WOW, what a day.

You know it’s great when you can’t decide what was the best part.

Was it seeing Venom with a new calf? A close approach drive-by by not one, not two, but three huge fin whales? Looking down the mouths of humpback whales feeding right next to the boat? Watching dolphins and then seeing a huge white mass coming up to the surface (“that’s not a dolphin”) only to have a huge fin whale lunge feed right before our eyes? Honestly, it was just wonderful.

humpback whales feeding
A group of humpback whales feasts.
fin whales
Fin whales make a close pass.
humpback Venom's fluke
Venom's fluke
humpback Milkyway's fluke
Milkyway's fluke

In the morning, we started with a group of humpback whales, including Nile, Milkyway, Firefly, and others, who did a couple bouts of bubble-net feeding. They were eventually joined by Venom and calf, which was super, super exciting to add her to our list of moms for the year, particularly since she is a personal favorite. There were lots of different blows all around, several minke whales weaving in the general area, and three fin whales that we eventually got closer (very close) looks at. It was a real treat to have these whales come up off our left side and swim right down the length of the boat, giving us amazing views of their white jaws and chevrons. Dolphins jumped, and Milkyway split from the group to pop up at random intervals nearby.

lunging fin whale
A fin whale lunges.
fin whale and dolphins
Fin whale, dolphins, and seabirds

The whales trucked steadily southward. In the afternoon, we stuck mainly with a group of many of the same whales we saw in the morning, rounded out by Geometry, Gladiator, and Venom and calf.  The adults were busy making huge bubble nets. Shortly after we arrived and were just floating, they started one right next to our boat. Looking down, we could see the huge mouths rising up from the depths only feet away from us – a truly incredible moment, one that I sadly did not get photos of because even naturalists can still be caught off guard by some of the things these whales do. All eight adults swam right next to us, giving everyone a very up-close and true appreciation for their size. 

Luckily, we got to witness several more rounds of this (though not at the same distance), with the adults coming up with wide open mouths and then straining. Venom performed a characteristic “head toss” several times, where she gives a little backward jerk of her head after finishing straining. It’s difficult to say why she does this exactly, but it’s always a really fun behavior to witness. Minke whales abound, and we passed a few other whales in the area, including Lavalier and Rhino’s 13 calf, also feeding.  

As we started to leave the area, we caught a glimpse of a gray seal, then some white-sided dolphins that were hanging around some fin whales.  We slowed as we got up to the dolphins, and then suddenly a fin whale surfaced up from below practically upside-down, showing us a huge, amazing view of its ventral pleats, pectoral flipper, and fluke. We could see the entire body of the animal right next to us, in a truly amazing sight. This fin whale and another circled by us once more before swimming off to find more bait, dolphins stampeding along.

A truly unforgettable day.

— Heidi and Mary