The humpback whales are well and truly here, more whales than last year if that’s possible, and all of the famous humpback acrobatics are on display pretty much all of the time: breeching, lunging, fluke and fin slapping of the surface and ‘tail-up’ displays.
We’ve already seen a few calves with their mothers, one pair swam up very close and seemed not the least bit concerned about us being there.
This season we have implemented our ‘code of conduct’, which we have adapted from stuff we learnt about at the WCA conference in Durban. Perhaps the biggest impact of this is the conscious introduction of an educational element to the tour through the pre-briefing, which is very popular and really gets everyone excited and fired up about seeing whales and whale conservation.
As well as more whales there are also more boats taking visitors out to see them. Even though its not our job to police others, we have been paying more attention than usual to how they operate around the whales and I’m pleased to say we haven’t seen anything of concern. These are mostly small traditional dhows that just tootle around for a little while and don’t pose much of a threat to the whales’ safety. There are definitely more motorized boats than before and these tend to have the noisy (and polluting) 2 stroke engines which may disturb the whales, we just don’t know.
From a visitor safety point of view the only real concern is boats going too far out to sea, with one boat claiming to go 10 klm past the islands. If this is true its just insane and completely unnecessary, there are plenty of whales to see close by if you know where to look and are a little patient.
After a blowy start in late July and early August, the weather has been absolutely perfect with enough breeze to move the boat along, but not so much as to make conditions overly choppy.
Our boat the Edna continues to be the best boat for this activity, the best boat on the water. Its extra size makes it more comfortable, passengers can move around easily and feel more secure, plus the added gunwale height gives a better viewing angle, especially when the whales are up close and you want to look down into the water to see them. We’ve been using the new hydrophone and picking up some whale songs but not as much as we expected which might just be because we are mostly sailing amongst the calving females. As the season progresses we expect to have more bull whale activity and therefore song.
Land-based observations from the Goa lighthouse has been a great addition to the trips. The 19th century lighthouse makes a great platform and with our new tripod mounted telescope we’ve been getting lots of extra action, near and far sightings, and a better understanding of just how many whales are actually out there.
The Citizen Science photo I.D. project is coming along, we’ve sent fluke photos off to Happy Whale to see if they can be matched against various catalogues and are still waiting for feedback.
This week we will be taking the small boat out early each day, just for a couple of hours. To observe so we can build up a better picture of what is going on with the whales, when they are most active and if they prefer some areas above others. Its something we will offer to visitors; a chance to join a recce trip and help with gathering research information, for much less than the cost of a full tour.