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The History You Should Know Before You Go Whale Watching


Humpback whales migrate to the Hawaiian Islands from fall to spring, with the peak season during January and February. It’s a breathtaking sight to witness. If you’re planning to go on a Kauai whale watching tour, you’ll want to know more about their presence and impact on Hawaiian culture. Below is a brief primer on these creatures to help you prepare for an ocean excursion.

The History of Whales in Hawaii

The importance of whales to early Native Hawaiians is well-documented in chants, legendary tales, and artifacts. In the Kumulipo creation chant, these magnificent animals help bring about the era of light when humans are created.

Once foreigners arrived on the islands, whaling became a popular way to obtain oil for heating and lighting. Whale bones were also incorporated into pieces of clothing, such as corsets. However, by the late 1850s, petroleum was discovered and quickly displaced whale oil’s market dominance. Unfortunately, whaling had already damaged the humpback population, and in 1973, the U.S. government made it illegal to harm or hurt them. Thanks to these regulations, you can still witness their migration on a whale watching trip.

Why They’re Culturally Significant

a boat sitting on top of a mountain

It’s little wonder that the power and size of humpback whales inspired many Native Hawaiian legends. They were considered an animal form of Kanaloa, the god of the oceans. It was also believed that whales helped Polynesians reach the islands.

Beautiful pendants that conferred royal status were made from whale teeth, but not from humpback whales; they use large plates of baleen to strain the ocean water for food. The teeth were likely sourced from sperm whales or false whales, such as orcas.

To experience the migration in its full glory, you’ll need a trustworthy charter company for a whale watching expedition. Kauai Sea Tours offers tours all around the island, and even has special access to the unrivaled Na Pali coast. To learn more about their snorkeling, sightseeing, and whale watching tours, call (808) 335-5309.

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