Well, well, well. Gosh and wow. Oh my stars! Holy mackerel! I'm EXCITED people! "Why", I hear you ask? Because I just had the most extraordinary experience with a beautiful Southern Right whale! I mean, it was truly something amazing and the sheer awesomeness and thrill of it is still coursing through my bones. Oh oh oh, it was up there as one of the most magical moments of my life - like running into a grizzly in Yellowstone, or lying under Wave Rock on a clear night looking up at the Milky Way, or climbing a volcano, or snorkelling with a huge old sea turtle in Sri Lanka, or watching waterfalls stream down Uluru! Yeah, it was one of 'those' moments where the sheer majesty and amazingness of life hits you in the heart and you take it all in with exclamations of wonder and absolute joy, because you are alive and fortunate and grateful.
Haha, so you probably understand now how I felt about the whole experience! Thrilled is a pretty good summation!
So, to give you some context we headed down to Augusta this weekend to try and catch sight of some Southern Right whales. I have never seen these whales before and I really wanted to be able to experience viewing them here in Western Australia this season before I head back to Queensland at the end of the year. We are going to the Kimberley for a month next week so this weekend just gone was my last chance to see the Southern Rights this season and we made a last minute decision to head south to Augusta and try and catch them. The weather has been woeful lately and we booked our Sunday excursion hoping that it would be the 'inbetween bad spells' day that the weather bureau predicted. And....it was! Sunday morning, though a little overcast, was pretty damn perfect for a winter's day on the south-western-most point of Australia! I mean, we couldn't have asked for better conditions. The sea was calm, the sun came out in bursts and there was no chill. Yay!
Flinder's Bay is a big, sweeping bay right on the south western tip of Western Australia and between May and October every year it becomes a hot spot for whale activity. Both Humpbacks and Southern Right whales are regular visitors to this area and as we made our way out onto the bay with the fine folk at Whale Watch Western Australia we were quickly stopped by a little humpback juvenile who looked to be having a quiet nap. Awwww. We must have woke him up though because soon enough he was heading towards the boat and taking a little peek at us! He came right in close to the bow and swam past a number of times as we waved and oohed and aaahed at the sweet little guy.
He led us towards a pod of dolphins and then scooted off to do his own thing, and we kept on towards the coastline where the Southern Right whale mummas hang out with their little one ton babies! We saw a number of mothers and calves in the distance, lolling close to the shore where they were safe from predators. It was so lovely to see the mothers protecting their offspring by keeping them close and out of harms way. But we were in for a real treat as a rotund, pregnant female made her way towards the boat! This was what I was hoping for in my heart of hearts, an up close experience with a friendly Southern Right whale. Yes! It was like this beautiful, spirited whale was super keen to say 'hello' and interact with the audience she had on the boat. She wasn't one bit afraid and came right up to the boat for a closer look at us humans, and then she went right under the bow and popped up minutes later on the other side of the boat. She swam right around us, taking in the vessel and the bodies on board and it was the most amazing thing to see this big, huge animal behave with such curiosity and gentleness. I felt lit up by the wonder of it all!
The wonderful folk at Whale Watch Western Australia were as informative as ever, filling my head with much information about these remarkable creatures. And I was thrilled that they gave this whale the human name 'Michelle'! I love the thought of this big beauty resting in the safety of Flinder's Bay, birthing and nursing her bubba whale, and then heading back down to Antarctica a little later in the year. I'll be thinking of her journey and wondering how she's getting on.
If you ever get the chance to see these cetaceans (or any others!), don't hesitate for a second! Be sure to reflect upon how truly amazing life on this planet can be and soak in the marvel of it - nothing will heal a dour soul faster.