This little story is about ‘tail-gating’ of a different kind.
A wet and oversized sort.
Catching a decent, or any fish, whilst paddling on the open ocean on my yellow inflatable kayak is most definitely a bonus and largely the aim of my venture. But there is so much more to it, it’s a getaway to life. My life.
When currents and wind are minimal, there is always time for a snooze to the sound of silence. One could hear a needle drop!
Or a spout in the distance! It is on those days, that I can hear the underwater whale song within the group. It is a goosebump kinda moment.
This is when my alarm goes off and a scan over the horizon begins. There are fascinating animals in and above the sea, which appear on regular basis.
Turtles use the warm currents to go with the flow and picnic along the way Australia’s productive reefs. It does take a bit of practice to spot these ballon heads popping out of the water. Some need a rest and surface not far from my kayak. The size of some of these creatures is immense.
But more often, the flippers flap through the air whilst preparing to dive with one last breath. And sunmerge like aquatic U.F.O.’s in crystal clear waters.
Dolphins are mostly seen in smaller pods, skimming through the surface. Sometimes, they do come towards me and give me a wink. I have no chance off getting a clear photo-shoot on these intricate marine mammals. Unless I am lucky and they are in playful mode.
But it’s the giants of the ocean that snatch any show I sea so far.
Humpback whales navigate ocean currents as experienced sea fairer to either find a mate or to indulge on smaller crustaceans.
Once a whale spout is detected, distance and direction are quickly calculated, before all paddles break loose on my rubber duck.
Estimated speed of the whales is measured with direction, they should emerge somewhere close-by. But then, there is nothing. These whales haven’t surfaced for quite some time! Where could they be?
Holy guacamole, there they are.
Not far from my kayak at all. And wow.
Look at that gentle giant cruising beside you. Sometimes I have clear eye contact for a brief moment.
More goosebumps! But that’s not all.
Now and then, one or more whales decide to have a closer look and glide underneath my kayak. Now that is an indescribable feeling.
Young ones are particularly curious. They need to find out what else is meeting them on their long pilgrimages.
So big and so cute. Unbelievable!
This strategy normally triggers some playfulness within the youngster.
Swimming upside down and showing off a bleach-white belly is generally the start of some antics to come.
A flipper slap is normally followed, which captures my undecided attention.
G’day mate! Just another day in paradise. It sure is.
Mom is always encouraged to join in but may be concentrating on a school of baitfish below. A take-away snack is always welcome for the long trek ahead.
Willy then shakes his tail meters high out of the water, lying vertically beneath the surface.
The body position varies from time to time, which has a different splash impact.
It is a photogenic spectacular. Yeah right, I am no marine biologist.
But the sequences are often identical within various groups.
Marine experts can read the tail of each humpback whale like a fingerprint.
They don’t change over the years, just add an impressive barnacle collection.
Each whale has it’s own defining markings in various sizes and shapes.
The tails are hard to miss.
Whale mothers often guide their young offspring surprisingly close to the shoreline.
These shallower waters are safer than open ocean flows. But it’s a slower route too. Safety first.
It is quite remarkable how these oceanic giants glide effortlessly and gracefully along the surface.
The huge tail emerges almost silently in calm waters. The tailgate is on. If there wasn’t that unmissable sound of breathing out.
Combined with surface waters, spouts are the easiest way to detect whales from afar. A growling sound is frequently heard as they expel air through their blowhole.
It sounds surprisingly similar to the noise elephants make as they pass you by. I observed many similarities between the giants of the sea and terrestrial colossi. I feel at ease with their gentle presence.
But it is their acrobatics that impresses anyone, these are real ’jumpback’ whales.
This action is commonly known as breaching, reaching to the sky.
Often enough, the whole body erupts over still waters, all 20 tonnes. What a sight.
Water cascades in all directions from the immense body while the jump-back still gains height.
Before crashing down on his back with an almighty blasting sound. The whale watch crew on the horizon missed this show.
This can be heard for miles on calm days.
It seems more often to be the playful offspring, that jumps for joy. I would if I could.
Mature male humpback whales jump to impress and intimidate other males. If that doesn’t work, some flipper slapping will continue.
These barnacle infested flippers are enormous. Eventually, it is time to move on.
Mom shows the direction to follow, we’re behind schedule.
I can’t wait for the humpback whales to return for another glorious performance around my kayak.