One of the first tours we signed up for on Hawaii was a whale watching tour. We figured even if we didn’t see any whales, we’d still have spent a couple of hours on a sailboat. It was April, near the end of the season, and we booked a tour through Red Sail (via Travelocity) on their catamaran, the Noa Noa:
We were originally scheduled to go the previous day, but so few people had signed up that they decided not to take the boat out. We rescheduled for Wednesday, which freed up Tuesday afternoon for exploring Kailua and the hotel grounds (and a round of Puzzle Pirates for Katie). Wednesday turned out to be very windy at Waikoloa, where the boat launched.
The beach is actually a strip of sand between the bay and what appeared to be a man-made lagoon. You can see the beach off to the left, with the wooden edging on the lagoon. An autograph tree is in the foreground.
We walked up the beach, looking for the boat launch, and met up with one of the reps, who walked with us to the meeting place, then took our names, ticket info, and release forms. There were about ten of us (two more couples and a family, IIRC), plus two crew. The boat clearly had room for two or three times as many people. Sometimes there are advantages to going at the end of the season!
One thing I could not get enough of was the color of the water. It was a beautiful turquoise near shore, and a deeper blue farther out. I went through several desktop wallpapers after we got back, and finally settled on this view of the Waikoloa shore, with the western slopes of Kohala in the background:
You may remember the pog craze that hit in the mid-90s and vanished without a trace? Well, Pogs originally started out as bottle caps from a Hawaiian drink called POG—passion fruit, orange, and guava—and the crew was serving imitation POG (mixing the juice themselves). It’s not bad, though I don’t recall trying any brand-name POG during our stay.
We motored up the coast a while—we were both disappointed that they never actually set sail—and occasionally spotted another catamaran that, we were told, was run by another whale watching outfit. Eventually, both boats decided to head back south, looking for a mother, calf and escort that had been seen in the area the day before.
And so began the dance of two boats and a pod of whales, as each of us tried to get close enough to see without scaring the whales off. Sometimes we were closer, and sometimes they were closer. The calf was a real show-off, coming up to the surface, flipping, and even jumping out of the water occasionally.
This is where one of our camera’s limitations caused us major problems. Unlike a film-based camera, our digital camera pauses for a short delay when you press the button. If you’re trying to catch something time-critical—like a whale jumping out of the water 50 feet away—even if you react fast enough to hit the button, chances are it’ll be back in the water by the time the camera catches up.
We have a lot of pictures of splashes.
But we did manage to catch a few shots of the whales. This is the best one:
Note: This cruise was Wednesday, April 6, 2005.
Update: I’ve posted higher-res photos on Flickr