Tag: animals

Please – don’t touch the wildlife

I would think it would go without saying that you shouldn’t touch wildlife. However, apparently some people need it spelled out.

Hawaiian monk seals

Various news stations reported yesterday that the State has launched an investigation into people getting to close or even touching monk seals. Did you know, you can get fined up to $50,000 for harming or harassing a monk seal? Did you know Hawaiian monk seals are an endangered species? Scientists estimate there are 1400 Hawaiian monk seals alive today – they think there are 1100 in the Northern (uninhabited) Hawaiian islands, and approximately 300 in the main Hawaiian islands. In fact, it makes the local news when monk seal pups are born.

Turtles

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a turtle at the Maui Ocean Center

Turtles are also included in Hawaii’s protected wildlife. Our family moved to Maui 11 years ago. When we first moved here, it was pretty rare to see turtles at the beach. In the past decade turtle sightings have become more common which is wonderful! However, please do not approach and definitely do not touch turtles. A number of years ago there was a crazy story about people trying to ride a turtle. Isn’t that a Disney thing?

The DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources) and NOAA both recommend keeping a distance of at least 10 feet (3 meters) from turtles. Here is some information on what to do if you see an injured or entangled sea turtle.

Did you know there are five turtle species in Hawaii? The most common turtle species are green turtles and the endangered hawksbill turtles. A number of years ago we were able to witness the scientific unearthing of a hawksbill turtle nest. It was an incredible experience.

Coral reefs and reef fish

Snorkeling and diving are two of the most popular activities here in Hawaii. But did you know, stepping on the reef can cause significant damage to the coral? Please do not step on the reef and please also do not touch the coral or fish living in the reef. Do take pictures instead!

grainy photo but yes – that is a baby wild pig the size of a cat in my yard, photo taken by our neighbor. Our cat was suitably terrified.

Invasive Species

Yes we also have some not-so-endangered wildlife on Maui. In fact, wild boars and axis deer are considered invasive species and are hunted for population control purposes. Chance are great you will not see a wild boar, but do keep a lookout for them especially if out hiking. While generally human-shy, they will come down into populated areas in search for food. On occasion I have seen them as road kill on the side of the road. Last winter we actually had five baby pigs that came down the gulch and ran around our neighborhood until someone finally caught and relocated them.

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Have you seen the whale exhibit?

Cara at the Maui Ocean Center (isn’t there a way to fix the selfie-mirror image sign behind me?)

I’ve had the new whale exhibit at the Maui Ocean Center on my to do list for a while. I love the Maui Ocean Center and the ‘new’ white dome has intrigued me for some time now. I knew it was a 3D experience about humpback whales, but that’s about it.

Last year the Maui Ocean Center closed when Covid hit. With tourism at a complete standstill, there were just not enough customers to be open. Fortunately this spring they reopened the aquarium. Here we are, half way through the kids’ summer break, so today was the day to go check out the center and it’s whale exhibit! The last time we were at the Ocean Center was in January 2019, one month before the new whale exhibit opened.

The whale exhibit

The Ocean Center has always had a whale exhibit. The old one had various displays and games and a Bubble Net room. The Bubble Net room was a simulation of what it would be like to be krill caught in the humpback whales’ bubble net. Our family thought this was the best part 🙂

However, in February 2019 the aquarium opened the new whale exhibit. In addition to a cool 3D film shot right here off the shores of Maui, they have a whole new updated interactive whale display. Watch this Youtube video for the best description of it.

The new whale exhibit is in a new building tucked next to the gift shop and bathrooms. The former exhibit has been transformed into an exhibit about Kaho’olawe, Hawaii’s forbidden island. One thing I learned today is that it is the first of the Hawaiian islands to have been populated. The island has been deserted for some time, and was actually used for target practice (for bombs) from World War 2 up until 1990 when President Bush signed a moratorium, halting military exercises on it. It’s an interesting exhibit, I highly recommend it.

My favorites

Our family has been big fans of the Ocean Center for years. When the kids were little, we’d come multiple times a week (buying a weekly pass when we were on vacation), then 5-7 times/year with an annual pass once we moved here in 2010. When your kids are little and have a short attention span, you try to be creative in getting your money’s worth!

