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Successful Whale Watching

Every fall humpback whales leave their Alaskan feeding grounds to journey to the warmer waters of the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii is where whales mate, birth and nurse their young. (Whales think Hawaii is romantic, too!) Whales can been seen up close from November through March.

Here are some insider tips for making your boat trek positively memorable:
1. Go with a professional boat company. (See links below.) They know where to find the whales and how to keep you and the whales safe.

2. Choose from catamarans, zippy rubber zodiac rafts, cruise vessels, and sail boats.

3. Bring a camera. A waterproof disposable camera is a good idea because you and the camera will get wet, especially if you stand in the bow area of the boat.

4. Binoculars can help with closer observation of whale behavior. Binoculars on a boat can be tricky if the water is rough. For best results, use 8 x 40 or 7 x 50 binoculars.

5. Dress for the beach. You will get wet. Bring a beach towel and some extra dry clothes in a waterproof bag (see number 2). Also bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.

6. Look for other wildlife such as spinner dolphins, albatross and boobies (the bird variety).

7. Definitely consider taking homeopathic or nonprescription motion sickness prevention medication at least 60 minutes before getting on a boat. If your trip includes the North Shore, know that the winter wave swells in Hawaii can be 10-30 feet high and the ride can get very bumpy at higher speeds. Non-medicated alternatives include: crackers, dry bread, papaya, or ginger. Drink carbonated beverages, especially ginger ale, and avoid alcohol.

Humpback whales can often be seen from land, too. Choose a calm day and an elevated spot on the shore as an observation point for an unobstructed view. When viewing whales from land, 10 x 50 wide angle binoculars are best. Look for the white, v-shaped spouting from the whale's blowhole that often precedes a roll, a fin slap, or even breaching (jumping out of the water).

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