The warm waters of Hawaii attract humpback whales in large numbers at this time of year where they breed, give birth and nurse their young. The large numbers were evident Tuesday morning as we ate breakfast from our deck with a view of multiple whales swimming and breaching in the water between Maui and Lanai. We booked a whale watching tour on Thursday morning with Captain Steve’s Rafting for an up-close view. The tour exceeded our expectations. A baby calf swam within 200 yards, constantly breaking the surface, breaching and flipping it’s dorsal fin. The calf was quite curious as it swam directly underneath us through the clear water. The mother whale was always in close proximity; she once followed the calf in swimming under our raft. It is common to see a male swimming alongside the female during the mating season. In our case we had not one but three males competing for the dominant position alongside the female. We held front rows seats for a 45-minute show. When we finally departed the area, 5 other whales were actively swimming within viewing distance.
Captain Steve's Raft (powered by twin 250 HP outboard motors)
There she goes!
I mentioned earlier the green sea turtles that likes eating on the reef near our condo. We caught them in the evening a few times, our luck in seeing them seemed to coincide with the high tide. We set out on Thursday morning to find some quiet bays for more snorkel diving. Kapalua Bay was our first stop. As we were entering the water, I asked a young man who was exiting where the best snorkeling was to be found. He pointed us in the direction of where there was a leatherback turtle feeding on the reef. Leatherbacks are the largest turtle on earth, reaching up to 7 feet in length and 2000 pounds at full maturity. We swam out were fortunate to find the 5 foot turtle still in the area. I truly mean fortunate since this protected species is capable of diving to depths of 4,200 feet and staying submerged for 85 minutes. While we were watching him eat in 5 feet of water, he decided to surface and came within 3 feet of us on the surface. By contrast, the green sea turtles max out at 5 feet in length and 700 pounds.
Napili Bay shoreline
We rented a GyPSy travel guide on Wednesday for a driving trip around the island. The guide provides an audio tour, using GPS to match commentary to our exact location as we drive along. Our goal was to travel down the Hana Highway, a 34 mile stretch of road along the northeastern coastline stretching from Pauwela to Hana. We had been warned that traffic can be heavy at times resulting in a travel speed of 5-10 MPH. We were fortunate to find light traffic, since the Hana Highway takes you through 620 curves over 59 bridges - 46 of which are 1-lane traffic only. The GyPSy guide did inform us that it is not the destination we should be seeking, but the experiences along the way. I believe they were referring to the scenery, beaches and fruit stands - - - not the parts where you drive around a blind corner to find a truck coming at you over a 1-lane bridge.
One stopping point on our journey was the Keanae Aboretum where I was able to get a close-up view of a Baggras tree (Painted Gum). The name is well suited as you can see in the picture below.
Painted gum tree
The guide did recommend a stop in the small coastal village of Keanae - if you could call it a village. A devastating tsunami hit Keanae on 1 April 1946, The only building left standing was the Congregational Church, a structure built in 1863 using lava stones. There were a couple of houses and one small store catering to tourists, but anyone who survived in 1946 moved to higher ground. The surf was breaking with force onto the black lava shoreline which made for dramatic views.
Surf hitting shoreline at Keanae
Keanae Congregational Church
Two of Keanae's current residents
Once we arrived in Hana, Julie made a quick stop in the Saint Mary Catholic church. I walked around to take pictures. We just made a quick stop before continuing down the road past Hana.
Saint Mary Church
One of the Seven Sacred Pools
The western side of Maui had a number of great swimming and snorkeling beaches, most were located south of our condo. We drove north to explore new sights, a walk into Honolua Bay was one example. We were attracted by the trees and dense vegetation that extended from the road down to the beach. The beach had a rocky shoreline that curved out to a point where surfers were catching the waves. One surfer swam back to shore and exited the water where we stood. You always envision surfers as young people - not so in this case as a thin, long haired man north of 65 years in age walked on by. That drew our attention away briefly from the friendly cats and free range chickens who laid claim to the beach as their territory.
Trail to Honolua Bay
Local cat & chickens (the white rooster was sporting 3 inch spurs!)
Further on north, we stopped by a smaller beach - the surf was rough and no one was in the water. A few local Hawaiian boys were drinking beer and cooking their dinner on a small grill. They had already polished off numerous beef ribs before we arrived; 14 chicken breasts were the next order of business. It did not look like these boys were going hungry. I was offered a beer and a smoke (the kind you roll by hand); which I might have accepted but I was driving! Our drive ended at Nakalele Point for two reasons: there was a blow hole within hiking distance from the road and driving further around the northern tip of Maui violated our rental car agreement (rough roads). The blow hole was worth the drive.
Local boys dining out
Blow hole at Nakalele Point
We had a few good snorkeling dives along the Maui coastline. The high surf conditions did reduce visibility and limit our opportunities to a large extent. The high surf broke 5 boats loose from their moorings and ran them ashore one night. Julie got caught in a traffic jam the next day as the traffic crawled along the highway while everyone could catch sight of a grounded boat.
The Pacific Maid run aground
The McDonalds menu in Kahului offered a local breakfast on the menu: eggs, rice and Spam. We saw a young girl who had ordered it, the complete meal required ketchup added on top of the rice.
Moonlight on Napili Bay