Captain Dan's Blog

March 8, 2012

March 8th, 2012

Today was another exciting adventure on the whale watch. While watching a humpback whale, a group of false killer whales came romping through the area The false killer whale is highly agile and built for speed. An impressive predator, this whale can weigh thousands of pounds. The false killer whale gets its name because of the similarity of its skull to the better known Orca or “killer” whale, but it lacks the black and white markings of its much larger cousin. Finding false killer whales is always a special and rare encounter. They are notorious for chasing their prey, capturing it, and then passing it around their group until one of them finally consumes the prey.

Today’s encounter was an amazing experience as eventually a group of male false killer whales came together and began crossing under and around our boat. Many were splashing, while others were quick to dart away, only to turn around and come racing back towards us. Visitors and staff alike were thrilled with the excitement of this unusual encounter.

Scientists are especially interested in false killer whales because of their dwindling population in the Hawaiian Islands. On-going research is suggesting that the “insular” population of this species here is thought to now number around 150 individuals. This low population number is of concern to ocean life managers, conservation groups and the concerned public. The false killer whale, in near-shore Hawaiian waters, is now a “candidate” species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Reservations are required for your adventure. Book it today with Captain Dan’s Whale Watching Adventures at 1-808-322-0028.

March 1, 2012

March 1st, 2012

March has gotten off to a great start already. Sightings of mating humpback whales are always a crowd pleaser. Humpback whales come to the islands to engage in breeding, calving, and rearing of their young. They socialize with each other and often travel long distances in a single day and may visit up to three islands over a five-day time period.

March is a beautiful time of year here on the Big Island. A hint of spring is in the air, making for enjoyable sea conditions and an abundance of marine life, while on land the mountain slopes are covered in white, sweet-scented blossoms, the buds of the famous Kona coffee in full bloom.

This past week yielded some fun encounters with some of our offshore resident whales, the pygmy killer whales. Despite their small size, pygmy killer whales have an aggressive reputation but are not likely to pose a threat to adult humpbacks or small calves. Pods of pilot whales have also been reported offshore. They will frequently be seen with oceanic white tipped sharks swimming in their midst.

Additionally, we’ve been had numerous sightings some hammerhead sharks resting at the surface. Although this variety of shark is typically not a threat to the humpback whales, larger species like tiger, mako and great white sharks are considered potential predators, especially of sick or injured whales.
Each tour aboard Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventures is full of new experiences and pleasant surprises. Contact our office to reserve your seat now….
1-808-322-0028.

Februrary 23, 2012

February 23rd, 2012

The humpback whales continue to provide a continuous show here off the west coast of the Big Island. If while you are visiting the Island you witness tremendous splashes off shore, no doubt, they are coming from the seasonal humpback whale. This behavior is called “breaching” when the animal lifts its entire body clear of the water and then splashes back down into the sea. Though most whales exhibit breaching behavior, the humpbacks are the most well known for this aerial spectacular of all whale species.

The months of February and March are good months to find mother humpback whales with their young calves. This week has been no exception with a lot of sightings of the youngsters, some just new born, while others are already a few months old. Calves will stay with their mothers nursing here on the breeding ground until they are well nourished and strong enough to make the long journey north back to Alaska. It is always a delight to see the young calves in Hawaiian waters.

Every day holds a new adventure. Many trips are topped off with a show of jumping from the popular spinner dolphin as well as lately by some spotted dolphins, an offshore relative. Spotted dolphins are capable of launching their small bodies out of the water more than 20 feet out of the water on a jump! To book your whale watch adventure, call Captain Dan at 808-322-0028

February 16, 2012

February 16th, 2012

WOW! Just when we thought it could not get any better, it has…2012 is proving to be a great year for whale watching in Hawaii. This week brought us several amazing spectacles…imagine an 80,000 pound animal launching its massive body out of the water, into the air, and then crashing back down with a thunderous splash. This behavior, called “breaching” seems to occur mostly when there are a large number of whales in a given area. Thought to be some sort of dominant display like a dog raising its hackles, breaching is an awesome sight. It is all over in less than a second, but when you are fortunate enough to witness a breaching whale, the memory lasts a life time.
Along with regular encounters with humpback whales, we have seen both pygmy and dwarf sperm whales as well as pygmy killer whales. In the past these smaller whales have tended to remain further off shore in deeper waters but recently something has brought them in closer to the coastline, likely food. In fact, there have been multiple sightings of black and white killer whales and their tropical cousin the false killer whale, also hanging not far off shore. These residential whales (there are a dozen varieties we see with good regularity) make Hawaii their home all year round. Not often seen by visitors as they tend to stay away from the shallow water coastline (unlike our seasonal visitors the humpback whales), these whales have teeth and need to hunt for their food daily. Humpback whales, on the other hand, have no teeth but rather use a strong flexible material called baleen (made from the same protein that makes up our hair and fingernails!) to filter small food out of the cold water of the Pacific Northwest. Although, these humpback whales do not actually eat while they are in Hawaii, they may lose as many as 15,000 pounds of body fat during their time in the breeding grounds around the islands.

Dolphins continue to entertain us on many tours and always leave guests with a smile as they play, leaping and spinning as they go along.

