Whale Watching

Humpbacks, Dolphins, Whale Research, Beaked Whales,

Even from the shores of the Rarotongan beaches within the Cook islands chain, Whale Watching, or scanning the waters for Humpback whales is possible. You can see the Humpback whales as they migrate north into the South Pacific waters from their summer feeding grounds of Australia and New Zealand and the cool Antarctic Ocean.

The Humpback Whales arrive during July to August when the weather is relatively cooler to give birth to their calves. Here they rest until about October – November, then the call to return to their summer feeding grounds turns them in full circle.

A similar pattern exists in the north Pacific. The Humpback Whales will leave the Artic Ocean around Alsaka and head for the Hawaii in November and then in May return North again.

The Humpback Whales that you see in the southern Oceans are different form those Humpbacks that are in the northern oceans , as Humpbacks do not cross the equator and rarely if ever come closer than 10 degrees to the equator.

Humpback Whales were subject to massive commercial harvesting ( exploitation) in the southern waters with a massive amount of over 210,000 being killed in the 1900’s.

An Organization located on Rarotonga ( Cook Islands) called Whale Outreach helps to promote an awareness of these beautiful creatures , humpback whales and others like the rare beaked whale

Whale Outreach is a non profit organization which help monitor, as well as protect the southern humpback Whales.

Nan Hauser has opened an interpretive centre on the backroad at Atupa ( Rarotonga) which is open to the public. Here you see first hand some of the work being done by Whale Outreach.

The Whale Outreach Organisation for the Pacific region is based in Avarua on the backroad in the village of Atupa on Rarotonga.

Visitors to the Cook Islands Whale Education Centre will be introduced to the fascinating world of whales and dolphins and experience a plethora of awareness, knowledge and fun. The centre offers hands on educational activities, extensive outreach presentations, videos, guest lecturers, visual displays, posters, murals and photographs thereby teaching environmental awareness, the protection of ecosystems and ultimately all life in the sea. Whale Watching, not only is a pleasant pastime, but becomes a tangile point where the safety and future potection of these sea creature become united with our thoughts.

The centre encourages visitors and local to report their sighting when whale watching, but on the same hand strongly discourages diving with whales and tour operators from getting too close to the migrating whales and their calves.

Those humpback whales upon reaching the Cook Islands can come as close as 10 meters from the fringing reef , which enables Whale watching possible even from land.

On the western side of Rarotonga at an area called Black Rock, and on the South Eastern side of the islands at an area close to town is where the fringing reef is closest to the shore and here you can see the whales at play, up close and personal, from the shore line. In these areas whale watching has become a national pastime when these majestic creature are passing thur in their migrating season

On some of the outer islands in the southern group of the Cook Islands these majestic creatures can be seen rubbing up close to the coral reef. From the shore line of the islands of Mitiaro , Mauke , Atiu and Mangaia the humpback can be seen from the shoreline as they frolic , sometimes only meters from the reef making Whale Watching an 'up close and personally' thing

Humpback whales were subject to intensive commercial exploitation in Antarctica and other austral waters in the 20th century, with 208,359 reportedly killed between 1904 and 1999. Whale Outreach is a non-profit organisation to help monitor and protect the south pacific humpback whales. It is based on Rarotonga in the Cook Island where an interpretive centre has been opened to help promote awareness of the whales.

The Following is an extract from the south Pacific Whale Research Consortium

Background South Pacific Humpback Whales.

Humpbacks are the most studied of the large whales, yet much of their basic biology remains unknown. There are few estimates of humpback population parameters, and none whatsoever for the central South Pacific until recent studies.

Humpbacks have been hunted extensively in the South Pacific by commercial and pirate whalers, as recently as 25 years ago. Indeed, disregarding an international moratorium on high seas whaling, several nations are clamoring to resume the hunt in these waters. Small island nations of Oceania are especially vulnerable to financial incentives offered by countries that still hunt whales. The Cook Islands have led the way in whale conservation by claiming a 2 million square kilometer whale sanctuary in their exclusive economic zone. Other countries have followed suit. Michael Poole in French Polynesia and Claire Garrigue in New Caledonia were the key players in creating whale sanctuaries in their countries.

In 1998, Nan Hauser initiated a long-term humpback whale survey in the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands are a chain of 15 islands in the central tropical South Pacific which Humpbacks frequent in the Australian winter, apparently to breed and calve.

The Cook Islands offer an unprecedented opportunity not only for Whale watching, but also to study the status of humpback whales in the central South Pacific, information vital for developing conservation measures for this endangered species.

Because of the determination of these scientists and the high quality research of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, these sanctuaries were established. Many thanks to all of them.

Raising awareness Increasing public awareness of whales and their conservation issues is essential for effecting informed decision-making about whale management. CCRC informs and engages in the Cook Islands, the United States and the Bahamas, by: offering first-hand practical experiences for interns and volunteers; supplementing school curricula with educational enrichment programs; providing outreach presentations at public gatherings; distributing scientific findings to decision-makers; and, contributing footage and photographs of whales, background information, and interviews for television, radio and printed broadcast. Moreover, CCRC will inform worldwide audiences through television documentaries, magazine articles, scientific journals, and several websites actively updated from the field.

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