Talking about animal encounters
Thursday was our whale day. Shortly after 8 am we left the bay of Point-a-Pitre for the 4 hour sail to Les Saintes. One of our favourite places in Guadeloupe and, as I learned, voted one of the top 10 most beautiful bays in the world. On top of that, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I digress.
Shortly before the southern end of Basse-Terre, we saw the first fountain of spray. And again a few whales blowing. They shimmered bright blue through the water, not 500 m away from us. The sight is first moving and then disturbing. The guys were swimming towards us at a 90 degree angle, exactly on a collision course. That makes you quite nervous.
Even with a 15-ton vessel, you’re not a real obstacle to a whale gang. Should we start the engine so they can hear us? Or just hold course? Then we saw the fins rise into the air, which is usually followed by a deep dive. All went well. It was a great experience. It all happened so fast that we couldn’t take any photos.
We continued sailing in the channel between Guadeloupe and Les Saintes. Then we saw them jumping: Humpback whales. Huge humpback whales. Praise be, a few hundred metres away, on a parallel course. What a sight. Like in spectacular nature documentaries, the huge bodies jumped almost completely out of the water. Four or five times we saw them rise out of the water in all their glory and dive back in with an impressive splash. How moving it was. After five minutes they disappeared again and our pulse returned to normal. And we proved to be pathetic documentary filmmakers, because once again we had neither photographed nor filmed. We just enjoyed the moment. That’s why I’m stealing a picture that looked just like this, so you’ll have an idea.
Good interaction with whales
Embarrassed by our lack of knowledge, we immediately asked whale experts how we should best behave. Start the engine to draw attention to us or stay the course under sail? The recommendation was not to start an engine and just keep sailing on course, not over 7 knots of speed. The nice lady said nothing about shove prayers, but they are certainly never harmful.
The effect of whales is impressive, it really gets under your skin. Especially when you meet on the open sea.
Ka and H`s little animal world
We have quite a lot of animal contact on our journey. And then I can also answer a question right away: namely, about the animals we encounter.
Most often we see dolphins. No matter how often they visit us, we are always amazed. When we meet them at sea, they play with the boat. They dive and jump with a precision that is impressive. Sometimes for minutes, sometimes for a long stretch, as they like. Yet everything looks playful. But we have also had dolphin visits at anchor and we had the impression that they were relaxing and sunbathing. We also see and follow sea turtles very often, at a respectful distance of course. Very friendly animals.
While diving and snorkelling, of course, we see an enormous variety of fish. Nature must have quite a humorous fish designer. Shapes and colours are imaginative and one or two times we had to laugh under water.
Naturally, we see a lot of reef fish. I give the fish names, like Lakers fish because it has the colors of the LA Lakers basketball team. Or a Knicks fish, which has the orange and blue of my favorite basketball team, the New York Knicks. Barracudas are quite common. Fortunately, we have rarely seen the invasive Lionfish, who kills other fish populations.
We don’t go hunting for fish or lobsters here. The danger of catching a ciguatera poisoned fish is too big near the reef. So we only catch fish when we are really offshore. And the lobsters are in the closed season.
The longer you spend underwater, the better you spot the camouflage artists. Our favourites are squids. These are 3-15 cm cephalopods. They always swim together in groups. We suspect in families, because they have all sizes in the group. These guys are not only colourful and can change colour in a flash. They are also particularly curious. This weekend we met a school of 16-18 squids. We lay side by side in the water for minutes, watching each other. The calmer you swim and the more unagitated you breathe, the more aquatic animals you see.
On land, it is mainly pelicans and frigate birds that entertain us. We see tons of birds like parrots and hummingbirds. The birdlife is so colourful in the Caribbean. Iguanas also hang around from time to time. These are big lizards that look like small varans. We also had a gecko on board. I don’t know where it came from. But the fly-eater is a welcome guest. However, we haven’t seen Harry for a few days. Too bad, he was a nice guy. /Holger Binz