5 Tips on How Get the Most Out of Your Kauai Whale Watching Experience

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Humpback whales are only in Hawaii for a few months out of the year and Kauai whale watching is an activity not to be missed. With the whale season in full swing, here are 5 tips on how to maximize your Humpback experience on the Garden Island.

Humpback Whales (or Kohola in Hawaiian) make their yearly winter migration to the warm Hawaiian waters, where they mate and give birth to their young. During their time in Hawaii, these incredible sea mammals can be seen breaching their 40 ton bodies out of the water or slapping their immense tails upon the ocean's surface. In the beauty of the Garden Island, Kauai whale watching season is here, offering a magnificent setting in which to witness Humpback activity. So grab your binoculars and follow these 5 tips to the best way to observe these awe-inspiring animals.

1. Be Where the Whales Are
Whales are in Hawaiian waters as early as November and as late as May but the ideal time to catch a glimpse of them is in February and March. Up to 10,000 Humpbacks are expected to migrate from Alaska to Hawaii this year, where they will spend their time mating, birthing and raising their young in the waters surrounding the island chain. In this archipelago some islands see more whale activity than others. Though whales can be spotted on Oahu, whale-watching opportunities are in even more abundance off the coasts of Maui, the Big Island and Kauai. Kauai's Na Pali coastline is an ideal location for watching Humpbacks in action. This remote and pristine coastal region is accessible only via a rugged 11 mile hiking trail or by boat.

2. Take a Boat Tour    
The best way to see whales is on the water. Nothing compares to the experience of witnessing these massive creatures up close and in their element. Various boat companies on Kauai offer seasonal tours specifically aimed at whale watching. These excursions are available aboard powered, sailing catamarans or rigid hull inflatable rafts. The stability of a large catamaran vessel provides a smooth sail for those interested in cruising with a little more comfort. However, for those seeking some adventure, rafts bring passengers even closer to the action skimming low upon the water's surface with quick maneuverability.

3. Give Them Space
Whatever kind of boat you choose, the captains of these vessels are highly skilled and trained in how to share the water with the whales and their babies. All companies adhere to strict whale watching guidelines that include Hawaii's standard "100 yard minimum" rule, keeping anyone (swimmers, kayakers, boaters) at least 100 yards away. This doesn't mean that boaters can't enjoy close encounters with these amazing animals. An experienced captain knows just the right way to respectfully position the boat so that the whales may come closer of their own accord.

4. Hear Their Songs
Though Humpbacks don't have vocal chords, their songs can be heard more than 20 miles away as they pass air through their respiratory system producing sounds deep underwater. Scientists have discovered that though female Humpbacks create sounds, it is the male that has the capability to craft sophisticated melodies. At one time it was thought that these serenades were connected to a mating ritual, as the songs are almost always sounded in the breeding area. More recent finding conclude that the male's songs may actually be less amorous and more of a warning to perceived threats. You can experience these songs for yourself, as many of Kauai's boat tours provide special headphones designed to listen to these unique reverberations as they echo through the underwater world.

5. Help Protect Them
The commercial whaling industry nearly drove the Humpback whale population to extinction in the first half of the 20th century. As a result, federal laws were put in place to protect the whales. It is estimated that the world's Humpback population is now somewhere between 30 and 40,000. Though their numbers are stabilizing, there are still threats to their health and wellbeing. You can support the preservation efforts for these remarkable sea creatures by learning more about Humpbacks and the programs designed to protect them. Support legislation that furthers this cause and patronize companies that employ environmentally responsible practices. Help keep oceans and beaches clean. You can even connect with Kauai's Surfrider Foundation, and participate in their monthly beach clean ups.

Viewing the massive Humpback whale in the wild is a memorable experience that is made even more incredible in the setting of Kauai's gorgeous natural beauty. It's an opportunity that only comes around once a year. So get your camera ready and scan the horizon. The whales have returned to Kauai.

For more information about Humpback Whales and how to view them visit http://www.napali.com/.

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Jessica Dofflemyer

Jessica Dofflemyer
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