by Vimala Ramu
During our stay of total 10 months to Maui, Hawaii, distributed over 3 visits, we never did any of the flashy touristy stuff like surfing, snorkeling, para gliding etc being senior citizens. Instead, our activities were more like those of the local residents_ morning walks, long drives, shopping in Malls, visiting the beaches and parks with our little grandchildren, breakfasting out on Sunday mornings, attending parties etc.
But when my sister-in-law came there for a 10 day visit with her husband and daughter, they were plumb into all the tourist activities. One of the items on the agenda was a visit to a coconut farm. Though all the Hawaii picture postcards display lot of coconut trees, the ones outside the farms are not allowed to fruit. The coconuts are allowed to ripen only in the farms and one such farm had this demonstration of peeling and breaking the coconut for the wide eyed tourists. Of course, I was the gainer in the bargain in that, that day we had the tasty South Indian Iyengar peas Kolumbu with lot of coconut.
I never did accompany my guests on any of their activities. By and large, I preferred to stay home and play a good host. But when they announced that they were going on a Whale watching cruise, I could not resist the temptation. Just imagine going far into the sea on a cruise to see those mammoth animals floating lightly on the water. To be honest, before going to Hawaii, I had no idea about the difference in size between a shark and a whale as the pictures showed them to be similar looking. Even then, I had not imagined a whale to be bigger than a buffalo.
These Humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii from the cold waters of Alaska for breeding in the winter months, not in big groups but more like in batches. They are visible from the Lahaina coast at such close quarters as 100 yards! Just imagine going for shopping on Lahaina main road on the coast and encountering these whales basking so close to the shore!!!
We bought the tickets costing $25 each from the Pacific Whale Foundation which runs these cruises and gives a certificate at the end of it to each one to whoever undertook the cruise. On the boat we preferred to be on the upper open deck than sit near the windows inside the cabin.
As we entered the deep waters, my first surprise was the colour of the water. The sea which looks a very pleasant transparent blue from Maui, was inky blue now, murky and menacing. After cruising for some time the guide’s voice alerted us and we saw a HUGE whale in the distance. The whole passenger crowd rushed to one side of the deck to watch the mammoth creature.
After that every one kept their eyes peeled for the whales and reported it to the guide whenever they spotted one. But, the knowledgeable guide clarified that though they all looked alike, they had their distinctive features to distinguish one from the other and all that we saw were different sightings of the same whale!
Thanking ourselves for having sighted at least one, we returned to the shore, disembarked and returned home. Later we came to know that the foundation would have gifted a free cruise if we had failed to spot one!