Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a 2-mile all-paved, family and pet friendly trail gradually climbing to a 450-foot point, located on the east side of Oahu.
Every year, on the first Saturday of January, February and March, those who are allured by the giant humpback whales, gather together on their outposts throughout the islands. Their serious gazes are glued on the glaring sea spanning out its full panoramic view in front of them. Their binoculars move slowly and quietly like an experienced hunter who would never disturb the animal until “the moment” comes. When the moment arrives, a white whiff arises miles away; a pack of humpbacks are here, breaching. Instead of mustering its crews with ropes and tools for attack, they muster their notebooks and pens. They are ‘hunting’ for whales with their eyes only, just counting.
Regardless of flashy technology available today, we rely on this same old method to count the number of visiting Central North Pacific stock of humpback whales (“humpbacks” hereafter) from Alaska to the Hawaiian waters. Luckily Hawaii has a generous pool of good-hearted volunteers that participate in the counting (learn more about the annual whale count project from here)!
Usually starting from November, about 10,000 humpbacks migrate to Hawaii. After feeding themselves with tons of krill, plankton and tiny fishes in the spring and summer time, they are set for a long journey to Hawaii (some humpbacks migrate over 3,000 miles!). Scientists believe that humpbacks choose their winter destination to Hawaii because of its warm climate, various depths of the ocean, underwater visibility, and that there are much less natural predators in the water. To breed and welcome a new family member after 11 to 12 months of being away (yes, they come back to Hawaii the following year to give birth), this subtropical region is an ideal location not only for human beings but also for whales.
Can you see a little white blow in the distance? After the blow, a silver gleaming silhouette was observed a little while and disappeared.
Every year around this time, I cry out the same exact utterance of “I can’t believe it’s already March!” and then I hit it to the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse Trail to check out the arrival of whales with my own eyes. Coinciding with the peak of whale season here (usually February and March), it is only a matter of time to spot our ‘biggest’ winter guests in the ocean. As you skim through a myriad of silver reflections of light and little ripples of waves, you will notice a white spray of shower that pops up from the sea surface—some near shore and others at a distance. Fixate your sight on the very direction for a little while, and you may see another blow from other traveling companions, or other curious gestures such as a tail slap and a side flap.
Here in Hawaii, we can easily forget about the change of seasons. In the spring, no hills transform into a bright yellow carpet of daffodils, and no confetti of pink and white petals showers down over us from cherry blossom trees in full bloom. Instead, we are given the opportunity to witness new life that is budding and blooming in the deep blue waters of the Pacific. One lonely candle of a lighthouse is not enough. Grab your binoculars and cameras, and come celebrate the many births of baby whales with us!
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