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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

30 May 2016

Whale of a whale-watching day

Risso's dolphin leaps

Risso’s dolphin leaps

2 May 2016

Monterey is one of the top whale-watching destinations in the world, and today we got a good idea why. We went for a morning trip, and there are loads of good reasons to do that: (1) it’s longer than the afternoon trip, (2) if they see something very cool, they can stay out a bit more but in the afternoon they can’t, (3) the sea tends to be calmer in the morning. And we certainly had a calm day for it! The sea was almost flat. Can’t emphasise enough how important this is for whale watching, as soon as it’s choppy the chances of spotting an animal breaking the surface or even a spout becomes nigh impossible. You’re better off cancelling.

So we ended up seeing ten different mammal species on our trip, and you could tell even the boat’s crew were chuffed. Now… to be fair, I’m including in that tally the sea otters, sealions and harbour seals that you cannot possible miss before you’ve even left the harbour. But even so we saw: Pacific white-sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, Humpback whales, Northern elephant seal, Fin whales, Northern right whale dolphin and a Northern fur seal. That last chap was just one little seal, all on his own, miles away from the shore and above a submarine canyon a mile deep. It’s very odd to think of that as perfectly natural; he seemed so astonishingly tiny in all that sea.

Northern right whale dolphin

Northern right whale dolphin

The northern right whale dolphins were very special, like little black torpedos shooting through the water. They have no dorsal fin on their backs, so really their outline is very torpedo-like, and they’re quite an unusual sighting.

Just to show how much a good wildlife watching is up to chance, and up to your guides, apparently the boat that was doing the all-day trip had spent the whole day cruising around in search of the pod of orcas (killer whales) that are currently in the area. The captain of that boat loves orcas. They didn’t find the orcas that day, and of course they didn’t see much else because of their single-minded hunt. I’d have been disgruntled if we’d gone for the all-day trip!

Northern fur seal loner

Northern fur seal loner


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