The frog fish aquarium – one of my favorite displays!

My favorite exhibits are the frog fish, the octopus, the flat fish, the open water exhibit (shark and ray tank) and now definitely the new whale exhibit. How about yours?

Before you go….

The Ocean Center is currently using a reservation system to better spread out guest numbers throughout the day and make social distancing a little easier. And yes, currently you will need to wear your mask both indoors and outdoors while on property. You pre-purchase your tickets online. Read the instructions closely, for instance there is a twenty minute window to arrive (if your reservation is for 10am, you can arrive between 9:50 and 10:10). Yes, they’ve raised their prices, I assume due to limiting visitor numbers and operating losses from last year. On the plus side, there is no extra charge for the new whale exhibit (there previously had been). When I looked, I was able to get same day tickets, no problem, though I assume that depends on the day.

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A trip to the Maui Ocean Center

When we first moved to Maui over eight years ago, our family held annual passes to the Maui Ocean Center. Over the years we have loved coming here to visit the fish. Our family’s favorites are the octopus, lion fish and the sharks and rays.

a shark and ulua swimming past the window

As our children got older and life got busier, we stopped coming as often. This past week we had family visiting and decided it was time – time to go visit the fish again!

If you have snorkeled in Hawaii, you will know many fish in our reefs are endemic to Hawaii. Endemic meaning, only found in Hawaiian waters. Most famous of these endemic fish is perhaps the humu-humu-nuku-nuku-apua’a fish, also known as the Hawaiian trigger fish.

The Maui Ocean Center is a small aquarium featuring only fish and sea creatures found in Hawaiian waters. The Living Reef building showcases fish seen while snorkeling our reefs. The Open Ocean with acrylic ‘glass’ tunnel holds a 750,000 gallon tank with a collection of sharks, rays and ulua. Twice a day a naturalist scuba dives in the tank for a question and answer session about the animals in the tank. It is really cool.

the naturalist telling us about the ray

There is also a turtle lagoon and most recently a large area focused on native history and Kaho’olawe (the ‘forbidden’ island in the distance past Molokini).

New humpback whale exhibit

Coming soon – maybe in February now! The Maui Ocean Center has been working on its the new humpback whale exhibit. I am very curious about the new white dome which will feature a 3D humpback whale experience.

If you’ve never been to the Maui Ocean Center – check it out. The best deal is to pre-purchase your tickets on the website. If coming as a family, make sure you select the family pass option for best rate.

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New Year’s Eve Whale Watch

It has been a few years since I went on a whale watch. I must say, the last one was epic and I’ve just been afraid no other whale watch would measure up. Nonetheless, my parents visited over Christmas and I decided to treat them to a whale watch. If nothing else, I figured it would be a treat to see Maui from the water.

I booked a 2 hour whale watch with the Pacific Whale Foundation departing out of Ma’alaea Harbor. There are several options, including rafts that depart right out of Kihei Boat Harbor, but I figured sitting higher up (second deck) of a boat, you’d likely see better.

I chose the 9AM morning departure on New Year’s Eve. Mornings are always calmer, but I knew we weren’t up for a 7AM departure, so 9AM was just fine.

It was a beautiful day at sea, blue skies but somehow the sun managed to find clouds to hide behind so we weren’t roasting too badly. We saw 6 whales and my parents loved it. One of our favorite parts was when they lowered the underwater microphone and we could hear the whale song from whales within a several mile radius. So cool and unique.

Was it as epic as the whale watch 6 years ago? Well no – that one was in prime whale season (Feb/March) and likely a once in a life time experience. But I really enjoyed the whale watch nonetheless.

Why a whale watch vs watching from shore?

If you know what to watch for from shore, then watching from the beach or your oceanfront condo’s lanai can be fun and satisfying. However, if you’ve never gone whale watching, book a trip on a whale watch where you will have a marine biologist explain all about humpback whales, their behavior and help you see the whales. Plus, with any luck you’ll see whales much closer than from shore.

