Where there’s a will there’s a whale!

“Dolphin!” One of my guests shouted.

Phew. I was relieved. We’d been out on the water for 2 hours already and hadn’t seen a thing. It happens of course, wildlife is wild, but as the on board “wildlife guide” there is obviously an expectancy that I find things…and despite my best eagle, otter and porpoise-spotting efforts we hadn’t seen anything.

It’s almost worse when a guest spots something before I do. I was supposed to be the professional! This wasn’t going well at all.

We all kept our eyes fixed on the spot where the guest was pointing…and it surfaced again – that was no dolphin!

“That’s a whale!” I yelled, and losing all decorum I did a little victory dance on the deck. It was swimming towards us so we switched off the engines and waited for it to surface again. Minkes typically surface 4-5 times before doing a deep dive where they can be down for up to 20 minutes – during which time they can swim several kilometres away and be impossible to find again.

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One of the minkes which surfaced near the boat. Affectionately known as “Stinky Minkes” (you’ll find out why if you’re ever downwind of one when they blow!)

It resurfaced, closer to the boat, and then for a final time it did a deep dive (signalled by a pronounced arching of the back). But my luck wasn’t out yet. With our engines off we bobbed gently in the waves, an infectious excitement buzzing amongst the passengers. 10 minutes later the whale surfaced near us again, powerfully ploughing through the surface of the water as it took breaths in between feeding on shoals of herring and mackerel at the edges of the tide.

Shoals of fish swarming at the edges of the tide provide great food for minkes

Shoals of fish swarming at the edges of the tide provide great food for minkes

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As it submerged near our boat, it reappeared within 2 seconds 500 metres away…surely they can’t swim that quickly?! No – there were two whales!

And so it went on for 45 minutes. I’m not sure if they even knew we were there. If they did, they were far too interested in food to pay us any attention, and that’s just how I like it. Watching animals in the wild doesn’t get much better than this!

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Whale watching on open water with the Isle of Mull in the background. It’s not a bad office!

Until next week,

Sara

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