Whales “in the family of things”
On one particularly warm morning early this year, I drove north along Queen Ka'ahumanu highway towards Kiholo Bay, a seasonal Hawaiian home for humpback whales. I arrived at Kiholo before the sun rose over Mauna Kea, but signs of the world waking were already multiplying by the minute: birds squawking in the trees; mongooses anxiously darting in and out of the On one particularly warm morning early this year, I drove north along Queen Ka'ahumanu highway towards Kiholo Bay, a seasonal Hawaiian home for humpback whales. I arrived at Kiholo before the sun rose over Mauna Kea, but signs of the world waking were already multiplying by the minute: birds squawking in the trees; mongooses anxiously darting in and out of the brush; sleepy, tanned people emerging from tents at the beachside campground; and whales surfacing at the edge of the bay.
Whales! Whales were the reason I was there, and three of them seemed to greet me from a distance — perhaps a mile offshore — with tiny pinpricks of breath and spray popping above the gentle line where sea met sky. I smiled, excited that I spotted the whales so quickly, and turned my attention to finding Jeffory (who would be my whale guide for the morning) in the campground.
I found Jeffory at a picnic table along the bay. He and I spent a few minutes organizing gear — snorkels, fins, kayak pedal drives, water, snacks, hats, GoPro, etc, before walking down to the water to load the double-kayak in the water
Once in the kayak and past the shore break, we paused for a moment. Jeffory said a short blessing: for our safety on the water, for the openness of whales to come towards us, and for the gift of the ocean and Earth (it was beautiful and really just amazing). Then we were off, paddling away, away, away from shore and towards the whales lingering outside the wide mouth of the bay (~2 miles wide, Kiholo is the second largest bay on the Big Island).
My sense of time was entirely distorted on the water, but it must have taken 45 minutes to reach near where we had seen the whales from shore. Once outside the bay, I felt especially small compared to the ocean swells — calm but substantial — that raised the kayak up and down. We paddled quietly, beholden to the rhythm of the swells, waiting for a glimpse of the whales surfacing.
One of the strangest aspects of the experience — which I noticed immediately — was that from above the ocean surface, it’s nearly impossible to tell if a whale is twenty feet or two hundred meters away from you. Their only giveaway is breaking the surface (the whoosh of a breath or the splash of a breech or the eerie calm, stagnant top layer of water left after they dive somewhat of a vacuum effect). They are silent, elegant, and simply surprising.
We paused paddling to sit and wait to relocate them. I searched the water at incremental distances, radiating outward from the kayak: 20 meters, 50 meters, 100 meters. The minutes ticked by. But no sooner had I given up, and anxiously decided that the whales must be right below us, did I hear a faint whoosh in the distance. About 100 meters south one, two, three whales surfaced, headed back towards the mouth of the bay.
My initial instinct was to pedal toward them, but Jeffory quickly explained why that was a lost cause: 1) the whales are far faster than the kayak, and they would go and do as they please — in effect, they had to want to come near the humans for them to be near the humans; 2) if we aimed for where the whales “were” we wouldn’t be able to meet them where they were “going to be” (duh, I realized later: physics, interception points, and such). So what did we do? We paddled slightly southwest in the direction they were headed (towards the mouth of the bay) and then waited again, patiently, as the sun rose over Mauna Kea.
Only a few minutes later the whales reappeared, much closer this time: a momma, a few-day-old baby, and an “escort” (sort of a protector whale that keeps an eye on the pair). Their smooth backs glided along the surface, the heave of their breath cracking the still air, tiny barnacles scattered like stars along their school-bus-sized bodies. I sat in awe. Jeffory queued me to put on my snorkel, mask, and fins. If the whales decided to come closer, we’d be able to slip into the water and swim with them from a safe (but remarkably intimate) distance.