Happy New Year

I happened to be at our Kihei Surfside condo at sunset on New Year’s Eve. I sat on one of the stone benches right next to the water, watching and waiting for sunset to happen. Unfortunately there was a thin band of clouds just at the horizon, so the sun sunk behind the clouds rather than the horizon. However, just after it had sunk, a whale breached in the distance, just to the left of the sunset. It was an epic way to end out 2018!

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Small town rodeo

Modern day paniolos – this weekend’s rodeo was ‘small-kine’ (just a little) muddy

This past weekend the Maui Roping Club hosted Maui’s 63rd annual rodeo in Makawao. Typically this rodeo is held in and around the Fourth of July, this year just a few days later. The two day event kicked off with a parade down Baldwin Avenue in Makawao. Rodeo festivities themselves started at 4pm on Saturday and again at 1pm on Sunday.

Maui has an interesting ranching history. In fact Captain George Vancouver, who had accompanied Captain Cook on his third expedition which is when they ‘discovered’ Hawaii, gifted several long-horn cattle to King Kamehameha in the late 1700s. At the time the king placed a kapu (ban) on killing/eating the cattle. As a result by the 1830s herds of cows apparently destructively roaming the island(s). This prompted King Kamehameha III to bring in Mexican cowboys to help contain the herds. These cowboys spoke Spanish (Espanol) and became known as paniolos – which is what cowboys on Maui are known as to this day.

Ranches were developed in the late 1800s. On Maui the Haleakala Cattle Company was formed in 1885 and what is now the Ulupalakua Ranch also started a ranching operation around that time. Both these ranches are still in existence today. You can go visit the Ulupalakua Ranch – their general store and winery (Maui Wine) are one of our family’s favorite upcountry lunch destinations. The Maui Wine tasting room has a room dedicated to the Ulupalakua Ranch history with plaques and photographs.

For a time ranching was the 3rd largest contributor to Hawaii’s economy. Raising cattle in Hawaii is trickier than on the mainland, due in large part to the shipping factor. Bringing in feed is very expensive, as is the cost of exporting the meat back to the US mainland. Maui beef is therefore mainly grass-fed. The droughts in recent years caused Maui ranches to drastically reduce the size of their herds. However, do look for Maui beef in local stores and restaurants – it is delicious!

rodeo
The little kids with their bright stick lollipops definitely stole the show

But back to the rodeo… it was a fun small-town event where everyone seems to know everyone. Unfortunately it had been raining off and on, so it was a bit mucky. However drizzle does make for the most beautiful rainbows.

rodeo
drizzle makes the most beautiful rainbows

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World Whale Day 2017

Next weekend, Saturday February 18th, is World Whale Day. It takes place right here in Kihei.

humpback whale
The Parade of Whales

The Parade of Whales starts at 9AM at the Alanui Ke Alii/South Kihei Road intersection and ends at Kalama Park. It’s not a big one, though last year was a lot of fun (it lasted about 45 minutes or so). Hint, sit or stand facing the ocean, that way you get a great view in addition to entertainment AND you don’t have the sun in your eyes!

Also, you guessed it, South Kihei Road is blocked off for the duration of the parade.

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fun humpback whale model (an adult humpback is the length of a school bus)

Following the parade there is a festival at the Kalama Park ball field across the street from Foodland. There are kids games, food, live music, a silent auction, local Made in Maui vendors and also a whale information gallery. As far as I can tell, the festival runs from 9:30AM – 6PM.

Admission to the festival is $5 (the parade is free, of course).

seabury hall
a local middle school marching band bringing up the rear

Where to park? You can park for free at both Azeka Mall and Hope Chapel, and yes, there is a free shuttle.

The Pacific Whale Foundation is the main sponsor of this event.

It’s Whale Season

January-March are of course humpback whale season here on Maui. Have you been watching the whales? Do you prefer to watch from shore or by boat?

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A few whale season openings!

We still have a few whale season openings! Whale season? Have you ever seen a 60,000+ lb whale do a belly flop? It is truly amazing!

Kihei Surfside #405: April 4-20, 2016. This condo is right on the ocean, you can watch the whales jumping and splashing from the comfort of your lanai! We have a pair of binoculars, in case you want to get a close-up view! This property also has stunning sunsets.

