6th Apr, 2009 | Source : newsweekshowcase.com
Hawaii became officially known as the "Aloha State" in 1959. Aloha is an acknowledgment that can be used to say hello or goodbye.
In the waters off the Wailea Resort area, on Maui's southern coast, lies the marine preserve of Molokini, the exposed rim of a submerged, extinct volcano. Molokini's clear, protected waters attract more than 250 species of colorful and curious pelagic fish-and the equally curious divers and snorkelers who sail out to meet them each day.
In 1992, Congress established the waters surrounding the islands of Maui County as a marine sanctuary-an act that is helping Maui's biggest endangered species pull back from the brink of extinction.
Humpback whales migrate each year between Hawaiian waters and the Arctic Circle. The Arctic provides a rich feeding ground, but it's here in Hawai'i that the whales mate and bear their young. In 1900, an estimated 15,000 humpback whales existed in the North Pacific. By 1968, when a ban was finally placed on hunting them, only about 1,000 humpbacks remained.
Thanks to efforts by such organizations as the Pacific Whale Foundation and the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary-all located in Maui-humpbacks are making a slow but determined comeback. Scientists believe that about 4,000 to 5,000 humpback whales come to Maui each year.
From November until as late as the end of May, Maui's waters teem with these majestic giants. Indeed, Maui is one of the few places in the world where you can watch the whales from shore. To protect them, thrill craft such as jet skis and speed boats with parasailers are prohibited during whale season.
All ocean vessels are required to stay at least 100 yards away from the whales, but as visitors aboard whale-watching cruises will happily tell you, no restrictions keep the whales from coming up to investigate the boats.
During whale watching season you can get a bird's eye view of Maui's largest visitors, they measure an average of 45 feet long, from the air on helicopter tour. Or if watching these fascinating creatures on land is more your style you can easily view them in Maui from Ka'anapali Beach, McGregor Point, west of Ma'alaea harbor, or from Pu'u Ola'i near Makena State Park.
You might also encounter these giants of the sea if you take a ferry from Lahaina to Maui's sister islands of Lanai or Molokai. If you are Lanai, Hawaii's most enticing island, three good lookout locations for the humpbacks are Kaiolohia Bay (Shipwreck Beach), Keomuku Beach and Manele Bay. On Molokai you can expect to see whales from Kaunakakai harbor area, Kaluakoi and the Kalaupapa peninsula.
Maui offers visitors a host of opportunities to explore nature-both for learning and for play, even if they are not visiting during whale watching season.
Maui is the year round host to the delightful Green Sea Turtles, the fascinating Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, and the rare Hawaiian Monk Seals. You can learn about other marine life such as the Spotted Eagle Ray, Sandbar sharks and Moray eels at the Hawaiian Aquarium in Maui Ocean Center. Their Whale Discovery Center that traces the humpback's 7,000 mile round trip journey from their Alaskan feeding grounds to the warm, sheltered waters of Maui Nui. The Center has interactive exhibits so it's fun as well as educational to learn about Maui's largest annual visitors. To learn more about whale watching, the Ocean Center and Maui go to www.visitmaui.com or call 1-800 525 MAUI.