It is a commitment between the whales and me. It is an unforgettable journey between us.
One night, at the end of January, I dreamed of whales.
In the dream, we were very close. I remembered the dream when I awoke. This magical dream pushed me to decide to see the North Pacific Ocean. During the winter months of December to April, over 10,000 humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the warm, shallow water of Maui (Hawaii) to mate, birth and raise their young calves in safety. This is why I chose Maui as my destination for this trip. I wanted to achieve it when I turned 33 years old, so I decided to go during my birthday week as a special gift for myself.
Unfortunately, we are experiencing the coronavirus outbreak, so people around me thought I should not travel at this time. But in the end, I made the best decision at the moment: I persisted in going and making this dream come true. I knew that if I missed this great opportunity, I would have to wait until next year. Life is made for adventuring! My special guests were strongly calling me! No matter the circumstances, I had to pursue this dream. I indeed went and experienced the most amazing marine wildlife adventure in my lifetime.
Just like the humpback whales took a long journey to Hawaii – over 3,500 miles one way from Alaskan waters – I traveled 4,184 miles to Maui from Chicago. The whales and I shared a connection even before meeting, both taking long journeys to Hawaii. When I exited the airplane, the air was so fresh and smelt wonderful, and I knew I was in the right place. It rained and flooded my first day there, but it did not hurt the island’s beauty. I drove alongside the ocean, during the rain, along twisting roads, rising up and down and through and over mountains to Maui.
On March 18, around 7:30 a.m., I took a whale sighting tour departing from Lahaina Harbor to see my special friends in the ocean. In the morning, the ocean is calm and glassy. Along with the Maui mountains, and blue sky and white clouds, and the sounds of the ocean sound, I was living in paradise, everything else in the world just melted away from my thoughts.
Our experienced boat captain turned up the throttle on our vessel and got us into the open water, as our eyes scanned the ocean for signs of movement. The tour’s certified marine naturalist explained the maneuvers and actions humpback whales use to attract mates, such as pectoral slaps, tail slaps and breaching. As luck would have it, we see a flurry of activity nearby.
My eyes were always searching for whales. Although people often call them “gentle giants,” I call them as my “special guests”. I gazed out at the mating display, the males competing for the attention of a single female, jostling for position, ramming and shoving each other and using aggressive behavior and maneuvers in hopes of chasing each other away from their potential mate.
A whale swam slowly under our vessel and popped its head up for a closer look at us, something called “mugging”. Although I missed seeing it, I could still feel that they were very close to our boat.
I saw baby whales follow the mama humpback as they moved through the water together. The baby whales were learning how to breach. It was one of the most amazing marine experience I’ve ever seen.
All this took place with a backdrop of mountains, blue sky and ocean, the whales playfully surfacing, tail slapping and blowing spouts in the air. I can steel feel their enthusiasm and energy in and out of the water. I kept my eyes glued to them until the last glimmer of their crescent-shaped tails disappeared into the deep blue sea.
As you might know, whales communicate with others through a variety of sounds. People call these “whale songs”. I am so lucky that I could hear how they sing in the ocean, as they used their special sounds to compose a beautiful melody echoing through the water, moving to and through me. I think it is an ocean spirit. I could feel this natural mystery, one of the most magical moments in my lifetime.
The most spectacular moment happened just before the end of my tour: a whale suddenly breached the water. I saw its whole giant body leap out of the ocean, and although the distance was not very close, people, including myself, began cheering at this sight.
At that moment, I had a unique feeling, sensing that the whales were using their special ways to tell me: Thank you for coming to see us, no matter how dangerous the situation and how far away, you still came, and you are very brave. Now, we have met each other.
At that moment, I truly felt that my dream came true and this missing part of life was complete. Although I did not take any photos of it, that amazing thing will always be in my memories. I was fortunate because my tour was the last one in Maui before the whale sighting tours were canceled until April due to the coronavirus outbreak, and at that time the whales will be heading back to Alaska. The whales were probably thinking the same thing: at least we got to meet each other.
One of the bravest decisions in my lifetime is that I still came to see you, no matter the circumstances. One of the most amazing moments in my life is that I witnessed your magical and awe-inspiring life. Now, my wish and dream came true. I have no regrets!
Mahalo to my special guests for an amazing adventure again. Thanks again for using your special ways to celebrate my 33rd birthday.