A Naturalist’s Migration

Why do whales travel South for the winter? This is one of the most common questions I encounter on whale watch tours with West Coast Aquatic Safaris. My favourite analogy compares the North Pacific Ocean to a whale’s house. Northern waters such as those around Tofino are like the whale’s kitchen, while Southern destinations such Hawaii and Mexico represent the bedroom. No eating in the bedroom, and no messing around in the kitchen. Those are the rules if you’re a whale. They’re on a mission when in the kitchen, gorging themselves on their favourite dishes to the point of bursting. And when they’re stuffed and winter’s chill moves in, it’s time to move on in search of a tropical playground. For whales, “playtime” involves giving birth to their calves in a warm, welcoming environment, performing elaborate mating rituals, and even doing a little singing.

I always thought whales were smart, but this was a brilliant idea and so I decided to follow them. Actually, it was mostly a love for wildlife (and a number of lucky chances) that led me to this decision, but as an afterthought, it really is the perfect plan. Follow the good weather, and go where the action is. And so when after my first season of whale watching I was accepted for an internship with the Hawaii Whale Research Foundation (HWRF), I jumped at the chance.  A year later, as I sit unable to sleep, the night before leaving for my second season with HWRF, I am filled with memories of one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Whales are amazing, exceptional, intelligent, thrilling creatures, and if the past 2 years of my life have taught me anything, it’s that we haven’t seen anything yet.

My name is Diana, and I will be writing regular blogs while working on whale research out of Lahaina, relating whale encounters, behaviours, revelations, and random bits of Maui life. I can’t wait to share these incredible experiences with you. This will continue through the course of my internship until early March, when I will be heading back to Tofino for another amazing season of whale watching with Aquatic Safaris. I hope you enjoy these postings, and I hope it inspires you to experience the immense majesty of whales in person sometime soon!

One Response to “A Naturalist’s Migration”

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