Return to Hawaii…The Big Island: Thar She Blows!!!

Humpback Whale surfacing

Humpback Whale surfacing

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.

Humpback calf came right up to bow of boat

Humpback calf came right up to bow of boat

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.”

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphin

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.

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner Dolphin

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About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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