Chapter 8 - dolphins and a massive fin whale!
9th November, cruising along on a beautiful, totally flat sea between Ambon and Banda.
Adele soundtrack, books & Kindles out, digesting banana pancake.
No idea what day of the week it is. And that's fine. Another 2 or 3 hours to go till our next destination. Just filling time, reading, chatting, napping, scanning the water's surface for a glimpse of our friends beneath.
And Wakatobi Phil spots something. Everyone runs to the side of the boat. Dolphins!
A whole pod of dolphins, chillaxing on the surface. Making the most of the calm day to give their bodies a little warmth from the sun. Moving languorously through the oily water. Teasing us with a fin, showing a little back, and then letting the tail hover out of the water for just a little longer than should be decent.
The boat slows and circles round to see if we can tempt them to come and play. Will they start to swim under the bow and join us on our voyage for a while? Nah! Dolphins know exactly what they want, and right now, they're sunbathing. Why spring into action just to fulfil the dolphin stereotype image held by these guys on the boat?
We watch them for a while, enchanted by glimpses of a fin, temporarily forgetting the scorching heat of the sun on our white skins. Jan hesitating with his mask and snorkel at the ready, but in the end it's not to be. Patti happy because dolphins were on her wish list and she's seen them at last. (We also point out to her that there aren't many people in the world who can say they've snorkelled with wild orcas before they've seen a dolphin.)
And, once we've left them behind, it's back to relaxing under the canopy at the back of the boat again, drinking delicious instant coffee (ahem!) and listening to a little Nina Simone, "Feeling Good". Yes, I finally got round to putting my iPod on for a while.
Time means nothing as we all enjoy the sway of the boat and take a leaf out of the dolphins' book, just being in the moment.
*** "Thar she blows!" ***
Who knows how many minutes or hours later, we hear Ricky shout "whale!".
Can it be true? Captain Ahmed had told him he'd seen a "big fish". We run to the front of the boat and sure enough, thar she blows. We watch her surface and blow air several times.
She's a massive fin whale, the second biggest species there is. Maybe 15 metres long, judging by the glimpses of her back and tail. Just as some of the group are donning their masks and fins, she takes a deep breath and dives. See you a mile down, suckers!
Along we pootle again, listening to abit of Stevie Wonder in his prime, and someone cries "dolphins!" Loads of them! Heading towards the boat, enthusiastically jumping out of the water, keen to play just a little. You can almost hear them excitedly saying "weeeee!" every time they jump.They swim alongside the boat for a while and then head off, happy in their own company.
Thank you Howard for the great photo, capturing one of them mid-flight. We got our classic dolphin images in the end.
Another happy day :-)
*** More info: ***
Fin whales - a few facts:
Please make sure you NEVER go to see dolphins in captivity as you will be supporting a very cruel industry and incentivising people to continue capturing them.
I did it once, many years ago in Cuba, before I realised how awful it is. I thought that because they were in a lagoon, which was a more natural setting, it was OK. But it's not. They should be out in the wild, swimming miles and miles every day. Captive dolphins are on anti-depressants and other medicines in an attempt to keep them healthy enough to perform. They look like they're smiling, but that's just wishful thinking on our part.
Also, make sure you see the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove", and look it up on Facebook and "like" the page - you will learn a lot from their posts. The film follows the TV actor from "Flipper the dolphin" many moons ago, who now feels personally responsible for having created the demand for captive dolphin shows.
Trailer for The Cove: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4KRD8e20fBo&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D4KRD8e20fBo
He, and a group of people, go to a specific cove in Japan where, every year in October/November, fishermen round up dolphins, select some for selling on to marine parks, and the rest are barbarically slaughtered and their poisonous, mercury-filled meat sold to be eaten by schoolchildren and other people who don't know any better.
Be warned - it's not the kind of film you want to take someone to see on a first date, and you might want to plan something fun to do the next day to cheer yourself up! But it is a gripping, must-watch film.
OK, soap box moment over! I hope some of you will look into it when you have a mo!
And, if you get the chance, go on a boat trip looking for dolphins and whales in the wild. It's the unpredictability which makes it way more exciting and rewarding than seeing them in a pool.