See what Mother Nature has in store for you. To book your whale watching tour, call our reservations line at 1-808-322-0028.

January 29th, 2012

January 29th, 2012

The warm calm water of the Hawaiian Islands provides a pleasant sanctuary for the impressive yet gentle humpback whale of the North Pacific. Numbers of humpback whales in Hawaiian waters continue to increase. There have been a few days recently, where in all directions, we see the splashes and spouts of these seasonal visitors…the splashing behavior is thought to be some sort a display, perhaps an issue of inter-whale proximity of sorts?
Generally, the more whales that continue to arrive on the breeding grounds, the more we are likely to witness this aerial activity. A breach is where a whale completely launches its massive body in to the air, clearing the surface of the water, and crashes back down again, creating a thundering crash. We have seen numerous breaches this week with some spectacular double breaches to boot! This is a sight one is not likely to soon forget.
Pods of bottlenose dolphins have also been prolific, frequently engaging with the humpback whales, swimming alongside or riding their nose, and even jumping over their large bodies. Dolphins can find whales with their sonar, unlike humpback whales that rely more on their eyesight and keen hearing.
This week has also provided some unusual sightings of hammerhead sharks that tend to congregate around the islands during varying times of the year and can be seen sunbathing at the surface of the water, with their large dorsal fins piercing the surface of the water. Hammerhead sharks are not considered to be aggressive, but they are certainly impressive in their unique appearance.
We never know what we might encounter on any given tour. The adventure is yours and begins when you step aboard Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch. Call our reservations line to book your trip now..808-322-0028.

January 7, 2012

January 7th, 2012

Trips this week have been truly great with many humpback sightings. One pair of humpback whales surprisingly surfaced right under the boat, only a few feet away. Taking our breath away, these Goliaths proceeded to raise their giant tails in to the air making for the perfect photographic opportunity. On most tours, the spinner dolphins have been making an appearance, by the hundreds in the near shore waters, spiraling 7 revolutions in less than a single second mid-air. On more than one tour, we had large groups of bottlenose dolphin, also known as Flipper, for those of you familiar with the television series, mixed in with humpback whales. These inter-species interactions are always a delight to witness.

One tour even included a large group of manta rays milling at the surface. They are quite the spectacle, with average wingspans of 8 – 12 feet, resembling an underwater bird. Some manta rays on the island have been measured in at more than 19 feet from tip to tip. Similar to humpback whales, manta rays are easily identified by the unique pigmentation patterns that appear on the underside of their large wings. In the case of humpback whales, these patterns appear on the underside of their massive tails.

During the first week of January, we had quite an unusual encounter with a pair of humpback whales that we re-sighted each day for five consecutive days. During one encounter, they spontaneously began jumping out of the water, a behavior called breaching. Much to the amazement of everyone aboard, this went down in history. These encounters were documented and recorded in the research log. The tails were easily identifiable so we will easily recognize this pair should we come across them again in the season.

Humpback whales and spinner dolphins seem to be the star players, typical for this time of year. They never fail to surprise us with their playful curiosity. Book your tour today and witness nature at its best with the most informed and experienced whale watching crew on the Kona Coast …..
808-322-0028.

January 1, 2012

January 1st, 2012

It’s a wonderful start of the 2011/2012 season for us at Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watch. The annual migratory return of humpback whales back to these warm Hawaiian waters is well under way. Since early December, sightings of our seasonal visitors have been consistent off the Big Island. Large bulls and adolescent individuals are typically the first to arrive and this year has been no exception. Furthermore, we have been graced with a lot of pairs of humpback whales over recent days.

On one whale watch excursion, we were surprised with some other rare visitors, the Sei Whales. We encountered a large group of these impressive whales after we received a report of a group of humpback whales offshore in deep water. Heeding the tip, because deep water sightings often turn out to be our year-round resident sperm whales, we took a spin to the deep water, nearly 12 miles off shore of the Kona Coast. To our surprise, the whales we encountered were neither the giant sperm whales nor the seasonal humpback whales but a rarely seen species in Hawaii called Sei whales The pod numbered approximately 15-20 individuals and passengers and crew alike were enamored by their presence. Their sleek bodies, unique shape and exotic coloration quickly gave them away as something unique. Sei whale sightings are rare in the Hawaiian Islands. Animals range in size but may reach more than 65 feet in length and weigh even more than the seasonal humpback whales at 100,000 pounds. The group was quite curious, showing no hesitation to surface right alongside the boat. A real treat for everyone aboard; this was a profound experience for guests and captain and crew. The adventure was topped off with some dolphins on the way back to shore leaving everyone with a smile in their heart.

Other tours have included groups of pilot whales and the small pygmy killer whales, sighted not far from a single humpback whale traveling near the shallow water shelf. What the small pygmy killer whales lack in size, they make up for in attitude. These are formidable predators and are often known to attack other marine mammals, especially the dolphins as they wait for them to escape the nets of tuna fisheries. Always a delight to encounter, pygmy killer whales are easily recognized by their round bulbous heads and their white underbellies.

Each trip differs from the next as we never know exactly what we will see or where, but one thing is for sure, we will see whales. Dan’s 40 years of experience sets his trips apart from others. Book your trip today and see what Mother Nature and Dan have in store for you…808-322-0028.