We kept moving, and settled into a rhythm in the kayak: paddle, wait, observe, paddle, wait, observe. Intermittently, Jeffory would gently slip off the kayak, under the water, to hear if the whales were singing. The whales continued to come closer and closer to us. I wondered: were they curious and trusting or simply oblivious? (I highly doubted the latter, but it did cross my mind.) Soon they were among us. Or, more accurately: we were among them.
From the water, Jeffory signaled me to quietly slide off the kayak. The water was deep and impeccably clear— we were far off the edge of the reef. I adjusted my mask and looked straight ahead. In front of me, headed directly towards me… the whales: the momma positioned with the baby above her back, closer to the surface; the escort far below the momma, just a shadow in the depths. They moved towards us, dead on, so close I could have reached them in a few strokes, then cut a turn alongside us as if to nod us hello.
It’s taken me months to process that first moment in the water with them — their power, their wonder, their sacredness. Mostly I remember how time froze, how in awe I was, and how deeply humbled I was by their scale and movement. I have always loved Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” which closes with the lines “the world offers itself to your imagination / calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting / over and over announcing your place / in the family of things.” But it wasn’t until meeting the eye gaze of the momma whale — for real — that I understood in my body what being part of the family of things meant.
No sooner did the moment come than did it pass. Within a few minutes we could no longer see the whales below the surface. We pulled ourselves back into the kayak and returned to our rhythm: paddle, wait, observe. We did slip in the water a few more times with them, each different experiences at different distances, but nothing compared to that initial encounter.
Once the water got siltier and visibility dropped, we stuck to our vantage point in the kayak, and followed them (or they followed us) across the length of the bay’s opening. We tag teamed with them for hours as they cruised past us, dove under us, and doubled back on us. For Jeffory, who would spend the rest of the winter season visiting this group of whales; these hours were (quite literally) a foundational relationship bonding exercise with these highly intelligent mammals.
Late in the morning, we neared the North end of the bay’s opening. The whales surfaced a few times more and then, as if as content with the extent of the experience as we were, deliberately turned due west and charted out to sea.
In the moment, I was left with the raw emotion of the experience and a calm paddle back to shore, the whales' spouts growing ever more distant behind us. In the weeks and months to come, though, I found myself left with so much more: an experience with nature that was so serene and powerful it had imprinted on my consciousness… a memory that I return to frequently in the hustle and bustle of everyday life… and a reminder that as much as we humans have pulled away from the animal kingdom, there are moments we can still find ourselves fully enveloped in the family of things.
Mein singender Wal
Der 26. März 2019 war der wunderbarste Tag meines bisherigen Lebens!
Manchmal denke ich, "ist das wirklich so passiert, oder war´s ein einzigartiger, unbeschreiblich schöner, herzöffnender Traum?"
Selbst jetzt, Monate später, fühlt es sich immer noch so unglaublich an!
Ich konnte ihn sehen, hören und die Klangvibrationen in jeder Zelle meines Körpers fühlen. Noch niemals zuvor hat mich etwas tiefer berührt, als diese wunderbare Erfahrung. Oftmals, wenn ich meine Augen schließe, kann ich es wieder spüren, dieses
immense, alles vereinnahmende, wunderschöne Gefühl, das sein Lied in mir erzeugt.
Es wird für immer und ewig in meinem Herzen sein.
Ich danke dir aus tiefstem Herzen geliebter Wal, dass du dein Lied mit mir geteilt hast.
Unsere gemeinsame Zeit ist das größte, wunderbarste Geschenk, das ich jemals erhalten habe!
Vielen Dank Jeffory, für diesen wunderbaren Tag! Jede Sekunde dieses Kajak-Ausfluges habe ich zutiefst genossen und mich stets wohlbehütet und sicher gefühlt.
Durch deine tiefe Herzensverbindung zu den Walen wurde diese einzigartige Erfahrung möglich.
I had the opportunity to experience this excursion twice with my guests. On both occasions, we were blessed with the visit of a Mother and her calf. We took our time gaining their trust, engaging in a subtle dance as we asked permission to the Mother to approach them.
