This year we were given every chance to observe Humpback Whales in the best possible conditions, we had to find a place where It was pretty certain to see the meadows and with few tourists.
It is in the Indian Ocean that our choice was finalized, right during the period of reproduction and mating. These animals migrate indeed cold Antarctic waters every winter, from June to October to join the north, warmer waters in order to give birth and mate. This phenomenon occurs simultaneously throughout the southern hemisphere, and it is possible to meet them in the warm clear waters, provided to be accompanied by specialists who know their behavior and who approach them with respect.
To do so, we chose three islands: Mauritius, Mayotte and Moheli.
Maurice, because, it is where Alex Roubaud is Living for a year, now. Then this beautiful island is more focused on luxury tourism, around the beaches and the big-fishing. Whale watching and diving activities there are very little developed.
The island of Mayotte has one of the largest lagoons in the world, in places with a double coral reef, one can observe up to 12 species of dolphins, and every year, the whales come to rest in its quiet waters .
And finally the island of Moheli, also located in the Comoros archipelago, probably one of the poorest countries in the world, but remained virgins islands, an almost tourist activity, a lodge that we are hosting ensures that all years, beginning of August, whales are visible a few hundred meters from the coast.
All these islands are less than 2 hours flight from each other, so that we should not waste too much time in transportation. We would have also wanted to go through Madagascar, but the time was not enough to visit such a place properly.
So we spent a month at sea, almost daily on boats to look for signs of the presence of humpback whales, and we have only one preview for the entire period, everywhere we go, it’s the same astonishment, whales are not there in August 2015 !!
What for ? Not yet arrived? Last year, they are distributed very late in the cold waters, does that explain the delay? This year is also particularly warm and the El Nino phenomenon could he affect the migration of these animals? Nobody knows much about it, and the wild world is like, the animals keep their mysteries, they are not objects to be bought or possess for his own satisfaction, and it is certainly much better as well!
We went in search of humpback whales, and the Indian Ocean offered us much more than we dared hope, we discovered the beautiful islands on land and under water!
So the portfolio of one month’s travel snorkeling in the waters still full of life, and the most amazing stories of this month of August 2015:
-Meet With an incredible group of aoubout 20 sperm whales, which left close for nearly two hours, a young came to play with us, too, these animals can be very stealthy, as very interactive, as we demonstrated this big baby who accompanied us on an freediving on 15 meters deep after an hour cavorting, so it seemed like us he was looking to catch our palms with incredible softness and delicacy, absolutely no sign of aggression or any sudden move of his own, but he became so sticky that we decided to leave the water before he wants to take us fishing with him 600 meters deeper …
-A Group of 20 pseudo orcas, so rare to encounter! We are at the water seeing two dark shadows and two large black fin pass under our boat, we immediately think of pilot whales (especially a fisherman told us that morning he saw a group eating a calf the day before), we spend 15 minutes in their company, a compact group remains remote but one or two individuals come scanning us very closely, we notice that we always have one or two oçf them in the back. Going up on the boat, we see immediately that this was not of Pilot Whales, their much elongated finest head, so we hesitate between péponocéphales and pseudo orcas, but on the pictures it seems longer be any doubt about the species with which we had to swim.
-The Green turtles are emblematic species of the island of Moheli and Mayotte, every night there would be a minimum 20 that would lay eggs on the beaches of Itsamia, now a marine reserve, we were able to attend these famous pundits, and even better in the birth of a baby!
Similarly in Mayotte, we stayed on a beach or come to feed between 50 and 70 turtles daily, we stayed three days to snorkel in 3m of water to observe the room, it’s amazing to watch the character if different from each!
-daily, Returning our “whale hunts” on the island of Moheli, we found a small bench manta rays that came to feed at high tide, right next to our lodge, nothing better to close a day at sea!
-In addition to these iconic species with which we spent a lot of time, we have also crossed paths with long-nose dolphins, we quickly realized during a snorkeling in open water striped Marlin who was walking leisurely on a 20aine meters of water, the hawksbill, very impressive surgeons benches, catfish, barracudas … but unfortunately not the shadow of a shark!
On land, two meetings were particularly marked us, Makis (small land mammals that live in trees, gifted to ask for bananas or the rest of your meal late in the day … but not monkeys ) and fruit bats, impressive bats that come out to an aerial ballet at dusk.
The Indian Ocean has spoiled us that much what we expected, its waters are always full of life, but many local fishermen tell us that their resources are diminishing rapidly. Some states seem to have sold licenses to foreign fishing vessels to come and serve in their waters in other countries poaching is rampant, we saw Asian boats come illegally fish in the waters of some islands and which would have a huge impact on this fragile ecosystem.
Hopefully the richness of the ocean top money that over-fishing, and that the activities of “whale-watching” and “swimming with dolphins” does not become a mass industry where respect for animals is more considered, as it is in many places.
During this trip, we had the chance to meet a couple who held for 8 years a diving school in Tonga Islands, they made us share their passion for the whales with great generosity, the economic model and the laws governing this activities in these islands seem to be today a model for many others.
I remain convinced that there is a rational way to go to meet the marine mammals, halfway between the absolute prohibition and anarchy related to unregulated and non operator training.
Text et photos: Alex Voyer