During our summer holidays we went whale watching. I’d never done anything like it before and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Sure, the ocean is huge, but so are whales, right? How hard could it be to spot them?
Indeed, it was a summer where I was often wrong.
We went whale watching from the island of Pico in the Azores with a company called Espaco Talassa. They try to keep the whale watching as stress free as possible, participate in ecological research and donate part of their profit to environmental causes.
It showed, as we got there. They tried to keep their snacks and foods plastic free; drinks only came in glass bottles. Before we left, they showed a film with some information about whales, dolphins and the environment. Then, we were informed, that they hadn’t spotted any whales in the past hour, so that our chances of seeing any would be low. We were allowed to change to a different date if we wanted to. We didn’t, but it was great to know that this was an option. During the trip, we at some point stopped, so our tour guide could pick up some plastic out of the ocean.
So, after our info film, we were giving our swimming vests and went to the boat. An oversized rubber boat, that fit a total of 12 people. There were only 8 in our group, plus the helmsman and the tour guide. Somehow though, it was amazing to ride the waves with a small boat, it felt very freeing.
We didn’t bring any cameras, mostly because we only had our cellphones and were afraid of dropping those in the kilometers deep ocean. Instead, we decided to enjoy the experience, without worrying about getting the perfect picture. It was the best choice to make.
It was difficult for the others to get great pictures and they were constantly trying to get a better picture. We, got the enjoy the different types of dolphins and the whale in all their glory. It took a little bit, but then we came across a pod of Risso’s dolphins. We took our time observing them and our guide educated us a bit. We went on and came across a pod of atlantic spotted dolphins. They were extremely playfull, following and guiding the boat. They came so close, we could almost pet them.
Then, nothing happened for a while. Nothing. We waited. They lowered down listen equipment into the ocean, because then they would be able to hear whether or not whales were there; they go down to eat and send out signals as long as they are. We were told they could hear the whales, but even after a long wait we still didn’t see anything. Then, all of a sudden, a call came in through the walkie-talkie. Before we knew it we were speeding away, flying over the waves. As we were all sitting with a leg to each aide of the bench, it felt like we were riding a galloping horse. Amazing!
As we got closer to the whale, we slowed down, but I still didn’t see it. Like they had warned us before, it looked exactly like a dead log in the water, with an occasional spray coming up. Eventually, the sperm whalesperm whale prepared to dive and we got to see the tail come up out of the water. A classic.
We still had a little bit of time and spotted some more dolphins, different pods of the ones we’d seen before. This time, we also got to see a baby Risso’s dolphin. It was a mind blowing trip. I would recommend it to anyone. After we’d gotten back, we bought three postcards, with the pictures of the animals we’d seen. So much easier and absolutely stress free.