What is the most impressive thing you have ever seen? Now we know!
30 to 50 tons! Twice bigger than your boat! Just his heart is as heavy as 3 big humans! Meet the humpback whale!
But to meet such a whale you have to be lucky. First of all: be lucky to visit Madagascar in the right time: between July and September. Only then the whales are coming from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to warm and nice Mozambique Channel to mate and give birth. Thousands of kilometres! They are seasonal feeders: they eat only for few months of the year.
Secondly, you have to be lucky to get to the Sainte Marie island, which is their favourite place: between the land of Madagascar and the island Sainte Marie the water is not deep, warm and shark-less.
Thirdly, you have to be lucky to actually see one!
We decided to go on the boat trip with a woman from Cetamada – the conservation organisation that promotes responsible whale watching. To make sure that our whale watching will be responsible, that our boat will respect the code of approach, that our guide will be qualified and able to answer for all our questions. People from this organisation not only take part in trips like ours, but also educate and raise awareness of the environment and marine heritage between the locals and do the scientific research.
How does it look like?
Well. It all started with the rain. And didn’t stop:). Already while sitting on our boat, we were soaking wet. It rained cats and dogs. Wet hair, wet, legs, wet underwear. Then, while jumping on the waves: we got wet also with the sea water, from the top.
10 minutes, 20 minutes, 40 minutes… We are deeper in the sea, more and more wet and staring on the waves. All becomes one: the grey-blue sky with the grey-blue waters. The idea is to spot the fountain of the water. That would mean: the whale is there.
60 minutes, 80 minutes…
– But how to see it, if everything here is smaller and bigger fountain of the water?!? – Hanna was asking. The humpbacks exhale air at almost the same speed as a cruising jet airplane, even up to 5 meters (15 feet) in the air.
And suddenly…! – Thereeeeee! – I think Tom was the first one spotting some fountain. The skipper turned the boat and speeded into the right direction. But… such a whale can be under the water, without breathing for… 20 minutes. So… even if we went the right direction, “our” whale can be already far far away and we might even not notice his next exhale…
90 minutes, 100 minutes…
– There!!!! – this time it was me. Again speeding up, again more salty waves on our faces but… wait, there is something, which has exactly the same colour than the sky and the waves but… – It’s a dorsal fin! – explains our guide. – This thing on the top of the back of a whale. They are as different as fingerprints of human. – The skipper takes the position that we go parallel to the whale. And this dorsal fin is really visible from time to time.
– I can’t see anything! It’s not fair!! Mama can see and I caaaaan’t!!! – our kids started to behave like wet kids bored after 120 minutes of being bored.
And suddenly, just next to us: buuuuuuum! A thing, twice bigger then our boat, jumped out, showed his whole body: head, eyes, back and amazing tale. Buuuuum – back into the water.
– Aaaaaa! Oh my god, oh my god – not sure who was the most excited from all. – Here!! And here! And here!!
And suddenly there was another whale, and the third one, and the fourth one. Can it be possible? Jumping up and down, just along our boat. Huge, huge and impressive.
The whole show just started. Whales can move and act in very different way and it relates to their feelings.
– Look at this! Do you see this “waving”? – asked the woman. Indeed, the humpback was moving out of the water “just” his pectoral fin (the “arm”). Which is “just” 5 metres long! – That means he is restful and happy. It’s a game. The same with blowing the water once after another.
And then they started to breach – jumping up and kind of landing on their back. – This means they are social and interact with the group.
We were so lucky to have 4 of them at once! Suddenly being wet didn’t matter, suddenly hunger after 3 hours on the boat went away.
– And when they jump like an arch, or tail slap or head slap – that means they are aggressive – explained the woman. But we (luckily) didn’t see those moves.