Friday, September 20, 2019

Let’s do some whale watching this summer!

Kochi Prefecture CIR Valerie Teo

   It’s summer.

   When we talk about summer, the sea comes to mind.

   For those who cannot get enough of the sea and would like to try some unusual fun activities, why not try whale watching on the open sea?

   The whale watching season arrives with the end of the rainy season! There are five whale watching tour operators in Kochi, with their snazzy, multilingual website, so we decided to head there.

   On normal weekdays, there is only one whale watching tour a day. However, during the summer holidays, participants can choose from one of three tour times each day, not only on weekends but on weekdays as well. For this report, a KIA staff member and I participated in a tour with six other people, including a group from Hong Kong.
Listening to the staff explaining points to note

   We left Kochi City at 5:30 and reached the whale watching center a couple of minutes before 7:30. Soon after, we listened to the staff explain the important information regarding the tour, and proceeded to get our Ryoma Passports(※) stamped. The briefing was done in Japanese, but they provided us with paper copies of the briefing translated into English and Chinese. Besides advising us on safety procedures, the staff also shared with us lots of interesting and useful information, such as what to look out for when trying to find the whales, and the size of dolphins.
   (※) The Ryoma Passport is an item that gets you special perks simply by showing it at various tourist facilities, hot springs, road stations, and restaurants serving local dishes.
Getting our Ryoma Passport stamped

   It’s 08:00. Time to board the boat!
Time to board the fishing boat and head out!

   The fisherman’s boat that we boarded could seat approximately 10 passengers. I assumed that the front of the boat would get shaky, so I settled in the middle. After we got our life jackets on, it was time to depart! Our whale watching tour was a four hours course. During the hour-and-a-half boat ride out to the open sea we enjoyed the sea spray on our face, and caught sightings of flying fish above the sparkly sea surface. At exactly 10:45, we saw something that looked like the blow of a whale! But, according to the boat captain, it was just a school of tuna. Aah, what a pity.
   Three hours into the tour, and we still had not spotted any whales. The staff member must have felt that this would not do, as she asked, “If everyone is okay with their time, would you all like to stay a little longer to search for the whales?”. Okay, let us all hang in there a little longer!
Searching for whales on the great ocean
   At about 11:40, just as we were beginning to get tired, we spotted a whale’s blow in the distance! Its dorsal fin also peeked up from the sea surface to say hi! With hopeful hearts, we tried to find the actual position of the whale, but to no avail. Then, suddenly, a dolphin leaped up into the air. It was fast! That moment was so quick that there was no time for blinking! Although I wish we could have seen them up close, it was better than not spotting them at all. There was not even time to snap photos before the shy sea animals swam away to wherever the water takes them.

   Exhausted after being at sea for four hours, we decided to head back to shore. Well, I guess that’s that.
The whales here are about this big

   Fun time spent searching for whales with the other passengers on board? Check. It is time to look for my next summer adventure! ♡

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