Last year I attempted to see whales on a whale watching trip out of Virginia Beach. While we were successful in seeing lots of dolphins, there were zero whale sightings. Not to be deterred, my friend Amy and I decided to give it another go this year.
Last year’s boat was completely full but this year’s boat was rather empty and Amy and I took up residence on the top deck, allowing us 360 degree views of the water. We were better prepared this year also, bringing along blankets to huddle up under. I’m always surprised when people don’t prepare at all for the weather. I saw a number of people get on without proper coats, scarves, and gloves, and then they were just forced to stay inside the entire time. What’s the point?
We were on the noon boat and were disappointed to hear that the morning boat had not been successful. I was really worried we’d have another year of no shows. While Amy and I tried to put on a good face after last year’s trip, I think we had both been really disappointed and let down.
We departed the inlet and began working our way down the shoreline. This continued for about 10 minutes until we abruptly made an 90 degree turn to the right, heading straight out to open water. Our guide came over the speaker announcing that whales had been spotted by some fishermen and we were headed their way.
I remember thinking that we needed to go faster or we would miss them! They would be gone by the time we got there and we would have missed our chance! It turned out that I didn’t need to worry about that at all.
When we were about 200 yards from the fishing boats we began spotting the whales surfacing. There were 3 humpbacks and they all continued to come up to breathe, shooting water spray into the air. Over the next 30 minutes we were visited by a fin whale and a minke whale, as well as additional humpbacks. For the most part, all we ever saw was just a brief surfacing, a spray of water, and then a graceful glide back into the ocean. One whale came near the boat and actually stuck his head out of the water as if he was looking at us. But that was enough for me. Actually, it was beyond enough. Being able to see these huge creatures up close was fulfilling a childhood dream back when whales were my favorite animals. Going whale watching was even something that was on my original list from high school so I was especially glad to have checked it off.
The entire trip was meant to last for 2 hours and I knew it was about time to head in. I had begun looking through my photos and videos to see what I had managed to capture when I heard everyone on the boat give up a loud “AHHHHH!” I looked up just in time to see the splash. Presumably the whale that had just surfaced to look us had decided to put on a show. He had breached once (that I missed) but as I continued to look he breached again, this time with an even bigger splash. Then he breached a third time, this time twisting in the air and diving back into the ocean back first.
Up until this point I don’t think it truly registered what I was seeing. I had seen this plenty of times on TV but to see this in real life was a little difficult to comprehend. I finally came out of my daze and realized I needed to try to take some video and managed to get him breaching once more. (He breached a total of 6 times).
It was amazing to think that an animal so large could get up into the air so high.
But he wasn’t done. After he had finished jumping through the air, he decided he would playfully wave at us, slapping the water with his fin:
After 10 minutes of this, it was definitely time to head in so we had to leave this playful humpback in peace. Amy and I were over the moon about our good fortune. I had never dreamed ever of seeing a whale breach and be so active; all I wanted was just one little sighting. This obviously more than made up for the no shows last year. And now I’m even glad of the no shows last year. If we had just seen a few surfacing last year, we wouldn’t have tried again and would have missed this.
So, 2014 was off to a great start and even more exciting things are on the horizon. Such as….a visit to an ice hotel! I’ll be talking about that awesome adventure in my next post!