Blue skies, blue water and a BLUE WHALE!
As we left our mooring and navigated our way out into deeper water we kept a steady pace. Typically this increases once beyond the moorings but today it didn’t. We actually slowed. Passengers looked around, slightly confused, some even unaware of the change of speed as they were busy organising their kids – reiterating the ‘boats safety rules’.
A few sideways glances were met with a message from the crew that there was a whale only a few hundred metres ahead. A whale that could be blue… The water here was only 10 metres deep as we sat less than 1 kilometre offshore, less than 5 minutes into the morning’s tour.
Large obvious whale footprints bubbled up to the waters calm surface. No visual on the whale that was leaving them yet. Squeals of excitement and joyous comments from the kids onboard telling their parents that “they can see it!” Before we knew it the whale was surfacing. The whoosh of its blow commanded our attention. It was a Blue Whale! We have been extremely lucky with our sightings of Blues this season. Going on previous seasons, we expect it to get even better!
With ID shots taken and the Blue cruising along passively it was time to go find some active whales! This resulted in us coming across 2 humpbacks circling one of the sanctuary markers out in the bay… Unusual behaviour we watched on to get some clues on what they were doing. They didn’t appear distressed or to even be touching the marker. One of the two humpies was gently rolling onto its back, holding its tail slightly above the surface and occasionally lifted a pec fin out of the water as it tightly circled the marker. Breathing often and deeply it also appeared to be FEMALE! Hmmm we were still no closer to figuring out why they were acting so strange. Potentially it was a heavily pregnant female about to give birth? Or maybe they were just curious of this man-made object.
After 30 minutes the whales moved off… sliding past us and off astern. We plodded along behind them, where were they going? aHA! To another sanctuary marker 200 metres away… Perplexed so we phoned in some whale experts – but we were too far offshore at this stage to get an eye in the sky (drone). The two adult whales began the same behaviour again.. picking up right where they left off. This one remains a mystery still.
By our afternoon tour we needed to venture out into deeper water. Here we found a mother humpback slapping her tail on the water. The long draw of the tail up into the air and then the rapid SMACK down onto the surface is always exciting to watch! Over and over again it went, with the sound travelling a few hundred metres to us. As we approached we spotted a much much smaller tail slapping too! It was a calf, and doing what looked to be like copying/learning from its mother. It is crucial that calves learn as much as they can from their mothers as they only spend 1 short year with them, separating on the next migration.
We turned back towards the coastline and low and behold we spied the two strange humpbacks still on the sanctuary marker! It had now been over 5 hours of this behaviour. They didn’t change as we watched on, and by now we were hypothesising with our passengers as to what the whales intentions were! Even getting the kids involved in which they came up with some plausible explanations and some more imaginative reasons!!
We cruised along the coastline on both tours in which we found a pod of resident Bottlenose Dolphins. In the crystal clear water we could spot a dolphin calf! It appears the whales aren’t the only marine mammal to be giving birth this season.