So today was the big day of the whale watching trip. I was definitely excited as getting out on a boat on the water is one of my favorite things. And it helped that Matt & Sonja’s parents had generously offered to pay for the whole trip, which was no small amount considering we ended up having around 100 people and two large boats! Many thanks to them…
We got up and down to the lobby by around 9. Drove on into Lahaina with Phillip and Dana. Lahaina is the place that has a monstrous banyan tree in their downtown. Pretty impressive. What I couldn’t figure out was if it had largely been helped by man, or if it somehow managed to grow that way on it’s own. It has a ton of trunks that grow vertically for like 20 or 30 feet and then connect into another section that goes down to the ground. Doesn’t seem like it could grow like that on it’s own. But I digress.
Everyone got to the dock and we proceeded to load up the boats. They are owned by Trilogy and apparently Sonja’s family has been going on trips on them for something like 30 years. Anyway, they were great, definitely recommend them. We headed out of the harbor slowly, and then took off to about a couple miles out. It was a beautiful sunny day, probably around 75 degrees at this point. I could definitely see whales in different places a ways out. We then cut the motor and just sat there. I was talking with Dana and she said she hadn’t seen any whales yet, which surprised me as I had seen them like crazy the day before. Anyway, no sooner had she said that than a whale proceeded to jump very close to us and create a tremendous splash! She sure had seen one now. He proceeded to jump a couple more times and then took off. Then a couple started breaching close to us. We followed them around for quite a while (slowly). They were staying at the surface and appeared to be 3 of them. One was laying on it’s back and picking up it’s flipper and slapping it on the surface. At our closest we probably were about 150 feet away, so they seemed monstrous. Here’s a picture I took:
Okay, not really. For some reason regular cameras always seem to shrink things tremendously. Here’s a photo I took for real. Yes they seemed super close, and yes, it’s the tiny little black dot you can barely see. Oh well, guess I need to invest in a telephoto lens.
The guys who were running the boat actually told us a lot about the whales. They were actually super friendly, and a lot of fun. I think I would be about 10x nicer than I am if I had their job. Anyway, they explained, and this was news to me, that these were humpback whales and that they come down each Dec-Apr from Alaska and hang out in the channel between Maui, Lanai & Molokai (which all used to be one island by the way). They breed, have calves, and then great ready to head back to Alaska where they spend the rest of the year eating (kind of the reverse of what we were doing, gorging in hawaii, starving ourselves before to get in beach shape). So it sounds like if you want to see whales, it’s pretty much guaranteed if you go to Maui during this time. What was interesting to learn to me is that Lahaina was founded as a whale hunting location, and that Humpbacks were almost hunted to extinction from there. Ironic that the city’s living has come from whales twice now, both from killing them, and now as a tourist industry. I definitely prefer the latter.
Well we hung out for a couple hours on the boat. Was tremendous fun, but was time to head back in. I could have stayed out all day long, but I guess all good things must come to an end. We were walking back to the car to head back to the hotel, when I saw a place selling shaved ice. If you haven’t had shaved ice before, it’s much better than a snow cone. It’s like having the softest snow you’ve seen with sweetness added. I later saw that the place I got it at, Local Boys West, is highly rated in the guide book I’ve got. So that was serendipitous. We got back to the hotel in time for, you guessed it, lunch in the room.
We hung out in the room a bit, and then on down to the beach. I decided it was time to try some snorkeling while Heather preferred hanging out on the beach. So we went on up to Black Rock which is good snorkeling. Black Rock is a big lava outcropping with cliffs and is actually a famous place for locals to jump off the cliffs into the ocean as a representation of the jumping off point into the next life. It juts quite a ways out into the ocean. I proceeded to snorkel along the south side of the rocks. You immediately see lots of fish and some of them seem generally curious about you (you also see lots of other snorkelers btw). It was getting a bit later and I debated heading around the furthest edge of the rocks to the ones that face the open sea, but ended up deciding to go for it and was glad that I did. While the water is much deeper, and currents are stronger, the reef and coral is much more extensive here. I proceeded to swim among the reef and fish for a while. I then saw another snorkeler diving and as this was only my 3rd time snorkeling, didn’t really realize you could do this. I gave it a try though and works just fine. Is a fine way to get deeper and closer to the fish and coral. While I was diving I could hear all these loud crackling or popping noises. Apparently this is caused by tiny shrimp cracking their claws (sounds fishy to me). In addition, I could hear what seemed to unmistakably be whales talking to each other. I later got confirmation from a local that this was in fact what I was hearing! Pretty amazing. The sound is definitely haunting. Anyway, decided was time to wrap up and head back in. I didn’t realize that there were turtles close, but I’d find out about that later. I thought I’d just snorkel all the way back to the hotel, but realized you can walk much faster than snorkeling, or at lease I can anyway. I imagine expert swimmers may be quicker.
So it was back to the room and time to head out on the town–a night for just me and Heather in the big city of Lahaina (which was about 5 miles south from the hotel). I had been jonesing for some real Hawaiian food, and fortunately Gerald had recommended a place called Aloha Mixed Plate. It was starting to rain, but when you’re in Hawaii and it’s 80 degrees, rain takes on a whole different aspect. Which is to say, it’s actually pleasant. So we sat outside and shared the one covered table with another table. We started talking with the couple and turns out they were from Montana! And not just Montana, but from Lakeside. They didn’t recognize my parents names, but probably would recognize them in person since my folks used to live so closed to them. Heather asked them what the secret is to a happy marriage, and they said they had made a decision about 20 years ago to move away from Seattle and instead focus on quality of life, rather than trying to make it big. Seems like a pretty good ethos, though if you can do it and still manage to travel to Hawaii regularly (as they do) not sure that you’re giving up to much. Anyway, they were a super nice couple and it was nice meeting them… as to dinner, I proceeded to order the Loco Moco and the full mixed plate which includes about 1/4 of a pig. Loved the Loco Moco, but was less crazy about the pork.
Now that dinner was over, we decided to head into the Lahaina downtown and do some shopping. Think of Lahaina as the fisherman’s wharf of SF. So it’s where all the tourists go and there’s lots of cheesy stores, but also some cool ones. We were shopping for some new trunks for me and hit 3 or 4 spots and of course couldn’t find anyway. I was going to give up, but then stopped at a small shop where the owner was super friendly and of course the last pair I tried on were great. Amazing how you always find stuff in the last place you look 😉
After that we walked through a number of stores. We stopped in one art gallery where the photographer takes pictures with a special development process that makes the pictures glow with a special light. Think the Thomas Kincaid of photographers. Only what this guy does, is he makes like 100 prints of a picture. Then as fewer and fewer remain, the cost keeps going up. They had one in the studio that only had one print left. Cost was $400,000! Pretty ridiculous. I mean come on, yes these are pretty pictures, but I could take close to as pretty of a picture. I need to figure out their development process.
We then stopped by a store to get the requisite chocolate covered Macadamia nuts to bring back with us as gifts (they won’t let you on the plane without them), and then called it a night!