In a time when society compels us to seek and expect instant gratification and connection, the experience teaches us to slow down and tune into a different rhythm, closer to the heartbeat of the Living Earth.
I am thankful to Jeffory for his deep and sincere love of the great Whales. With humility, he facilitates the creation of a space where true inter-species encounter can unfold. Because we are on kayaks, it is literally impossible to “force” an encounter.
With patience, respect and an open heart, we extend an invitation for the Whales to be with us. And when the Whales do come, and they often do, we know it is their initiative, their choice. And that is infinitely precious.
The Kayak excursion with Jeffory
was a moment outside of time
I have enjoyed many ocean experiences on the island but this was unique. Jeffory was very mindful of choosing the days with optimal conditions. I will never forget the stillness in the air as we arrived at the kayak launching site. It was a little after daybreak and the water in the bay was calm as a lake. There was a feeling of sacredness as we floated out and Jeffory offered a greeting to the Whales.
“If you have time and feel inclined to do so, we would be so happy and honored to be in your Presence this morning” With this gentle invitation, we began our morning.
Being on a kayak makes us feel so much closer to the Whales and ultimately to Nature. We sink into a place of Deep Listening: relying on our eyes and ears as we follow their breaths-that distinctive “Whoosh” rising to the sky-but also opening up to our intuition, a subtler sense of listening rooted in the awareness that we are connected to the Whales and their consciousness.
Leina Sato Free Diving: leinasato.strikingly.com
Our Trip to Hawaii in 2018
A very personal travelogue by Julia and Daniel
We have been told that Hawaii “calls” you when you are destined to visit the islands. After we first went to Hawaii about six years ago, then to Oahu, we planned an island hopping holiday for this fall when we heard the “call”.
During the time of planning we fortunately got to know Jeffory and Elisabeth, who were in Graz during our travel time and not in Hawaii, but helped us organize our trip and referred us to their assistant Marlien.
In contrast to our previous trip, the focus this time was not on sightseeing, but on immersing ourselves in the real life of the place, experiencing, feeling, and enjoying… for each of us in our own quiet moments, as well as together as a couple. As soon as we landed in Hawaii, we felt welcomed, we felt that we had truly arrived, we felt the aloha spirit and could really feel the Hawaiian lightness of just being. We had the feeling that we will experience and see exactly what is meant for us during our stay.
After spending nine wonderful days on Kauai and Maui, we flew with a small eight-seater plane to the Big Island.
Already the outward flight was an amazing experience and we admired the island as we approached it realizing that it would clearly differ from the other islands. And that’s how it came to us. Besides lush greenery and tropical forests we were impressed by the lava fields and black sand beaches. We felt grounded on this island and at the same time we felt lightness and liveliness.
Jeffory and Elisabeth recommended a wonderful Bed & Breakfast in advance. We were warmly welcomed there, we enjoyed the beautiful Hawaiian plantation style house and were spoiled every morning with an extraordinary breakfast. The location couldn't have been better for us and the ocean views where spectacular.
But the absolute highlight of our stay on Big Island was our day with Marlien. From the moment we got to know her and when she smiled at us… it felt like we immediately made friends with each other. We had only snorkeled in the shallow water before and were definitely beginners, but Marlien accompanied us carefully into the deep water. We trusted her completely and were happy about the great experiences we were able to make. The water was beautifully clear and we were thrilled about seeing plenty of fish and sea turtles.
Marlien showed us several beaches during the time we spent with her and we really enjoyed her company. Marlien is a warmhearted, sweet, communicative woman. She was very mindful with our needs and we had great talks with her. She also told us a lot about Hawaiian culture and life in Hawaii. Later on, while enjoying a delicious dragon fruit and apple bananas together, she gave us numerous tips for activities for the rest of our trip.
Thanks to her tips, in the next days we were able to observe more sea turtles and to visit beautiful and sacred places on this unique island. The time we spent in Hawaii was very special to us. And the fact that we didn't see any dolphins, as we had originally hoped, is a sign for us that this trip to Hawaii should not be our last.
