We left Monterey harbour with a blue sky, a hot sun, and we were quite happy to meet a little bit of wind to take a bit of edge off the heat. Passing the harbour breakwater covered in California Sea Lions, Captain John picked up speed and carried us out west on the Pacifica, as Reed and myself hung around the back talking to passengers from all over the world.
Before long we came up to our first sighting of the day – an enormous pod of Risso’s Dolphins! Captain John spotted individuals launching themselves out of the water as we approached, and before long we found ourselves surrounded. No need to position everybody on one side of the boat because dolphins were everywhere we looked! Some would approach on the right, swim under us and then pop up on the left. Some would swim up behind us as if they were checking us out. Out ahead of us, we saw them jumping clear out of the water, some just slapping their head on the surface, or “headbanging”. One even swam right up to us, and did a full breach about 6 feet from the stern! Not a bad look at all.
We got ourselves some good looks at this giant pod before we decided to keep pushing out west in search of the bigger cetaceans. Before long we saw a blow off in the distance and caught up to our first whale of the day. One Humpback whale was chilling out in the water, looking nice and relaxed as we positioned parallel to it. It would stay up for a few minutes, before lazily diving down for another few minutes, slowly moving south. After a few more surfacings, we all got awesome looks at our first humpback whale of the trip and continued pushing offshore after a nice big tail fluke.
We crossed over the slope of the canyon, pushing into deeper water when Captain Danny on our other boat (New Horizon) called in his sighting – Pacific White-Sided Dolphins! We couldn’t really turn down the chance to check out another cetacean species, so we went to see if we could find some of these smaller, faster dolphins. As soon as we entered the area, a group of twenty or so individuals raced over to us and gave us awesome views as they passed close by, again seemingly checking out the boat.
I was super happy to geta chance to snap some shots of this species – my first time seeing them in good photography lighting for quite a while! For some reason, they always seem to show up on my day off. While we enjoyed these dolphins racing around, we had another single humpback whale hanging out in the area too. Again, we got ourselves some nice looks at these individuals before pushing off in search of another group of whales, this time heading to the north-east.
Moving with the swell and the wind, the ride was near flat calm and warming up again. We enjoyed the comfort for a while and slowly approached a set of two blows that we spotted, eventually positioning nearby a pair of humpback whales. These ones showed really well, moving quite slowly and predictably. We enjoyed some relaxing views in the presence of these amazing creatures, and just before we pushed on towards home they surprised us by surfacing right next to the boats! A super safe interaction as the Pacifica was not moving and Captain John understands and respects these creatures, we sat still and allowed them to pass on their way. They showed us their tail flukes, dived down, and it was time for us to push back in towards Monterey.
A few us caught a quick glimpse of a Dall’s Porpoise on the way back in, and then we tied the boat up and unloaded back in Monterey harbour. Good looks at three cetacean species, and a brief look at a fourth. Not a bad day out on the water!
Naturalist Pete Naik