A Cracker day at sea
First a feeding frenzy. Mackerel leap high out of the water, herding tiny herrings below. Opportunistic terns dive sharply, expertly selecting their share of the catch. In the distance a gigantic splash is spotted, it must be a whale. Others on board confirm, having sighted the actual breach. Captain Faridhi accelerates, maneuvering us closer. Two km…500m…200m, boom. A solitary humpback whale breaks the surface, exposing its characteristic ‘humped’ dorsal fin. A way point is marked on the GPS, officially recording the start of the sighting. The engine is cut and we wait in anticipation for the next ‘blow’. It can take anywhere from five up to 45 minutes between voluntary breathes. Silence washes over us as we hear this gigantic creature delicately exhale. I am in awe at how close it is – just 50m. With no calf present and travelling alone, we suspect a male. Perhaps it is on the lookout for other males to join or a female to herd. Humpback whales are different to most sexually dimorphic species – the male is smaller than the female. Still at around 15m, this one certainly isn’t small. All of a sudden, like swarming insects – dolphins approach. They leap high out of the air, demonstrating their characteristic ‘spin’. The sheer number of them and tri-tonal colouration easily give the species ID away – Spinners! We are elated, a first sighting for many of us on board. There are too many too count as individuals – instead we place them in groups of 10. Our final estimate is a maximum of 70, although pods of up to 300 are common. A few individuals catch an easy ride – surfing on Bardans bow. Perhaps they are on a mission South, to feeding grounds near Pemba Island, Tanzania. They are all heading in the same direction, cruising at speed ~ 10 knots. As quickly as they appeared the Spinner’s move on and the whale makes its presence known, just 50m away it re-appears. It appears to be resting, not moving much at all. It’s a long journey the Humpbacks undertake on their annual migration North. After some time hoping to capture photos of its tail fluke for identification purposes, we lose sight and decide to call it a day. All are utterly thrilled by the day’s events.
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