In November 2021, The Hawaii Wildlife Discovery Center (HWDC), a much anticipated 5,000-square-foot space, opened at Whalers Village in Kaanapali. With contributions from several partners, HWDC features more than 30 exhibits about Hawaii’s undersea life, whaling era, cultural values and conservation work. The space also allows the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary to offer education and outreach programs, Additionally, the Maui Visitors Bureau (MVB) provides volunteer opportunities and community gatherings.
“We have long needed a place that helps our visitors better understand how to respect native wildlife while simultaneously gaining a deeper appreciation for the islands,” said Hannah Bernard, HWDC Executive Director. “We depend on partnerships like the one we are sharing with Whalers Village, MVB, and the whale sanctuary to succeed in our conservation efforts, and I could not be more excited about this wonderful place we have co-created.”
There are 45 locally produced, Maui-focused videos with topics ranging from ‘Voice of the Sea’ to ‘Kumukahi: Stories of Living Hawaiian Culture’ and ‘What Does it Take to Disentangle a Whale?’ Allen Tom, the regional manager for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary said, “The Discovery Center’s goals and approaches are well-aligned with the sanctuary’s mission. We are thrilled to work together in this space.”
Among the many featured artists and photographers are cousins Kahi and Patrick Ching, who created spectacular murals on display outside and inside the center. Other local artists specialize in utilizing marine debris and beach-cast plastics in a variety of 3-D and video displays. Marine debris is a focal point of HWDC, and the Kids Zone is a place where keiki can learn about how plastic and other types of pollution directly affect local wildlife and habitats. Also, the HWDC Shop offers numerous sustainable products with an emphasis on merchandise locally sourced in Hawaii.
Melissa Aguilar-Craft, Whalers Village General Manager, noted, “We are honored to play host to this one-of-a-kind tenant, bringing more than just retail offerings to our shoppers. Our customers, many of whom are visitors, are looking for the complete Hawaiian experience, and HWDC provides that.”
Hannah Bernard, HWDC Executive Director, President, Hawaii Wildlife Fund
A portion of the proceeds from gift-shop sales and entry fees into the Discovery Center supports conservation work of Hawaii Wildlife Fund, new exhibits and special displays.