Humpbacks put on show during ‘Welcome the Whales’ ceremony at Kealia

KEALIA — For Faith Ellen Anderson, welcoming the whales is a perfect end to her Kauai vacation.

“I live right in the middle of Canada, so I don’t get to experience whales,” she said.

Anderson said she attended Sunday’s Welcome the Whales ceremony, hosted by Kohola Leo, because she was curious about the gentle giants of the sea.

Almost 100 people celebrated the humpback whales’ return to the Garden Isle at the Kealia Lookout.

Kohola Leo, a nonprofit organization that works to protect the Earth’s whales and oceans, has been hosting the welcoming ceremony for seven years.

The humpback whales travel from Alaska to Hawaii every winter to give birth to their young, sing, mate and play. They spend about four to five months in the waters around Hawaii before returning to Alaska.

“When I lived in the Northwest, we welcomed the salmon. So when I moved to Kauai, I decided, ‘Why don’t we welcome home the whales?’” said Kelly Kelsey, event organizer. “It really warms my heart to see our human connection, our human pod, come together in a beautiful way.”

The ceremony was kicked off by a group of people blowing pu shells. But before the ceremony started, two or three whales were seen breaching, to the delight of the crowd.

“These events are so important because when we come together and bring our prayers and hearts together, it changes creation. We are creating with all of our prayers,” Kelsey said.

The whales, a few hundreds yards offshore, continued their show throughout the two-hour event, sending spouts of water into the air. Their performance was immediately followed by cheers and applause from the audience.

“I was interested in the gathering and seeing the whales,” said Tania DaCosta. “I wanted to celebrate their return.”

During the ceremony, participants were invited to share personal stories of whales and how they affected their lives. Poetry, meditations and songs were shared.

Steve Backinoff spoke of his connection with the whales.

“I feel them. I gaze out into the sea and see them on the surface. They express the enormity of compassion for everyone and everything,” he said.

In addition to welcoming the whales back to the Garden Isle, the ceremony served as a way to connect humans with their cetacean counterparts, Kelsey said.

“This is our time to share our hearts and spirits with the whales,” she said. “Seven years ago, I was singing my heart out to the ocean, and I got a message that the whales were here. They sing to the ocean. I got the message that it was my job to help people sing on the land and to reunite our kin.”

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