Incredible Moment Captured: Watch Humpback Whale Birth Near Lahaina

Did These Hawaii Hotels Contribute To Bad Hawaii Visitor Wildlife Behavior?

One person’s recent actions have sounded alarms on both sides of issues regarding tourism and wildlife. To those advocating for mindful, responsible tourists, this event is an example of why that language needs to be in place. And to animal rights advocates, it’s an example of work needed to stop such situations from happening again. But there’s something else here, too.

When we saw the widely distributed video of a visitor trying to ride a stranded whale calf along Waikiki, we couldn’t help but be reminded of two Hawaii hotel programs that allow guests to be near and interact with captive dolphins. The promotional video below shows how a dolphin encounter at the Kahala Resort on Oahu could lead some to believe that Hawaii wildlife, perhaps even in our oceans, can be encountered without fear. Watch the 90-second video below and see if you concur. Here, you have visitors swimming with dolphins, which may give the wrong impression that it is okay.

The video shows visitors swimming with captured dolphins.

Please keep an appropriate distance from Hawaii wildlife.

NOAA and DLNR recommend, for your safety and the protection of animals, all persons stay at least:

  • 10 feet from sea turtles (both on land in the water)
  • 50 feet from Hawaiian monk seals, or remain behind any signs or barriers
  • 50 yards from dolphins and small whales (and do not swim with them)

Now contrast the Dolphin Quest video with one this week showing a visitor trying to jump on the back of a 12-foot-long whale calf in front of the Hale Koa Hotel at Waikiki. The baby whale was seen without its mother. The event happened Wednesday afternoon, and the baby whale has not been spotted since. This led the troubled Hawaii Tourism Authority’s new chair to jump into the fray with his comment below.

One of the key messages in HTA’s visitor education program is that wildlife should be admired from afar. This incident reminds us all that the right thing to do when coming across wildlife is to respect their space, and if they are in trouble, notify the authorities.

Mufi Hannemann, Chair of HTA

HTA also asks that visitors who see Hawaii wildlife in trouble, “Use your camera or cell phone to take a photo of the animal from a safe distance. This can help responders identify the species and the steps necessary to help it. Wait (if you can) for a trained and authorized responder to arrive so you can help them locate the animal. Watch it from a safe distance. Don’t chase or corral the injured animal if it tries to move away. Keep the area calm and quiet (to the extent you can), and encourage others to keep their distance and keep dogs on a leash.

Two Hawaii hotels feature controversial dolphin experience programs.

Contentious dolphin experience programs exist at two Hawaii hotels, and Dolphin Quest runs both. They unquestionably give the impression that at least some wildlife can be approached and will enjoy interacting with us. The hotels are Kahala on Oahu and Hilton Waikoloa Village on Big Island and they charge about $300 per person for the experience. We stayed at Kahala again a year ago and loved the property and location, but the dolphin program keeps us away so long as that program exists. Dolphins swim as much as 40 to 60 miles daily in their natural environment as they travel with family and friends.

The World Animal Protection Program says this and gives five reasons not to swim with dolphins :

Despite the ubiquitous images of happy-looking dolphins and laughing children you’ve probably seen before, don’t be fooled by their smiles. Dolphins living in captivity are suffering silently for the sake of entertainment

World Animal Protection Program

Have you ever seen wildlife disturbed in Hawaii?

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23 thoughts on “Did These Hawaii Hotels Contribute To Bad Hawaii Visitor Wildlife Behavior?”

  1. The trained dolphins and ‘swim with the dolphins’ programs make me sick to my stomach. How utterly cruel to the dolphins this is and the trainers Know this! Where are the protect wildlife laws?

  2. The inherent problem is the entitlement mentality of the tourism industry. “I paid my money, so I’m entitled to my enjoyment (regardless of the consequences)”.

  3. Who is behind negative media coverage of tourism- is government behind this ?when 400 yards of toxic waste from Lahaina fire strategic disaster is being carelessly dumped in cinder 200 ft from the ocean and precious reefs by goverment and USA army – why pretend to care about dolphins or whales – why keep pretending governor cares about Hawaiians ( who got all of 700 us per family in total relief) for being burned out of their ancestral homes at all when Hawaii ‘s Governor is carrying out plans not the people’s.

  4. All of the comments here are valid and useful. I don’t think people/tourists who swim with dolphins are fully aware of their treatment. Most times, the dolphins are deprived food to perform. The food they are given is dead fish and therefore has no hydration. These dolphins have a tube shoved down their throat to receive hydration. There should Not be any captive cetaceans for the monetary benefit of those providing the show. And yes, these hotels should stop this swimming with dolphins and instead provide education to their clients. I for one will Never support any business that does this.

  5. Why the sudden demand for respect and dignity towards God’s sovereign creatures, when 200 yds away there’s a zoo and aquarium full of captive animals available for you to view for a fee?

  6. I don’t think this woman was anywhere near the Kahala. Everyone around her at the time she was drowning the baby whale was telling her to get off and that she was as violating Federal laws as well as drowning the baby whale. She ignored them.
    What is going to greatly contribute to this type of behavior continuing is that they did not arrest her for the Felony crime that she committed. The message is clear that the tourist is more important than the wildlife.

  7. I stayed at the Outrigger Reef Hotel right on the beach and saw Numerous people getting Way too close to Sea Turtle’s and a Hawaiian Monk Seal and it’s Disgusting and makes me So Angry and the Disrespect shown to these Gorgeous Creatures! There needs to be better over site and Policing and severe Punishment for idiots who do that Crap!!!! It’s Ridiculous!

