Years of experience are paying off

Once again the Ilha blue whale watching team are getting the most and the best whale sightings. Last Saturday was a perfect example, eight boats went out and only one saw whales, and that was ours.

Lead by Abdurramane Nivunco Buanamade (Abdul for short) the team have already clocked up more sightings than any other boat operator. Knowing where to look and how to understand the whale movements helps the crew position the boat in the right place. Then its all down to patience and the eagle eyes of Abdul who can spot a whale plume a mile away.

Inexperienced boat operators

Chasing around at the first sign of of a whale, going here and there with only one objective – to get as close as possible, is often self defeating. The whales hear the boat rapidly approaching and dive down, reappearing hundreds of meters away. Abdul knows that the best strategy is to gently sail in closer to the whales, approaching slowly from the side and slightly behind ensures the whales don’t feel threatened. Then positioned about 100 metres away, settle in to enjoy an intimate interaction, at one with the whales and the sea.

A large fully decked boat allows whale watchers to move around, plus the additional height above the water makes viewing that much easier. Having the option to use sail or motor is also better and safer. Binoculars even-out the chance of spotting a whale before Abdul (highly unlikely even so). The hydrophone lets everyone listen to the whale song and the snacks past around and cool drinking water whenever you want just make things that much better.

Some people are saying that this year the whales are harder to spot.

Its difficult to say if this is true, there are so many factors at play, it is wildlife watching after all and that has unpredictability written all over it.

But, our first whale watch of the season was quiet, not so much as a splash after 2 hours. And then, when least expected, a huge whale (most likely a pregnant female) appeared right in front of the boat blocking our path. Abdul ordered the sail to be furled and we excitedly observed her (and she observed us) as we drifted only 10 meters apart in calm water. The whale went down, then reappeared in almost the same position, moved closer to the boat and went down again. Everybody was thrilled, the excitement bubbling out in wows, and OMG’s, but then everyone went quiet again as Abdul pointed out that the whale was passing under the boat.

We all saw it, a 36 tonne 18 metre long adult humpback passing from one side to the other just a few meters below us – a wildlife experience to remember for the rest of our lives.