Passengers on a Maui whale-watching boat had an unexpected up-close-and-personal encounter with a mother and her calf.
It happened around 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan.10, about four miles off Lahaina.
The boat from Ultimate Whale Watching, with 18 people on board, was about 150 yards away from the whales.
Rhode Island resident Jessica Napolitano was on her honeymoon.
“Right before we were about to head back to shore, we saw one whale breaching in the distance,” she said. “We thought it would be one last photo opportunity as they headed in our direction.”
Napolitano said the boat’s captain turned off the engines so as not to disturb the whales, then “made an announcement that she turned around, she’s heading toward us now.”
What happened next was caught on video. “Just then, she popped out of the water,” Napolitano said. “Her calf did as well. It looked like her calf went to the front of the boat. She showed up on her side, her right fin in the air started flapping in the water and she headed directly toward us.”
Napolitano said the whale bumped into the boat before swimming underneath.
“It seemed pretty minor, didn’t phase her at all,” she said. “She popped up on the other side of the boat with her calf and continued to swim away, although we were a little shaken at that point.”
Napolitano called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “They are the most majestic, beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Just the sheer size and force of her was absolutely breathtaking.”
She also had high praise for the tour company and crew.
“I do want to be clear, they were very respectful of the whales. We always kept a safe distance, which I really appreciated,” she said.