MA’ALAEA, MAUI, Hawaii – Wild Dolphin Days, an annual event celebrating the wild dolphins of Maui County, will be held on Saturday, August 13 and Sunday, August 14. The weekend will include a free Wild Dolphin Sand Sculpture Contest, a free talk about dolphin research, and a special VIP cruise to watch wild dolphins with researchers. The weekend is hosted by the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation.
“We are honoring and celebrating the populations of wild dolphins living in the nearshore waters of the three islands of Maui County,” said Greg Kaufman, President and Founder of Pacific Whale Foundation, “In addition, we are celebrating a Maui County law, passed in 2002, which bans the display of captive cetaceans, including dolphins – which means that Maui County’s dolphins will always live wild and free.”
Maui County was the 17th city or county in the United States to ban displays of captive cetaceans.
Pacific Whale Foundation has conducted wild dolphin research off the coasts of Maui and Lana’i since 1996, and has photoidentified dozens of individual dolphins. “As part of Wild Dolphin Days, we will be encouraging the public to watch dolphins responsibly,” said Kaufman, “We will be sharing our ‘Be Dolphin Wise’ guidelines with the public and the boating community, to raise awareness about the need to protect these animals, especially when they come into bays to rest during the day.”
The Wild Dolphin Sand Sculpture Contest on Saturday, August 13 is open to all ages and all levels of sand sculpting experience. There is no entry fee and no experience is needed. Participants are invited to work individually or as part of a family or group to create a sand sculpture in honor of wild dolphins.
All participants will receive a free dolphin poster and free dolphin guide. Some shovels and pails will be provided by Pacific Whale Foundation’s team during the contest, but all are urged to bring their own tools, if possible.
The contest begins at 9:00 am and continues to noon. Free registration takes place on the morning of the contest at the north end of Keawakapu Beach on the sand by Sarento’s Restaurant. Judging will take place from 11:30 am to noon.
The sculptures will be judged by Maui County Councilmember Don Couch, KAOI radio personality Cindy Paulos, and local artist and Maui Time illustrator Guy Junker. During the judging, a Pacific Whale Foundation marine naturalist will offer a short talk on the beach about wild dolphins. Participants can also learn about dolphin photo i.d. and view Pacific Whale Foundation’s catalog of individually identified spinner and bottlenose dolphins – and try a dorsal fin matching exercise.
The prize categories are: Best Overall Entry by a Family or Group, Best Individual or Group Kids Entry (for kids 12 and under only), Most Realistic Dolphin, Most Creative Entry, and Funniest Entry. The winner for Best Overall Entry by a Family or Group will receive passes for a family of four for Pacific Whale Foundation’s Dolphin Watch Cruise, a three-hour adventure focused on watching the wild dolphins that inhabit Lāna‘i’s surrounding coastal waters. Winners in other categories will receive dolphin-themed prizes from Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Stores.
A free talk about dolphin research will follow, during the evening on Saturday, August 13. It will take place from 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Discovery Center. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Daniela Maldini, along with members of her dolphin research team, will present a slide and video show and share the latest findings about the wild spinner, bottlenose, and spotted dolphins found within the waters of Maui County. Pacific Whale Foundation’s pioneering studies of wild dolphins in this area began in 1996, and have since expanded to include toothed whales, as well as dolphins. Attendees will learn how dolphins and toothed whales are individually identified; how they rest, socialize, and feed; and Pacific Whale Foundation’s studies to understand the impact of human interactions on their resting behaviors. This talk is free and open to all. Pacific Whale Foundation’s Discovery Center is on the lower level of the Ma’alaea Harbor Shops complex.
On Sunday, August 14, Pacific Whale Foundation’s research team will lead an exciting three-hour dolphin watch cruise. This trip departs from Lahaina Harbor and visits areas off the coast of Maui and/or Lana’i where wild dolphins are most likely to be found. Participants will learn about dolphin research, including the latest findings about these fascinating, social animals. Dolphin sightings are guaranteed or you get a free ticket to go on a regular Pacific Whale Foundation Dolphin Watch Cruise. This trip departs at 9:00 am. There will be a 10 percent discount on the cost of cruise tickets for anyone who participated in the Wild Dolphin Sand Sculpture Contest, held the day prior.