Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Monday, September 8, 2008

Humpback whales return in numbers

It must be fate after my final comments on the last blog... the humpback whales returned today and ironically it was the coastal forest research team and not the marine research boat that recorded them! I got a call at around 10am from our team in the forest who had trekked out to the very end of our transect 1, where the forest meets the ocean, to find 3 humpback whales entering the Wasini channel, just 500m from our base on the island. I jumped on board our small wooden dinghy, 'Squirrel', with our marine staff Sergi, Ines and Shafii, the necessary survey forms, and we headed out as fast as our 25hp would allow us. Sightings of a couple of blows on the horizon as the whales surfaced to breathe, and a splash as one of them breached, indicated that we were at least heading in the right direction although not necessarily catching them.
Beyond Nyuli reef and out to sea we stopped the engine and drifted, looking out for signs of these huge mammals, which become very difficult to locate in the open ocean. And then a couple more tell-tale blows on the horizon pointed us in the right direction. Unfortunately they were too far and moving to fast to get close to, but through binoculars I had a perfect view of four large tail flukes emerge from the water's surface and slip back down again in perfect synchrony. Another blow behind indicated that there were at least five animals in total.
The only time I'd seen humpback whales was about 8 years ago, between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, so it was fantastic to see them again, right on my doorstep... and another reminder of just how lucky I am to be involved in our project here in Kenya.

The photograph taken by Sally on the forest research team, shows the 'blow' of exhaled air as the whale surfaces, just a few hundred metres from Mkwiro

Taken on Thursday, this photograph shows a humpback whale closer up than we could get today