Latest news on sightings, calving and overall whale numbers
The whale migration is an annual event. Whales begin arriving here in late June and stay until October or even November. The main breeding activity (the best time for whale watching) is August and September.
This year began with fishermen reporting whale sightings as early as June. That’s when Ilha Blue had our first sighting, an immature whale probably a male (usually the first to arrive) doing repeated tail slaps for around an hour. After that there were sporadic sightings but we didn’t see much real action until late July. That’s when we had the most amazing experience, a pregnant female deliberately block our path. It was a calm day, the sea was flat making perfect whale watching conditions yet after 2 hours we hadn’t seen so much as a ripple to indicate the presence of whales. And then there she was, breaking the surface just meters in front of our boat.
We know from other whale watchers around the world that humpback whales recognize individual boats. Of course they do, they’re smart, observant animals with good memories. Over the past years we’ve had a few encounters early in the season that seem to confirm this, whales approaching the boat, following us or passing close behind multiple times. This was one of those events, it was no accident that she appeared right there at that moment, she did it on purpose.
She observed us for a few minutes, submerging and then reappearing several times, before finally leaving, or so we thought. That’s when Abdul told us to look down, there she was slowly passing below our boat, all 36 majestic tonnes just meters away, unforgettable. 2019’s first intimate encounter, yes!
Number of sightings
Throughout July and August there were plenty of sightings, groups of adult whales breaching repeatedly all around and even a few more very close encounters. Unseasonal windy conditions did make it more difficult than previous years but even so we only had one trip where we didn’t see any whales at all. Reports from further south suggested that the humpbacks were arriving later or behaving differently than usual, but we couldn’t confirm this. It’s true we didn’t see our first calf until the end of August, but this may just be because of the windy conditions making calf spotting more difficult.
Now is the best time
So, there are 2 weeks of ideal whale watching conditions between now and the end of September. We still see lots of breaching and other typical behaviours. But what makes this time so special, what it is best known for is seeing mothers and calves lolling on the surface. Frolicking, the calf attempting leaps, fin and tail slaps, the mother joining in or following attentively, close behind. In many ways its the best time to observe humpbacks – it’s an unforgettable experience if you can make it here?
update: today 16/9/19 we saw multiple pods jumping and pectoral fin slapping. Lots of immature whales and at least one new calf.
We have daily whale watching trips until 30 September. In October we can arrange trips on demand depending on the migration and the likelihood of sightings.