Tag: animals

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!

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.

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.

humpback whale
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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This morning we went to Pa’ia to see the turtles. I had thought they only come out at sunset, but no, there they were just before noon, resting. Sun tanning. I love watching them. It’s quite something, considering how tiny they are when they hatch (check out this blog entry about watching a turtle nest un-earthing from a few years ago). I wonder how old these turtles are.

Do be considerate to the turtles and also others watching the turtles.

A little Turtle Etiquette:
– Keep your distance, do not approach them.
– Hunker down. Turtles come to shore to rest. Try to blend into the beach, so by hunkering down it’s less obvious to turtles that you are there watching. If they perceive a threat, they won’t come to shore.
– Be quiet and enjoy.

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Maui County Agricultural Festival this Saturday!

This Saturday is the annual Maui County Agricultural Festival at the Maui Tropical Plantation. What do you mean, agriculture isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Maui? You’re probably not the only one.

Nonetheless, we do have a lot of agriculture here on our island. Probably the most noticeable farming is the sugar cane fields along the highway. But don’t forget all the fruit and vegetables that are grown locally (check out the farmer’s markets and swap meet) and the coffee plantations…

This event is being held this Saturday April 4th between 9am-4pm. Admission is $3/adult, children (18 and under are free). There is a keiki (kids) area, petting zoo, live music, food alley, farmer’s market, informational tents etc.

There is also the annual ‘Grand Taste 2015: A bite of Maui‘ event. Twelve of Maui’s top chefs pair with twelve local farmers to create dishes. For $30 you can sample it all (purchase tickets online or, subject to availability, at the event for $40)! One of these days I’m going to try that.

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Sleep with the Sharks!

We were at the Maui Ocean Center today. A year ago we let our annual membership lapse as the kids were kind of ‘done’ with it (we’d had annual passes 3 years in a row). But my youngest is still enthusiastic about seeing the fish, so for Christmas we bought a pass for him and myself to go again for the year. Love having this annual pass – we usually go 6 or 7 times a year, for an hour or two at a time.

the odd-looking flat fish swimming up the side of the window –
it’s camouflaged on one side, white on the other.
Guess where it’s eyes are?

We both loved watching the fish, stopping at most aquariums to find something interesting. Whether it was a fish swimming loop-dee-loops (and speculating as to why), to the seemingly paralyzed frog fish and the flat fish (one of my favorites, they have the weirdest googley eyes), it was fun for both of us! Sadly the octopus was stubbornly hiding behind a rock and I’m not sure where the ugly fish next door to the octopus was hiding. I’m drawing a blank on his name, but it will come to me.

The naturalist at the star fish display told me about the newly improved Sleep with the Sharks event. This used to be a kids-only event, but they’ve changed it now that kids sleep over together with a parent/adult. Curious?

Here is the event information from the Maui Ocean Center’s website:

An exciting after-hours Aquarium experience awaits! Roll out your sleeping bags next to the majestic Open Ocean exhibit or mesmerizing Sea Jellies cylinder at the next Sleep with the Sharks (that’s in two days – Friday, March 20th). Enjoy exploring the Living Reef after dark, hands-on marine life lesson and more! For ages 6-13. 

Each child must be accompanied by an adult 21 years or older. Includes ocean naturalist guided activities, movie time snacks, continental breakfast, a souvenir decal, and all day admission to the Aquarium the next day! Special membership rates are available. 

Reservations are required; space is limited. Sleepover activities are subject to change. 

star time: 7pm
end time: 9am (following day)
reservations: 808-270-7075
cost: $75 per person plus tax

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February 14th is Whale Day!

Yes, I know, it’s also Valentine’s Day. However, if you are in Kihei, check it out. This event is hosted by the Pacific Whale Foundation in an effort to raise awareness and celebrate the humpback whales. All these events are FREE.

It kicks off with a Whales under the Stars presentation on Friday Feb 13th at Kalama Park (they recommend making reservations for this free event or bringing your own chair).

Then Saturday Feb 14th kicks off with the annual Parade of Whales from 9-10am. The parade starts at Alanui Ke Alii (Kamaole I beach park near ABC store) and continues down to Kalama Park.

The opening ceremony for the 35th annual World Whale Day starts at 10am. The festivities and events continue until 7pm that evening. Events include an food, live music, an Eco-Alley, Pacific Whale Foundation Tents, a Keiki (kids) Carnival and Made on Maui Artisan’s Fair. Can’t make it but want to show your support? Check out the online auction.

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