March 27th to April 5th - Whale Watching
Trip Start Mar 24, 2008
5Trip End Apr 18, 2008
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I decided to do just the one blog to cover the period on the boat as the days soon fell into a familiar pattern. At first light Swanny would be up, have his swim and do a few jobs before starting the engine, lifting the anchor and gliding out from wherever we had moored for the night. That was the signal for the rest of us to surface and have a cup of tea on deck as we heard what the general plan was to be that day.
The early starts were well worth it, as often the sea was silky smooth - perfect conditions for seeing a blow or a glint of sun on a blue's back, also the sunrises were often spectacular, bathing the surfaces of the barren, sculptured coastline with a pink hue.
Sophie our cook would rustle up breakfast and then the watching would start in earnest. Hardly a day would pass without what I nicknamed "happy hour" this would be an encounter with either common or bottlenose dolphins - not just one or two, but hundreds and hundreds of them would appear on the horizon and as the boat got closer they all seemed to rush to join it. The boat would be surrounded by a seething mass of animals under the bows, alongside and surfing the wake at the back of the boat. This would go on for 40 or 50 minutes the dolphins obviously enjoying it as much as we were. Without fail if you looked around, everyone had a great big grin; they were such incredible fun to watch. You could lie on the trampoline at the front of the catamaran which is only feet from the water, clap and the dolphins would leap into the air in front of you. Sometimes they would find fish and a feeding frenzy would start. Immediately as if from no-where, pelicans, frigate birds, gulls would appear and join in, diving into the water like missiles as the dolphins jumped and lunged in the water.
Every day the experiences were different, and in total we saw an impressive list of different whales, including blue, fin, humpback, sperm, bryde's, pygmy sperm, minky as well as mobula rays, seals, several sharks and of course the dolphins
One morning we went out in the panga and saw a humpback breaching - Swanny was right there in seconds and we had the scariest experience initially as it breached time and time again, only feet from the boat, sometimes it would come up and roll over and over, slapping the water with its massive fins - we soon realised there was no aggression in his display, he was a juvenile just looking for someone to impress! For over an hour this display went on around the boat - he never strayed more than a couple of hundred feet from us and most of the time was right alongside. We all decided he was a humpback on crack as his displays were completely nuts. After my initial nervousness I sat back an enjoyed an experience not many people will ever be lucky enough to have. Even Swanny had never been that close to a breaching humpback in the little boat. The strangest part was when he went down with one of those amazing tail flukes you see pictures of - sliding silently under the water and we were left bobbing about on the surface in total silence waiting for the explosion of water as he surfaced and launched himself into the air - somewhere
Other special memories are of the blue whales "blowing" as they surface. You can see a blow over 10 miles away and one day we had a blue surface several times getting nearer and nearer the boat until it finally dived, broadside, under us and we were looking down its blow hole which was enormous, probably 4-5 feet in diameter. Another day we were right next to a mother and calf which was lovely.
Our other favourites were the sperm whales; several times we came across 30 - 60 of them at a time, many of them with babies. They are "Moby Dick" the classic whale with the huge bulbous head, they float on the water looking for all the world like giant logs - until you get close up - and close up we got! We were floating so close in the panga that on several occasions they were touching the boat or they would fluke right next to us and amazingly their tail would just glide along the edge of the boat without a splash as they disappeared under. Another time we were next to a mother and baby and the mother dived so the baby came right alongside us as if we were a surrogate. Once, Derek got into the water and managed to swim quite close, seeing all that lay beneath the water as well as the small proportion we could see above.
So the days went on, one spectacular sight after another, we were out at dawn and often still watching whales as darkness fell. No one could be more enthusiastic than Swanny - he was almost always the first to spot something in the far distance and would let out a yell of "there she blows" or "I see you, you sexy mollusc" and off we would go again.....
A special note for Tim & Tricia - we were very impressed with the catamaran, ugly it may be but it was an incredibly roomy and sociable boat with the galley on the same level as the deck and decent cabins for everyone. It was also run shipshape, tea at dawn, breakfast at eight, coffee and biscuits at eleven, lunch at one, tea at three, gins at six and dinner at eight - whale sightings permitting of course.
Well this has been a long blog but it cannot even scratch the surface of what we saw or the experiences we had - the pictures will give you a flavour but the best memories are in our heads - it was a sad farewell when we had to say goodbye to some of the characters we had come to recognise. Knuckles and the naughty girls (a huge sperm whale with a really knobbly back, and his entourage) the chuckle brothers, two young sperm whales who would play silly games rolling along the side of the boat and especially the crazy humpback that had given us the memory of a lifetime.