Thank you, Jeffory and Elisabeth, for helping to make our dream vacation come true. Thank you, Marlien, for spending this special day with us. We feel like having gained a friend in you.
This wonderful trip left a lasting impression on us. It just felt right for us, as if we were in the right place at exactly the right time. We embraced our energies at this paradisiacal place and it brought us closer to ourselves. Aloha, Hawaii, until we meet again...
Julia and Daniel, Austria
Wege auf Hawai´i
Heart of Nature Seminar
Auf dem Weg ins Meer,
hin zu euch, Geschöpfen des Wassers und der Luft,
was sich hinter klaren Augen verbirgt.
Euer Blick heilt, macht ganz.
Auf dem Weg in die Erde,
hin zu euch, feurige Wurzeln des Lebens,
wie auch wir singen, wir gemeinsam klingen.
Euer Traum gebiert sich in uns.
Auf dem Weg zu noch mehr Liebe
in unserem Innen und Außen
dem alten Königspfad,
der uns mitten in das Herz der Vergebung führt.
Mahalo, liebe Elisabeth und lieber Jeffory, dass ihr mit soviel ALOHA diese Wege für uns ermöglicht und mit uns teilt!
Schwimmen mit Delfinen
Private Dolphin Swim Tour
Nach vielen Jahren ging mein Kindheitswunsch in Erfüllung - Schwimmen mit Delfinen, mit freilebenden Delfinen.
Von einer Bekannten erhielt ich die Adresse von Jeffory, der zu dieser Zeit jedoch in Österreich war. Nichts desto trotz erhielt ich von ihm wertvolle Informationen für unseren Aufenthalt. Unter anderem vermittelte er mich an Marlien.
Welch glückliche Fügung! Marlien vermittelte nicht nur unsere Unterkunft. Sie sorgte dafür, dass dieser Urlaub zu einem unvergesslichen Erlebnis wurde. Täglich begleitete sie uns, wenn wir mit den Delfinen schwammen.
Sie vermittelte uns die nötigen Kenntnisse, war stets zur Stelle, wenn Fragen auftauchten und wurde so zu einer Art "Brücke" zu der Welt der Delfine. Durch ihre liebevolle, geduldige und offene Art schuf sie einen Raum, der es ermöglichte, Erfahrungen zu machen, die mit Worten nicht wiedergegeben werden können, einen Raum, wo Grenzen fließend werden.........
Ihr Lächeln bleibt stets in Erinnerung. Vielen Dank für diese wunderbare Erfahrung.
Spirit of Nature Seminar
Voll erfüllt von Wal Energie und tief berührt von seinem Gesang, seinem Sich-Zeigen paddeln wir mit den Kajaks im tiefen Blau des Pazifiks. Die Wellen und der Wind werden stärker, das Meer fordert meine Kräfte heraus. Mit Blick auf den Mauna Kea in seiner ganzen Schönheit und Anmut, im Herzen die Wale, die sich uns heute zeigten, paddle ich mit starkem Fokus in Richtung Strand.
Die Wellen erinnern mich plötzlich an eine Geschichte, in welcher eine Schildkröte nur dann paddelt, wenn die Wellen sie mittragen - beim Sog zurück legt sie eine Pause ein, da sie so ihre Kräfte spart und weit und stetig vorankommt. Und ja, es funktioniert auch für mich im Kajak!
Wie berauscht komme ich am Strand an, der Blick auf die Zelte, unsere Kochstelle, die Hängematten und die wunderschönen Bäume erfüllt mich mit tiefem Glück. Was gibt es Schöneres als Tag und Nacht auf Big Island draußen zu verbringen?! In tiefem Kontakt mit den Kräften der Natur, all den Tieren, Pflanzen, Gerüchen, ...und mir selbst!
Ich bin Elisabeth und Jeffory zutiefst dankbar, dass sie den Raum für uns halten und uns durch diese besonderen, tief gehenden Momente leiten! Mahalo!