  8. No mention of whale watch boats chasing, and harassing whales and dolphins? The whales are in Hawaii to give birth and care for their calves. The stranded calf may have been injured or orphaned by a boat collision. The whale watch boats routinely move in front of the whales direction of travel to force the whales directly under the boats.

  9. Yes – too many times.
    What bugs me is the attitude people have when you tell them that what they are doing is against federal law. I have tried different tones – from an authoritative tone (don’t do that) to one of an educator (did you know…) to one of caution (get away they bite)… and each one gets a response that is not the person moving away from the animal.
    From my experience people listen if there is someone in a uniform (not necessarily a cop uniform – even one with an agency logo) asking people to comply with the law, then educating them.
    The best and most perfect example are the volunteers of various local organizations – Hawaii Wildlife Foundation, Marine Mammal Stranding Network… and a few more. Who are out on the beach.

  10. Talk about mixed messaging…while on a zodiac tour to the back side of Lanai we came upon sea turtles. We slipped into the water to observe and our youthful local guide two-hand-grabbed one of the giants by the shell and rode it or maybe 10 seconds as the turtle made for the bottom and the kid couldn’t hold on. No one else dared try it. We come to learn later it is illegal. That doesn’t seem to stop people on Kaanapali Beach when they see turtles and try to selfie with their underwater GoPro. I haven’t even mentioned the throngs of people who gather on the beach too closely to sleeping Monk Seals. BOH makes a good point. I will add that it is time for the hotels to lead and set a better example.

  11. It’s a lack of common sense and absolutely no experience with wild animals that causes individuals to act with such disregard for the animals and their own welfare. I highly doubt that any messaging will help curtail this type of behavior in the people that would do it in the first place. The idea that they could be hurting the animals doesn’t even enter threir brain, just like they don’t understand that if a full sized whale was there they themselves would probably be dead. This is the portion of the population that would try to take a selfie with a grizzly bear by holding a jar of honey in their hand so that the bear would come closer. Just in case you aren’t sure, that would be a very bad idea. It’s just an unfortunate reality.

  12. Combination of things…this all boiled over when SWA did their “SWA effect” expansion into the market. No, not all SWA pax’s are the culprit, but SWA definitely brought a new attitude to the market. They brought a disrespectful attitude towards Hawaiian, which is seen by most as a disrespect towards Hawaii.

    1. Hawaiian Air is gone, finished, kaput, near bankrupt-deal with it.
      CEO Ingram ran the company into the ground and he is getting out with his money while he can. Bad choices on planes, technology, customer service and Maui deaths doomed HA. Instead of blaming Southwest you might ask what Green, Bissen, and Pellitier were doing while Lahaina residents died and why they still have jobs?

      1. Rob, my point wasn’t to blame SWA for HA’s financial straits, there were bigger issues that stem from 2019 on. The point was the way SWA entered the market. They fueled much of the anti tourist debate and the fact that a new breed of disrespectful tourists changed Hawaii. Seems the pro SWA folks go hand in hand with the folks that are offended by the State trying to curb some of the disrespect that has occurred of late….

        1. Who are you to talk about new breed??? I’m buddies w the Hawaiians 55 years and they don’t hate us. I’ll tell you who they hate: Zuckerberg and Besos for taking 500 acres and then expecting their beaches to be their own. No private beaches in Hawaii. i suggest you folks go back to the likes of brudda IZ to know what We did. And show respect.

  13. Answer: No

    All you have to do is pull up the many videos on social media of individuals being gored by Bison, kicked by Kangaroo’s, attacked by Monkeys, jumping in wild cat cages at zoo’s etc etc etc to see that this behavior would continue even if hotels closed their Dolphin encounters.

    Also here recently there’s been a rash of entitled celebrates on social media violating restricted animal and nature area’s being arrested and fined.

    There’s always going to be a small percentage of morons that no matter how much you try to educate not to mess with wildlife they will continue to do so.

  14. We visit Kihei every year for 6 weeks. We always see visitors on the beach rushing around the turtles on the beach and in the water. I yell at the them to get back and give them space but it always falls on deaf ears. I feel so bad for the turtles. Why do you not post the rules on the beaches??Help protect the wild life!!

  15. Previous articles on BOH have mentioned that the mindful visitors messaging is misplaced and not well defined by Green/others and sends a mixed/bad message to visitors, I personally find the messaging that uses the term mindful visitors to be insulting.

    Does it make sense to educate visitors regarding turtles/other wildlife? Of course it does, applying a label such as mindful visitors is probably not the best approach though.

    We have similar issues with visitors approach wildlife such elk and moose where I live, but we educate people, we don’t make statements or use labels such as mindful or responsible visitors.

    BTW… I have seen locals being told to stay away from turtles numerous times by lifeguards at Poipu beach.

  16. Happiest dolphins i saw were while sailing back from oahu to s.f. on 52 footer. They followed us for a few miles, jumped in the air, then were *Free* to spin off by themselves. I think they really were smiling.

  17. I find it very sad that many tourists have no idea on how to respect the ocean and ocean life. I am a Canadian and live on the prairies, very far from both oceans. To snorkel and swim in the ocean off the Big Island is the best part of vacationing there. Unfortunately, this tourist has to remind others continually when snorkelling at Two Step not to walk up to the shore and then walk on the coral into the ocean. It was so bad this year that we didnt go there as much. I think there should be a questionare to be answered before snorkeling equipment is rented or tour companies provide equipment to make people aware of the proper ocean ettiquete.

    1. That is a good idea, having rental companies educate visitors renting equipment is a good first step.

      It could be as simple as the rental person providing a flyer with some bullet points regarding etiquette as well as suggested snorkeling locations, or have it on the wall for renters to review.

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