March 10

March 10

What Can I Say?; If We Didn’t See It, It Wasn’t There; “See You In Tofino”; Free Willy

While I can describe in words what we saw and did on our whale-watching trip this morning, it is much more difficult to express the feelings and emotions it engendered in us. If someone said to me “If I could only do 5 really important things in my life, what should they be?”, I would reply that this experience should certainly be one of them.

We were picked up in small buses at 8:00 and driven back to the salt-mining operation we visited yesterday, where we embarked on the boats that would take us out into the lagoon (about a half-hour trip) where the grey whales are getting ready to head north within the next few weeks. Many have had babies here, while others have come to mate in these shallow warm waters. On the way, we passed by a buoy covered in seals:

We're not sure how they got up there

We’re not sure how they got up there

Next was a group of pelicans

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being stalked by a coyote

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Final score: pelicans 1, coyote 0.

For a while, we wondered if we were actually going to see any whales, but suddenly they were all around us. they really are gentle giants, very curious about us, particularly the babies. Of course, we took lots of photos and video, but this might give you some idea of the magic that unfolded:

Jeannine touching a baby

Jeannine touching a baby

Staring right down the blowhole

Staring right down the blowhole

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The couple that pats a whale together...

The couple that pats a whale together…

Even though they are so gentle, it’s a little disconcerting to see this coming at you;

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When they blew, you were covered in the spray; Jeannine described it best as an intimate experience. A small bonus was the rainbows which formed momentarily. It was also quite a unique sensation feeling them pass below the boat and bump it right underneath you.

After spending about 1 1/2 hours with these wonderful creatures, which seemed to go by all too quickly, we headed back. the fun, however, was not over. Our guide Chino took us over first to a scallop diving boat:

Note the gas engine to provide air to the diver

Note the gas engine to provide air to the diver

One of the crew gave us a live one they had just hauled on board. Chino immediately opened the shell, separated the scallop, washed it and gave it to one of our group, who swallowed it and pronounced it delicious.

A few hundred feet away was a clam-diving boat, which also shared the bounty:

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It doesn't get any fresher than this!

It doesn’t get any fresher than this!

We then investigated an area of intense activity, which turned out to be at first two, then three males attempting to mate with a female.

This picture gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Free Willy”:

I just took the picture; you explain it to the kids.

I just took the picture; you explain it to the kids.

We spent quite a while watching the antics, while they remained understandably oblivious to our presence.

As a final treat, we passed an osprey guarding its nest:

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We felt a sense of wonder and awe, but perhaps the greatest feeling that I took away from the experience was that I had been given one of the greatest privileges that a human being can know; that of having touched a creature that has been hunted almost to extinction, yet its genetic make-up appears to harbour no ill-will, but rather a child-like sense of curiosity and playfulness. It seems to welcome our touch, clearly seeking it out as it returned to the boat again and again. I found these moments of physical contact profoundly moving. At one point, Jeannine put down the camera and waited for a baby to come close to where she was in the boat. When the baby approached it opened its eye and just stared. Jeannine stared back and together they had a private and intimate moment. She was able to pat and stroke both baby and mother many times. Such a privilege. Such a moment in time. As we were leaving, we told them all “See you in Tofino!”

After returning, we relaxed for the afternoon, ending the day with a lovely dinner at the park restaurant. We leave tomorrow for 3 days of beach camping at Bahia de Los Angeles, so will not be able to post again until our next stop after that.

 

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