This week through mid-to-late March is the absolute best time of year to go out on a whale watch. The babies (called calves) born earlier in the season have grown and strengthened and are starting to show off a little. Last March James and I watched as a mother and calf breached, over and over, for over an hour immediately in front of our boat. It was truly spectacular. Our voices ended up hoarse from all of the whooping, and our hands were sore from clapping. (I’m convinced that the whales know that we enjoy their displays, and, if they’re in the mood, deliberately put on a good show.)
So now imagine this same scene, but instead of watching the whales from above, you’re at fluke, or eye level … ON THE WATER. That’s what happens for lucky people who are on board with Ocean Riders when a whale (and/or her consorts and/or her calf) decides to show off in late winter.
Their boat sits low in the water — it’s a rigid hull inflatable (HBI) and the same one the Coast Guard uses for search and rescue. She stops on a dime, which means that when the captain sees a whale she can halt quickly. The boat leaves from Lahaina just about every day, early, and crosses over to Lana’i, where it circles the island so you can stop and snorkel at hidden spots you can’t visit any other way. There’s no schedule, either: if someone on the boat (it holds 18) is interested in more time or has a question, they go with it. This means that when you see that whale, the captain can actually hang out for a while without feeling tied to a timetable.
It’s a seriously fun trip, and one of our most recommended activities on Maui. Not every snorkel tour boat can make it all the way around Lana’i’s rugged coast — to see a funny little Harry-Potter-esque map of the adventure you’re in for with Ocean Riders, click here and make sure you choose the “Around Lanai” button. Riding with Ocean Riders is a blast anytime of year, and if you’re on island this month, it’s a must-do if you have the least sense of adventure. Just hang on to your hat — because the boat can goes super fast and the wakes can get huge.
You can book with Ocean Riders on their website, www.MauiOceanRiders.com, or by calling 808-661-3586. Don’t forget to mention Maui Restaurants Blog or Molly Jacobson when you book — Ocean Riders sponsored this year’s Top Maui Restaurants, so tell them thank you for supporting our work!