Guests on Thursday’s Wake up with the Whale Cruise saw 6 different Humpbacks. Our close-by Humpbacks were all surfacing, spouting, and then sounding again…but we did see some pec slapping and a full breach about a half a mile away from us. The coolest sighting of the morning though, was not of a Humpback Whale…but of a whale shark who was swimming in front of the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel. Whale sharks are a pretty rare find for us — they’re the biggest sharks (and the biggest fish) in the ocean. Growing to about the same length as a fully grown Humpback, they spend their lives mostly by themselves, constantly swimming to move water over their gills so they don’t drown. If you were to look into a whale shark’s 5 foot wide mouth, you’d see about 3000 tiny teeth…but the shark doesn’t use them to bite or chew. In fact, whale sharks spend most of the day filtering the ocean for plankton, tiny fish, and fish eggs.
On our 10:00 Whale Watch Cruise from Kawaihae, we saw a spout almost immediately after leaving the harbor, so we headed over to it. This whale sounded before we arrived, and stayed underwater for about 20 more minutes, surfacing in a place none of us expected it to be (Humpbacks can be pretty unpredictable). We saw 8 more Humpbacks throughout the course of this cruise…all of them were surfacing, spouting and sounding (giving us some great views of their wide flukes).
On our Whales and Cocktails Cruise we saw 4 different Humpbacks — one pod of two sounded about 400 yards away from us, so we motored over to where we thought they might be, and after about 13 minutes, they surfaced and spouted just 100 yards away. We watched them through two cycles of surfacing, spouting and sounding, and both times they surfaced about 100 yards from us and both times we got great views of their flukes.
Mahalo and have a great weekend. I’ll send a recap of our weekend’s sightings out on Monday.
Captain Claire’s Humpback Fact of the Day: If you were surprised to read that Whale Sharks don’t have usable teeth, you may be mystified to read that Mysticetes like our Humpback Whales don’t have teeth at all! Humpbacks have approximately 270 – 400 pairs of baleen plates hanging from the top palate of their mouths ranging in length from a foot to about 3 feet long. Where the baleen is attached to the palate, it feels like a horse’s hoof — but it fringes out to form dense mats allowing the whale to “strain the soup of the ocean” when feeding. Humpback baleen is black.