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Big Island resort opens Humpback Whale Center

by Harmony Bassi, Ocean Sports

The Hawaiian Humpback Whale Center opened Dec. 6 at the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Hotel. The Center is a partnership with the National Marine Whale Sanctuary, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), and Ocean Sports, which will operate it.

The Hawaiian Humpback Whale Center features extraordinary photographic images and video footage of Humpback Whales taken by renowned nature photographers and videographers in Hawaiian and Alaskan waters. Educational materials provided by the National Marine Whale Sanctuary and developed by local marine naturalists provide an insight into the underwater world of these magnificent mammals and allow Visitors may also listen to the latest whale songs through hydrophobic digital recordings.


The mission of the Hawaiian Humpback Whale Center is to educate island people and visitors about Hawai‘i’s Humpback whale population and ocean environment through firsthand photos and the latest scientific research. The Center is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., is open to the public, and is free.

This year, the first reported Humpback Whale sighted off the Kohala Coast on the Big Island of Hawai‘i was reported Oct. 25 from the vessel Sea Smoke. The 30-foot whale put on a show for the crew and guests by breaching, spouting, and blowing.

Humpback whales migrate from Alaska to Hawai‘i for the winter and stay until mid-April. They come to breed, calve, and nurse their young.

Approximately 5,000 whales migrate to Hawai‘i each year. Whale “babies” weigh in at 1.5 tons and are 10-16 feet long. Adult females grow to 45 feet and weigh an average of 45 tons, while the males weigh an average of 42 tons and average 42 feet in length.

In the northern waters that are their summer home, the whales eat krill, plankton, and small fish, but in their Hawaiian winter home they rarely eat! They are, however, extremely active during their stay in Hawai‘i.

The interactions between the male, female, and baby whales often result in incredible displays of breaches, tail-slaps, lunges, fin slaps, loud singing, and spouting.

The Hawaiian Humpback Whale Center will also feature displays of other residents of the Pacific Archipelago including the endangered Green Sea Turtle, the Hawaiian Monk Seal, and other indigenous species of the Hawaiian island chain. Exhibits include information on the near-shore coral reef system and cultural and historical information.

The Center features the work of Michael Nolan, a world-renowned wildlife photographer whose pictures have appeared in international magazines, books and calendars in over 35 countries. Local photographers rounding out the exhibits include marine naturalist Todd Buczyna, who has captured whales on film for years, and Cat Sweeney, a longtime Kona resident, dive instructor, underwater photographer, sea captain, and writer.

Throughout the year the Center will also host guest speakers including eminent marine naturalists, environmentalists, researchers, public policymakers, nature photographers, and others who will talk about a wide range of ocean related subjects. Interactive displays and whale and marine artifacts will be added to the Center throughout the year as it expands.

Harmony Bassi is director of Sales at Ocean Sports, 808-886-6666 ext. 3.


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