Whale Hunting

Puerto Vallarta and Bucerias are on the coast of Banderas Bay. Second in size only to Hudson's Bay, Banderas Bay is the winter home for many Humpback Whales. Friday, Compa, Darryl and I spent a total of 600 pesos ($67.57 U.S. Dollars, that day) to rent a 20 foot skiff out of Punta Mita on the North Point of Banderas Bay to "see what we could see".

About 30 minutes out, we run across a school of Dolphins. Statistically, 70% of the time a school of Dolphins is encountered in these waters at this time of the year, they are accompanying a Humpback Whale pod.

 

Lots of Dolphins here, but no whales so we press on.

 

Another 20 minutes of scanning the waters (and a little help from our Mexican captain, monitoring the marine channels from other hunting boats) we spot a baby Hump Back, jumping out of the water.

 

We approach closer, and spot the "hump" of an accompanying adult breaking the water while "baby" starts another leap.

 

Closer still, the baby breaks the water again, and fall towards the skiff.

 

Closer still. This time baby is jumping normal to our direction.

 

Another jump, closer still, and then

*

*

*

*

Your's truly runs out of film! (Aaaaaggggghhhh).

I'm sorry I have nothing but my memory to share about the next two hours. For over an hour, "baby" continued to jump "straight up" out of the water, about once every two minutes. Sometimes falling to the side. Most times, falling on his (or hers) back. Each jump was followed, about a minute later, by a rise to the surface - just enough to exhale and inhale again. About every 4th or 5th jump, "baby's" Inhale rise was accompanied by an inhale/exhale rise by one, sometimes two accompanying adults. Our Captain did his best to keep us about 20 yards from "the next break". He wasn't a mid-reader (at least of whales) so baby made one "inhale/exhale" rise less than 10 yards away and upwind from our skiff. I can't speak for Compa or Darryl, but since I was on the bow, I felt the mist from "baby's" blow and smelt "baby's breath". A most unique smell. Not unpleasant, but not like anything I can describe.

I think this "close encounter" disturbed the pod, somewhat. "Baby" discontinued his (her?) jumps, and began what I describe as "Dolphin Leaps" (like rising for air, but much higher, as opposed to his or her previous "straight-up" jumps). As "baby" descended from these "leaps", he/she would "slap" his/her tail against the surface of the water, two to five times. Still being playful, but the two adults seemed to stay closer to "baby" after this. We continued to stay about 20 yards from the pod, and enjoy these brief sightings for over another hour.

I hope I live long enough and get the opportunity to return, sometime, better prepared to capture a similar interlude with more film, a better camera and perhaps on video. These are magnificent animals. "Baby" was almost twice the length of our skiff, or any of the other three boats that joined the pursuit, and could have overturned any of us at any time. The adults must have been two to three times the size of "baby" and seemed interested only in protecting "baby".

At no time during this encounter did we feel challenged by "baby" or his/her adult companions. More than any other species I have encountered, I believe the Humpback Whales deserve the description, "Gentile Giants".

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