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Each winter thousands of humpback whales migrate to Maui, and islanders celebrate their return in grand style. Leading the charge is the Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF), whose Maui Whale Festival presents a six-month series of events in honor of the ocean’s mighty mammals.
As part of the festival, PWF naturalists and volunteers are stationed at three locations along Maui’s coast through April 30, 2012, to help visitors locate whales from the shores. Clients will find them at Papawai Point off Honoapiilani Highway, located approximately three miles northwest of Maalaea Harbor; along the ocean path in front of the Wailea Marriott; and on the oceanfront pedestrian path fronting Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club.
On Sunday mornings through May 13, PWF is offering whale photo safari cruises out of Lahaina Harbor, featuring hands-on training on how to capture great whale images with digital cameras. On Wednesdays through April 25, clients can go on guided five-mile hikes along the Lahaina Pali Trail for views of the ocean and any whales in the area. And, through Feb. 29, Maalaea Harbor Shops is showcasing a free exhibit of stunning whale photography.
Special events during the Maui Whale Festival include the Feb. 4 Run/Walk for the Whales, starting and ending at Makena Beach and Golf Resort. Later that day, PWF president Greg Kaufman will give a free visual media presentation on saving whales around the world. On Feb. 10 and 11, visitors can attend a free event featuring talks, videos and slideshows by noted marine and whale experts at the Westin Kaanapali.
Feb. 18 brings World Whale Day, a free all-day celebration. Newly expanded, Whale Day begins at 10 a.m. with a colorful parade and continues with an outdoor party with activities, a children’s carnival with bouncy rides, a huge artisans’ fair, food by Maui restaurants, environmental displays and free live entertainment by some of Hawaii’s top recording stars. It takes place at Kalama Park, across from Foodland on South Kihei Road.
The whale festival ends on May 19 with Aloha to the Whales, PWF’s special two-hour cruise with commentary that commemorates the official end of whale watching season on Maui.