Whale season does not officially begin until July, but a lone humpback has been spotted cruising in Rarotonga’s warm waters this week.
Sheryl and Huw John, who managed Cook Islands Whale and Wildlife Centre, reported seeing the whale blowing water not far off Avarua at 9am on Monday.
After announcing the news on Facebook, another person confirmed seeing the whale.
“Saw one last night at sunset around Aroa Beach Inn,” responded David Travellor.
Sheryl said the first whales were spotted at around the same time last year, on May 20.
“One of them calved within three weeks. That’s probably why a few come up before the official season – from July to October – to give birth.”
Many whale species visit these waters each year but the most spectacular and crowd-pleasing is the undoubtedly the mighty humpback.
“The humpback is the one everyone thinks about because they come so close to the lagoon and they breach. And because they’re so big,” Sheryl said.
Humpback whales grow up to 18 metres and weigh about 36,000 kilograms.
“They’re quite inquisitive and come up around the divers and boats.”
Sheryl said the whales make the 4000km journey north from Antarctica every year, seeking warmer waters to mate and give birth.
They generally hang around for about four months and do not feed during that time, after filling up before they arrive.”
“They eat consistently for four to six months in Antarctica where there’s plentiful food. Their blubber becomes so thick and they can fast for months.”
As more whales start to arrive in the coming months, head down to Avarua Wharf, Blackrock or Avana for the viewing points.