Molikini Crater, located three miles off of Maui’s shore, is known as a favoured snorkling location. It is a crescent shaped volcanic crater that is partially submerged. Declared a Marine Life Conservation District in 1977, it has crystal clear sheltered waters and over 200 species of fish. Another popular Maui snorkling locale is Coral Gardens. It has lots of coral and tropical fish and is a good spot to see turtles.
We joined good friends in Maui for 4 days in January 2013 and a snorkling cruise was a “must do” for our short trip. On a glorious, sunny afternoon, it was one of these two locations that would be the destination of our snorkling charter. Molokini was our first choice but since the afternoon winds were usually too strong to make the trek there and back in the time allowed, Coral Gardens was the typical destination.
The charter was advertised as a whale watch and snorkel cruise but I admit I was skeptical on the whale watch part. Boy was I wrong! The captain was knowledgeable and shared much information about the whales.
Humpback whales are a species of Baleen whale. The adults range in length from 12 to 16 metres and weigh approximately 36,000 kg. Many of the humpbacks migrate 3,500 miles in less than two months, from Alaska’s arctic to Hawaii’s warm waters. Hawaii’s annual humpback whale migration season is December through April. They calve, mate and rear their young, making the Maui waters known as the “cradle of the humpback”. The humpbacks are protected animals in US Waters; it is unlawful to approach closer than 100 yards.
On this day we were lucky, the winds were cooperative and we were heading to Molokini Crater! But on the way we were treated to an amazing number of whale sightings. Among the varied sightings, we saw a mom and baby resting with their escort whale. From the colour of the baby’s skin, the captain estimated it was no more than a week old. We saw a whale breach. Awesome! Plus whales spouting (breathing), slapping their flukes (tails), and a female slapping her flipper. The captain said it was thought the females did this to advertise their presence and attract the males. And sure enough, not long after, there were several other whales that arrived on the scene nearby.
Later, snorkling at the crater, we were delighted to hear the songs of the whales underwater. Only the males sing and apparently their songs can last from 20 to 40 minutes.
All and all, a fabulous day!
For more information on these magnificent creatures see http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/whales/species/Humpbackwhale.shtml