We are now at the end of this series of posts. My top/favourite whale encounters. Some of you may have guessed this one was coming but coming in at No. 1 we have…
# 1 Mum and newborn calf! (July 2018)
Like the previous post, this encounter also happened on my actual birthday (though two years later).
TBH, this probably would have made top of my list even if it HADN’T been on my birthday but that certainly made it even more special. I specifically took the day off work so I could go whale watching on my birthday. I am so so so so glad I did.
We’d only been out on the water maybe 30 mins or so when we saw some blows on the water’s surface a bit further out. At first we thought it was a dolphin because the blow was so small, but as we got closer we realised…
…It was a BABY WHALE!! 😍
And it was new. Like, really REALLY new. Probably no more than a few days old (at most!) which means there was a very good chance it had actually been born IN the Gold Coast bay area. (Which is not unusual, exactly, but it was also very early in the season for that to be happening this far south!)
Baby whale = calf (also = cutest EVER) 😍
When humpback whales are born they’re generally much lighter in colour, like a pale grey (though I have seen one a few years back that was just barely off-white with a silver dorsal fin!). Their colour starts to darken within a few days of birth.
As you can see from the photos, this little dude is VERY pale in colour. Its dorsal fin is quite floppy too, which also suggests this is definitely a NEWborn!
Anyway, after the shock had worn off a little we hung back a bit to see what might happen, if they’d approach or if Mama would be protective and keep her bub away. (To be expected, particularly with a calf so young.)
Our jaws dropped as Mama brought Bub OVER to the boat. Like, RIGHT BESIDE the boat. And not just once… FOUR TIMES. (As I was editing the images last night, I went back through and counted – four times they approached us. 😲🤯)
Not only that but she (and Bub!) were totally chill the entire time. They’d just drift slowly past, take their time, really check us out.
Even now, recalling it, my brain is 🤯. There was definitely some two-way watching going on there, not just ‘whale watching’! (Check out the photo here – you can actually see Bub’s eye!)
Two things that came back to me while I was going through the images last night:
1) Mama was so relaxed she was fine with Bub being between her and the boat! Usually the mothers are quite protective – understandably! – and place themselves between their calf and any vessels. Not this mother! So we wondered if maybe she wasn’t a first-time mother.
2) Bub actually directed the interaction a couple of times! 😍😍 There’s a photo I have (not here – I didn’t get a chance to edit it) where the whales were heading back in our general direction and the calf actually TURNED his mother’s head to direct them back over to us. “No, Mum! I want to go and say ‘hi’ again!” 💙🐋
Favourite encounter? YUH-HUH.
Obviously it goes without saying that this is my FAVOURITE of all encounters. I didn’t get in the water with them. There was no breaching or any other acrobatics. Not even any pec fin slapping. And it certainly wasn’t a big name like Migaloo! Just a mother and her newborn calf, slowly gliding by the boat. But, God, that was SO SPECIAL.
Most people don’t realise how lucky we are that we still even have these animals with us! The Australian whaling industry hunted them almost to extinction only a few decades ago. Seeing the whale calfs every year, seeing the population recovering in front of our eyes, makes my heart grow.
But seeing a calf THAT new? Having such a close, special interaction like that? #BLESSED doesn’t even begin to cover it.
People in my life have asked me on many occasions “You’re going whale watching AGAIN?! Why??” THIS. THIS sort of encounter – and all the others – are why.
As a last note, long before I’d ever thought about doing this series of posts (specifically for Instagram, from a challenge set down by a course mentor but I decided to hijack and post here too), I’d already posted about this encounter on the blog. But it’s funny the things you remember – and some you forget! – so I decided to keep the old one and post this new one as well.
If you’d like to read it, visit this post.