, they can put on quite a show with their acrobatic antics. Their great size and charismatic behavior are just a couple of reasons why our Maui whale watch tours are so popular. Although there are still some mysteries remaining as to the lives they lead below the waves, scientists have discovered many fascinating things about our humpback neighbors.

Humpbacks are found throughout the world's oceans, although their numbers dipped dangerously low as a result of whaling in the 1800's. It's estimated that as few as 1,000 were left in 1965. Now, there are an estimated 6,000 North Pacific Humpbacks alone. One of the interesting things about the humpbacks is the somewhat distinct populations they form. For example. In the North Pacific, there are three populations. The eastern stock migrate between Northern California in summer and Mexico in winter. The western stock summers in the Aleutian Islands and moves on the islands south of Japan in winter. The central stock can be found here in Hawaii in the winter, after spending their summers in southeast Alaska and the Gulf of Alaska in summer. The whales aren't too strict about their migrations though, as some mixing on the breeding grounds has been observed in all of these groups, which probably goes a long way to keeping the gene pool nice and diverse.

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. Luckily for us, one of the two most popular places for whales to congregate is in the waters of Maui County, meaning the area between Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kaho'olawe. Their other popular spot is to the southwest of Molokai. As their numbers continue to strengthen, they have made progress spreading out toward the other Hawaiian islands.

Our whales from Alaska leave their feeding grounds in the fall and swim almost non-stop until reaching their breeding grounds in Hawaii, which can take between 6-8 weeks. At about 3,000 miles each way, it's one of the longest mammal migrations, which is why it takes them so long despite their epic size.

Marine scientists have made some interesting discoveries about Hawaii's arriving whales. Namely, who arrives when. Nursing mothers arrive around mid to late November, generally being the first on the scene. The next to arrive are juveniles and newly weaned yearlings, followed by a surge of adult males, and then adult females. The last to arrive are pregnant females, who feed in Alaska as long as possible before beginning their migration.

If you'd like to observe these awe-inspiring giants in their natural habitat, you can book your tour at our Maui whale watch tour page. If you need our assistance, you'll find our contact information at the bottom of the page. Mahalo!

Blogs for January 2016

Maui's Peak Whale Season

Posted on January 29, 2016
Maui's Peak Whale Season

January is drawing to a close as peak whale season approaches. Humpback whales migrate in throngs from their cold Alaskan feeding grounds in the summer to our warm Hawaiian waters in the winter. Although the first sightings of the year are often in October or… Continue Reading

Five Animals to See on Maui

Posted on January 22, 2016

Five Animals to See on Maui

Maui's unique biodiversity can enrich the vacation of any visitor who appreciates wildlife. The isolation and size of the Hawaiian islands made them an ecological hotspot for speciation ever since their formation, and despite the human impact influencing the populations of these animals,… Continue Reading

Maui Vacation Activity Journaling

Posted on January 15, 2016
Maui Vacation Activity Journaling

Keeping a travel journal is one of the best ways to remember your vacation experience and share it with others, even down the generations after time has changed the world. The technology that's always at our fingertips makes it easier than ever. While being glued… Continue Reading

Hawaii Humpback Whale Migration

Posted on January 08, 2016
Hawaii Humpback Whale Migration

The humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii seasonally have always been a source of interest among both visitors and residents. For those who keep an eye on that blue horizon, they can put on quite a show with their acrobatic antics. Their great size and… Continue Reading

Our Weekly Schedule of Maui Ocean Adventure Tours

Posted on January 01, 2016
Our Weekly Schedule of Maui Ocean Adventure Tours

We often hear it said that Maui vacationers are overwhelmed with the number of things to do on their trip. In fact, they often find that they don't have the time to do and see everything they want to in the… Continue Reading


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