Sugar Beach lawn
Ahhhh… what a place to enjoy the view and work on your tan!

Sugar Beach #104: March 26-April 4, 2016. This is a ground floor condo, located in the courtyard at Sugar Beach Resort. While you have a sliver of an ocean view, you are merely 50 steps from the beach. There are plenty of lounge chairs on the grass area for you to enjoy, or watch the whales while going on an early morning or romantic sunset walk!

The view from the lanai at Maui Kamaole I-103
The view from the lanai at Maui Kamaole I-103

Maui Kamaole I-103: March 29-April 7, 2016. This property is located up the hill from Kamaole III beach, and the Kihei boat launch. You have an ocean view from your lanai. Our neighbors recently told us about their amazing whale cruise with Blue Water Rafting which leaves right from the Kihei Boat launch (a short walk away)! Blue Water Rafting are best known for their snorkel and scuba trips, but during whale season they also put on whale watches. Yes, you sit on a raft, experiencing the rush of being right on the water while enjoying whales (prepare to get wet!)

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How to find humpback whales!

It’s that time of year again – whale season! The humpback whales are back in Maui for their annual mating and calving season. Alaskan humpback whales travel 6 weeks to Hawai’i (they particularly love the shallower waters between the Maui County islands – Maui, Kaho’olawe, Lanai and Molokai) where they spend approximately 6 weeks calving or mating before returning home. Believe it or not, they do not eat while they are traveling nor when they are in Hawai’i. We have no krill. Then they journey back up to the cold Northern waters of Alaska where I imagine they begin a feeding frenzy. Talk about a diet plan!

humpback whale 2
whale about to raise its tail

Humpback whales are large – they are roughly the length of a school bus. A calf is between 10-15 feet long at birth (compared to 40-50 feet for adults). Keep in mind, when whale watching, you only actually see the portion of the whale that pops out of the water, often only the water action associated with it.

If you have never gone whale watching, I recommend first learning a bit about humpback whales and their behavior.

  1. The visitor center at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei.
  2. The Maui Ocean Center also has an interactive display which is great for kids.
  3. At minimum, check out this great Humpback Whale fact sheet from the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

humpback whale 2
left is spray from the whale’s blow hole, right is his arched back

Then I recommend going on an organized whale watch. There are numerous boats/companies that will take you out. I like the Pacific Whale Foundation, but have heard good things about other boats also. One thing to keep in mind, the discounted whale watches tend to be fuller which means more people jostling for a spot at the rail for best viewing.

This time of year (January – March especially) you only need to look out at the ocean to see whale spouts (where they blow water up to 20 feet out of their blow hole), splashing, breaches, tail slapping, head lunges etc.

Also, if you go out snorkeling early in the morning, listen for whale song. It can be heard from up to 10 miles away.

Here is a really cool drone video of humpback whales I posted a year ago. Keep in mind, you must keep at least 100 yard distance between your boat/kayak/paddle board and the whale and immediately cut the engine on your boat if you notice a whale closer.

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Hawksbill turtle nest

Our neighbors invited us to join them in the unearthing of a hawksbill turtle nest this afternoon. The hawksbill turtles are on the critically endangered animal list. During nesting season, volunteers comb the beaches, looking for turtle tracks that would indicate nesting. Once a nest is found, it is staked, and watched (I’m not sure on the details). Then when the turtles are due to hatch (after about 2 months), volunteers camp out by the nest, through their presence scaring away predators… This particular turtle nest on Oneloa beach (Big Beach) had hatched a number of turtles a few days ago. This afternoon they unearthed the nest, checking for any other live turtles.


carefully opening the nest

They found egg shells, dead turtles and 6 live turtles. Once everything was recorded, they took the baby turtles to the beach where they slowly crawled towards the water, eventually being swept away by one of Big Beach’s giant waves. It truly was the coolest thing to see. Reminded me of a kids movie (Turtle Tale?) I recently watched – and yet, not.


look who we found – a little guy quite eager to head towards the ocean

the live turtles waiting for their release into the Pacific Ocean. Safe swimming, little guys!
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