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Befriending The Big Island's Pilot Whales


By Sarah Bernstein, Expedition Guide

Short-finned pilot whales live throughout the Pacific Ocean, but here in the Hawaiian Islands, there resides a specific residential group. Pilot whales are part of the dolphin (Delphinade) family, second in size to the killer whale. This week on the Safari Explorer, we were very lucky to have multiple encounters with these incredible whales. On our first day of the cruise after a spectacular snorkel off the Big Island, we headed south to deep water where we found two pods of 15- 20 whales each!

Then, on an afternoon cruise, we were fortunate to get close enough to hear the whales breathing as they were coming up for air. In the beginning, they seemed quite active and appeared to be fishing. A few even spyhopped to check us out. Then, they began to get a little sleepy and went into rest mode, so we bid them farewell.

The next morning while on an excursion with Captain Zodiac, we encountered the same pod of whales, this time at a much closer range. We took notice of their bulbous heads and thick wave-shaped dorsal fins as they swam right past our zodiac. The water in Hawaii is so blue and clear that it has 150 feet of visibility on a good day, and this was one of those days. It was a truly magical experience.


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