Recently I took two whale watch trips with Makai Adventures, a brand new company based out of Lahaina harbor, slip 16. I signed up for the two-hour tour both times (because we all know what happened to Gilligan and the crew on a three-hour tour) and had very different, but wonderful experiences on both tours.
The boat, named Kainalu (Hawaiian for ocean wave) is impeccably clean. It looks brand new, but is actually 17 years old. One of the reasons the deck stays so clean is that Makai Adventures asks you to remove your footwear before you board their boat (it is a very Hawaii/Japanese thing that we do at home out here, so it makes sense to observe the same standard, even on a boat). All of the shoes, sandals, flip-flops, slippahs, sneakers, and even boots with the fur are all kept safe and sound while you are out on your tour and will be lined up waiting for your stinky feet to return.
Guarding the boat slip, as well as the shoe collection, is their faithful dog Liko. Liko seems very happy chewing on her tennis ball or the nearest stool leg and was impartial to all the different visitors who try desperately to get her attention. She and I were on the same page regarding the visitors.
The first tour was full of far off action. There were plenty of whales all around us and we barely made it out of Lahaina harbor before we had to kill the engines due to whales being close to us. I had my 70-200mm lens with a 2x teleconverter on it to try and get up close and personal with distant subjects, but when the whales were close, I had a difficult time zooming out to show some of the surrounding water, the blue voggy sky, or the horizon.
The Kainalu is a fast boat, so getting in range of the whales was never an issue. The ocean was particularly flat on the first trip, so even at high speeds, sitting in the very back of the boat, I never got one drop of spray on me (or more importantly, my camera equipment). The boat can hold twenty-four passengers, but Makai Adventures kept the numbers below twenty on both trips. This made for such a great experience, that I cannot fathom why people pay more money to go on those big, bulky, slow, cattle-car boats that hold hundreds of people.
Below are some pictures from the first Makai Adventures tour.
It was a beautiful day, the whales were all around us, and then this happened…
I wasn’t sure if I had gotten this breach shot in focus and couldn’t wait to get home to see it on the computer screen. I was so excited to finally get a nice shot of a breach, even if it was pretty far away.
The second Makai Adventures tour was completely different, but in a good way. We had to travel a lot further to get into the active whale zone, but when we did, something amazing happened. As we were sitting out on the Pacific Ocean, watching for spouts, breaches, tail slaps, pectoral fin slaps, or spyhopping two whales came right at the boat and stayed with us for an hour or so. According to Captain Jonathan Massingill, we had a female whale using the boat as a blocker to keep a male whale away from her. She played this cat and mouse game with him for an hour or so, until we had to head back in towards the harbor. I suggested they renamed the boat The C*ckblocker, but I don’t believe they’ve changed it from Kainalu…yet.
The whales were so close that when they came up for a breath of fresh air, we were covered in saltwater and whale snot from the exhalation out of their blowholes. This experience was not great for the photographer in me, but it was amazing for the side of me that lives in the moment and will never forget the experience.
Here are a few photos from the second whale watch, up close and personal.
I’ve included the picture below to show how humpback whales have not one, but two blowholes.
The two separate experiences with Makai Adventures were both first class. I would recommend the two-hour whale watching tour to visitors and locals alike. The boat is clean, the crew are energetic, respectful of the whales, and very knowledgeable. You can sign up and pay online, or you can sign up and pay in person (I tried both ways, online was faster, but in person was more entertaining) and the prices are competitive with other boats their size.
I plan on using Makai Adventures again for whale watching tours before the season ends out here on Maui and our biggest visitors to the islands head back towards Alaska.
Here are a few more pictures from the whale watch tours.