An Experience Unlike Any Other


By Lauren Cutler, expedition guide on the Safari Explorer

Today started like any other typical day in Hawaii. As a guide, I wake up, attend to the behind-the-scenes tasks that need to be addressed before the day’s activities, and watch the sunrise as I sip on my soy latte. Soon, the boat begins to shuffle and stir, and all the guests finish their yoga, breakfast, and coffee and prep for their day on the water. Today was the first time I had led a kayak in Lana`i, and I was lucky enough to be able to explore a new location.

We launched off in pursuit of YOGN-42, the large WWII fuel tanker whose dilapidated rusting body gives recognition to the shoreline it is named after – shipwreck beach. We circumnavigated the old wreck, giving room for her port list. All that’s left from her glory days are rusted-out rebar and ferrocement. As we continued around, I noticed a couple blows off in the distance and decided to ask the guests if they felt energetic enough to try to paddle out to some whales. With great interest, everyone eagerly paddled upwind to try and sneak a closer look. What we did not realize was that our curiosity would be greatly rewarded.

As we sat out in the open ocean, we were entertained by distant breaches and blows. The skiff tour was getting an excellent show, and we were eager to get in on the action. I had radioed to the skiff driver when the last whale in the vicinity had been seen, as I knew the surface interval was approaching soon. Not long after, a whale popped up a couple hundred yards from our kayakers. The exhalation was so loud and powerful, the guests gasped in awe. This humpback came up for a couple more breaths and then quickly submerged to the deep blue with a quick flick of its fluke. We all exalted in astonishment, unknowing that the best was yet to come.

Another 15 minutes went by and out of nowhere, two whales surfaced in the middle of our kayak group. The sound of their exhale made a woman scream, and that woman was me! Watching two 30+ ton humpback whales swim under you and your kayakers is an unbelievable and a little unnerving experience. The couple resurfaced less than a hundred yards from the group with a loud trumpeting noise. 

As we back paddled from the magnificent creatures in attempts to give them their space, I couldn’t help but yell in excitement, “this is a once in a lifetime experience!”
Needless to say, what started off as a routine day on the Safari Explorer turned into an experience of a lifetime.

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