Humpback Ed

Dive deep into the world of the whale

By: Marty Wentzel

As reliable as the tides, whales return to Hawaii each winter, and visitors travel to Maui to spot them from the land and sea. But for clients who want to dive deeper into the world of whales, the upcoming Whale Quest Kapalua feeds that need with an ocean of humpback education through seminars, displays and exhibitions.

“From November through April, people spend much of their Maui vacations watching whales from lookout points and tour boat excursions, and they purchase artwork and books to learn more,” said Whale Quest Kapalua manager Michelle Arnold. “Our annual event takes the experience several steps further, providing clients with an increased understanding of the importance of these remarkable creatures.”

Last year’s Whale Quest Kapalua debut drew approximately 2,800 attendees, 60 percent of whom were Maui tourists or part-time residents.

“We had to move lecture rooms three times last year because we had more people than we expected,” said Arnold.

Presentations during the three-day northwest Maui celebration are free and open to the public.

Doubling as an educational forum and a gathering place for national and international whale researchers, photographers and cinematographers, Whale Quest Kapalua has lengthened its list of presenters for 2007, including experts from as far away as Japan and Germany. Among this year’s speakers is Mark Ferrari, whose high-definition footage takes audiences to dramatic underwater haunts. Filmmaker Daniel Opitz will talk about his personal journey with whales, including photos and footage never before shown to the public.

Photographer Flip Nicklin and writer Doug Chadwick will share behind-the-scenes images of what goes into the making of a National Geographic magazine story. Dan Salden will screen underwater, surface and aerial movies which shed light on humpback feeding strategies, and Adam Pack will provide insights into humpback mating habits.

Additional presenters include Japanese photographer Koji Nakamura, who will talk about what it was like to dive with a gray whale in waters 60 miles north of Tokyo, complete with unforgettable footage of the creatures feeding. During a talk by National Geographic photographer Chris Johns, clients can hear about the remarkable people committed to tackling the world’s environmental challenges. Audiences can find out about Hawaii’s community-based rescue efforts from David Mattila and Ed Lyman, two of the few people nationally authorized to disentangle whales from fishing lines and other debris. And, they can get a sense of what it’s like to kayak the Hawaiian Islands with the whales courtesy of Richard Roshon, often described as the “Jane Goodall of the sea.”

Reaching out to the community, Whale Quest Kapalua has designated Feb. 16 as Education Day, during which Maui school students get involved in whale-related activities. And, local organizations can sign up for a new naturalist workshop led by interpretive trainer and instructor Linda Nicklin. By adding a charity golf tournament and daily whale-watch cruises, the event raises funds for nonprofit marine research organizations.

Arnold said that Whale Quest Kapalua holds particular appeal to clients who travel to Hawaii frequently.

“People can learn why the whales are here, what they are doing and how important it is to respect them,” she said. “It’s a must-do for anyone who believes in the environment and sustainability by actively engaging in the health of the earth and its inhabitants. I hope that everyone who attends will gain a greater understanding and respect for our islands, our marine life and our natural resources.”


Whale Quest Kapalua
Feb. 16-18
Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

The three-day event consists of free educational seminars, interactive displays and exhibitions. Paid activities include morning whale watching boat tours with a marine life specialist. Offered daily, the two-hour trips depart from Lahaina Harbor and cost $35 per person, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting Whale Trust, the Center for Whale Studies and Hawaii Whale Research Foundation.

Golfers can participate in Whale Quest’s Feb. 16 charity tournament at Kapalua’s Plantation Course, with proceeds going to Whale Quest Kapalua beneficiaries. The $400 per person entry fee includes an awards luncheon. Hole sponsorships cost $2,000 and provide entrance for one team of four players.

Timed with Whale Quest Kapalua, the following packages are commissionable at 10 percent.

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua: Explore Maui, nightly from $460 with daily breakfast buffet and rental car; Bed & Breakfast from $445, with daily buffet breakfast. Rates are good Feb. 12-April 8 (800-262-8440;
Kapalua Villas. One-bedroom units from $231 per night and two-bedroom units from $319, good Feb. 15-18 with a four-night minimum (800-545-0018;