Treasure Hunt in Hawaii
On a flat calm afternoon off the coast of the Big Island, we went for a treasure hunt. But not your normal digging up buried chest kind of treasure hunt, this one was a bit more of the UnCruise style.
We were looking for charismatic megafauna…. Or really cool big animals. Specifically we were on the search for offshore marine mammals like spotted dolphins, short fin pilot whales, false killer whales, or the elusive beaked whales.
These kinds of animals live and hunt in waters that are thousands of feet deep. The Big Island provides a unique environment to visit these waters since you only have to go a few miles offshore and the towering volcanoes block the normal trade winds, creating calm ocean conditions.
I told the guests that just like a treasure hunt we never know if we will find anything; the ocean is a vast place. But if we do find wildlife, it will be something very special that not many people ever get to see.
A couple of hours into our search I heard the call from a guest that they had spotted dark fins a little ways off. We turned the boat and to our delight found a resting pod of short fin pilot whales.
Averaging 14 to 15 feet, these toothed whales are apex predators in these offshore waters. They have been seen chasing down mahi-mahi and tuna. But today they were content to relax around our boat which delighted the guests.
As we parted ways with these charismatic creatures a couple of brown boobies circled overhead to see what the gathering was all about. We left them circling over their new found pilot whale friends as we went back into search mode.