Friday, May 24, 2013

Humpback Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

Evidently May is the month to see whales in Monterey Bay. When we checked the recent sightings we saw orcas, blue whales, grey whales, humpback whales, pacific white sided dolphins and risso dolphins on the list. So it was anyone's guess what we might have seen that day. 

Armed with our anti-nausia medication, Carrie Burch and I embarked on our whale watching adventure with the hopes of at least seeing one whale with a tail slap we could hopefully get a photo of - our show turned out to be so much more

Every whale watching trip begins with California sea lions. 
 They haul out wherever they please.
 Our ship headed straight out towards another boat we could see in the distance. Within half an hour we saw our first whale sign - snot.
We arrived to see a mama humpback whale with her calf. 
 And we were in for a show.

 I had warned Carrie that the other two times I'd been whale watching we only saw the back of the whale and the odd tail fluke but spent the majority of the time waiting.

 Evidently that is not so with humpback whales. They don't seem to stay under for as long nor dive as deep so our boat could follow them easily.

 A Close Encounter
While they were easy enough for the boat to follow at a suitable distance, the whales themselves chose to come even closer to our boat

Breaching and Surfacing
 As enjoyable as seeing them side by side was, we were taken by surprise when the calf body breached the surface.
We missed the first with a photo we were so surprised. We also developed a greater appreciation for anyone who photographs marine life. It's incredibly tricky. Luckily Carrie was up to the task. 
 Fortunately for us, the calf was in a playful mood 
 and treated us to more of a spectacular show. 
 The calf enjoyed playing, floating on its back and sticking its fins out.

Of Flukes, Fins, and Tail Slaps 
And we were treated to so many tail flukes and slaps that we actually get to chose the best photo rather than just the ones in focus.

 Humpback calf head stand - show off

Note the belly lines on the calf.
It's important to note that half way through, and fortunately after the calf had breached the surface, I had to go to the back of the boat to return my breakfast to nature.  There were white sided dolphins everywhere and the calf was playing nearby. It was the most exciting view while vomiting ever.

The Secondary Contenders Risso Dolphins

 We were treated to a short viewing with some risso dolphins which are apparently so competitive and aggressive towards each other while feeding that they will eventually turn white due to the scaring.

Sea Otter 

After two hours of watching Mama and her calf, they entered more treacherous areas by the shore so we returned to the dock. On the way, this adorable sea otter was sunning itself.
They may look cute and cuddly but they are basically wolverines of the sea. 

 And Harbor Seals
 After we docked we wandered over to a place I thought I remembered harbor seals being when I went kayaking with Karen.
I remembered correctly

 Harbor seals don't like to touch each other like sea lions do. Note the one attempting to get up on the rock behind the other
 Harbor seal punch ensues.
Overall, best whale watching day ever. Carrie is good luck and I fear if I ever go again it will be a disappointment.
Let's be honest, I'll still go.