Putting on a festival befitting the estimated 10,000 to 12,000 humpback whales that migrate to Maui each winter is no small task. It's a challenge that the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation takes on each year by hosting a series of entertaining and engaging events that make up the Maui Whale Festival.
The 2014 Maui Whale Festival began on Saturday, Feb. 1, and continues through March 31. You can find details at www.mauiwhalefestival.org.
"Our goal is to raise awareness about the whales through a variety of events that bring the community together, and give us reason to reflect on the great joy and wonder that the whales bring to our island home," said Greg Kaufman, founder and executive director of Pacific Whale Foundation.
The 2014 Maui Whale Festival began on Saturday, Feb. 1, and continues through March 31.
Photo: Pacific Whale Foundation
New this year is "Whales Under the Stars" on Friday, Feb. 14, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Kalama Park in Kihei. A big screen at the ball field will show videos and photos of whales, whale research and whale conservation efforts around the world. Whale research pioneer, activist and author Kaufman will narrate the presentation, sharing his experiences among the whales of Hawai'i, Australia, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama, South Korea and Oman.
Admission is free. Chair seating is available; reservations for this seating can be made by calling Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811, ext. 1. You may also bring your lawn chair.
On Saturday, Feb. 15, Maui's Parade of Whales takes place along South Kihei Road, stepping off at 9 a.m. at the intersection of Alanui Keali'i Drive. The parade route follows South Kihei Road past Kalama Park to Waima-ha'iha'i Street.
Dozens of floats by local businesses, schools and community groups will roll down South Kihei Road. This year's grand marshal is legendary rock icon Mick Fleetwood, co-founder and drummer of Fleetwood Mac.
Immediately afterward, the fun shifts to Kalama Park for the opening ceremonies of World Whale Day at 10 a.m. A community event, World Whale Day is free and open to all and includes a full day of musical entertainment by some of Hawaii's top recording and performing artists. (See page 9-12 for details.)
World Whale Day also includes a carnival for kids, displays about whales and the environment, food by local eateries and an artisans' fair, where you can purchase made-on-Maui crafts. Because the day ends at 7 p.m., you can enjoy dinner at the park at sunset while taking in the live music.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, volunteers and Pacific Whale Foundation researchers will count whales that can be viewed from Maui's shores during the annual Great Whale Count.
In March, the Pacific Whale Foundation will host a two-night event called "Evenings with the Experts" at the Westin Ka'anapali Resort and Spa. The first night, Thursday, March 13, features a free talk by Manny Oteyza, producer of the acclaimed documentary "Blackfish," and a screening of the film. The second night, Friday, March 14, includes talks, video and slideshows by Pacific Whale Foundation's whale and dolphin researchers working in Hawai'i, Ecuador, Chile and Australia. The programs on both nights run from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and the public is invited.
Through the festival, the "Trail of the Whale" includes four locations on Maui where expert Pacific Whale Foundation naturalists will help you locate and learn about whales. The locations are Papawai Point, which is the scenic overlook located about three miles northwest of Ma'alaea on the Honoapi'ilani Highway (Route 30); the ocean path by the Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa; the ocean path at the Marriott Maui Ocean Club on Ka'anapali Beach and the upper open air deck at Fleetwood's on Front Street in Lahaina.
Visit www.mauiwhalefestival.org for times and dates for each location, and for other details about the Maui Whale Festival.
To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation and arrange for a whale watch cruise, check out www.pacificwhale.org.