For today we had planned a three-hour whale watching trip with Captain Dan McSweeney. We made reservations with his company the month prior to our trip based on great reviews of his ability to find whales when no one else could. He also does extensive whale research so we felt that his trip would be a lot more educational than most. Additionally, his tours are a full hour longer than other tours in the area and he provides drinks and snacks while on the boat.
I was worried about rough conditions on the water based on all the wind we’d been having since we got to the Kona side of the island. Valerie and I made sure everyone was well medicated with Dramamine prior to leaving for the harbour.
The day before our planned whale watching trip we’d heard that no one had seen whales for the last few days which would be a bummer since Hannah had never seen whales before and she was looking forward to the experience. Late March is in the later part of the whale season on the Big Island, so it was possible that the humpback had packed up and headed to Alaska already. However, Captain Dan was confident that we’d find some whales since they were still spotting them on his other tours.
Motoring out to a prime whale watching spot, we had our first excitement when everyone spotted a fin; the fin turned out to be a rather large hammerhead shark.
Captain Dan didn’t disappoint: we had barely left the harbour and were right off the coast from the airport when we spotted a large female humpback with a baby. We spent quite a lot of time watching this mother and calf pair. The mother took longer, deeper dives, leaving the baby near the surface so we caught quite a few glimpses of it. At one point the calf came right up to the bow of the boat but mom quickly intervened and move it away to a safer distance.
On the morning tour, Captain Dan had spotted a large pod of pilot whales so we headed to that spot but we never did see them. Afterwards, we worked our way back towards the harbour where we encountered a pod of Spinner Dolphins. These are the most acrobatic sea creatures I’ve ever seen. Instead of just jumping out of the water like regular dolphins, these guys fling themselves into the air and spin around seven and a half times before splashing back in…hence the name “Spinner Dolphins.”
The entire time we were on the boat, Captain Dan told us interesting facts about whales and shared many of his exciting encounters with whales. He gave everyone a photograph of a humpback whale as we departed the tour – he is a well-known photographer in addition to his research work. I would highly recommend Captain Dan’s tours – he and his staff were great.