When I talk to people on a whale watch, whatever country I am in as I have been lucky enough to work in a number (until Covid) one of the most frequent questions I am asked is if I have seen a Blue Whale. Of course the holy grail of many whale watchers. I have whale watched off every continent and so I have been lucky to see blue whales in three different oceans and many locations, but one really sticks in my mind.
I was not working but visiting the Azores Island off Portugal, however like all dedicated whale enthusiasts, I booked to go on every trip while I was there and not just one whale watch. The Azores is known for its Sperm Whales, one of the best places in the world to see them, but during late April and May the baleen whales are coming past and are regularly seen. Blue, fin and humpback whales are seen fairly regularly during this short period, and it appears the whales are more sociable at this time, as they are moving north from their breeding grounds to the northern feeding grounds.
Maybe still flushed with hormones the blues and fins to me, with limited experience of whale watching in this area, seemed far more sociable than other places I had seen them.
During my week there we one day saw ten fin whales together, an incredible sight. We also saw curious Fin Whales, circling our boat and three Blue Whales, also socializing, something I had never seen before after many hours of watching blues.
But my favourite day by far was the day we spent time with a huge blue whale that lifted its tail so high on each dive, it gave the most incredible photo opportunities. Most blue whales do not lift their tails when they dive so when you find one that does it is always very special. The tail of a blue whale is around 23 feet or 7m wide, similar to a small aircraft’s wings.
When you are in a small zodiac with the biggest animal on the planet lifting its huge tail higher than you head, it is a pretty memorable experience. Sometimes the whale twisted as it dived, giving us a look at the whole, massive fluke. It is impossible to do this sight to do this sight justice in either words or images, but it left me humbled and amazed that I had been in the presence of this beautiful, massive, endangered creature.