In search of the boss

I could hear the sea as I came out of my campervan. It was early. I had booked a whalewatch for 7.15. Unfortunately I found out they let people check in until 7.45AM, so I could have slept in a bit. At least I got a good glimpse of the sunrise above the sea. When I heard the waves crashing I thought about the previous day. Would the waves be crazy big again? When I checked in they said indeed there could be some seasickness.

First we watched a little safety video and then got on the bus towards the docks. We had to go quite far to find the sperm whale, since they like to live in deep waters. Luckily Kaikoura is a special place, where the sea gets really deep, really close to the shore. Sperm whales dive over 1000 meters to get their food, mostly squid.

There was another boat in front of us that had already found a whale. We quickly made our way to their location. We pretty much just arrived as the whale was about to go under. I saw a fin disappearing into the ocean. We continued in search of some other whales. Unfortunately the whale we’d seen was the big boss and didn’t allow many other whales around him. The crew all knew him and his behaviour. As soon as this one gets into the area, the other whales disappear within two hours. They were nowhere to be found.

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Luckily sperm whales are somewhat predictable. The company I was with knew a lot about the animal and its behavior and they knew the boss was meant to come up again soon. We made our way back and not long after we saw some water spouting up in the distance. We waited to see if there was a second one, or if we’d just imagined that their was a whale. The second one came and the boat sped up to get closer.

There he was again. He didn’t care two boats were lying in the water around him. A sperm whale is as big as the boat anyway, between 15 and 20 meters, but weighs three times as much. When he surfaces, he’s only preparing to dive down again. When he was ready he disappeared as quickly as he came. I saw his back come up, a hump sticking out of the water. Then he showed off his tail. It was massive! And then he was gone, hunting for another piece of squid.

A whalewatch is an experience. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the animal, but the little time we had was very impressive. The hunt itself is as much part of the experience as finally seeing it. We also saw some more dusky dolphins. They said goodbye to us by swimming in the waves created by the boat. For a second I thought I’d get seasick again, but it never really happened.

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