Baja California, Mexico – The Kiss of The Devilfish
Sing for the cetaceans
After a few days we began to recognise some of the whales. The whale that we had our first close encounter with had been named Julia by the team at the lodge. Her baby, Dora, was born a month before our visit, and Julia was originally super-protective. But for the past week she had been relaxed and let Dora play with the boats. We met them on several of our trips, and they would always approach us, playfully nudging the boat with the lightest of touches.
The babies are around 3.5m long when they are born, and Dora was already at least 4.5m. It is hard to tell the males and females apart; you need to see them rolled over on their backs, and look for the distance between their genital slit and their anus. Fortunately for researchers and guides, they roll on their backs a lot, seemingly craving contact. The babies are born dark in colour but gradually lighten. They are weaned at seven months and stay with their mother for another month or two.
The whales seem to have a sense of humour too. One afternoon when we headed out, a strong cold wind had picked up and the sea was choppy. We bounced through the waves and, although we caught some glimpses of spouts here and there, we began to doubt we’d have any encounters.
Then a mother and calf came relatively close. We tried splashing but there was little point as we were competing with the waves themselves. And so we tried getting noisy, calling and singing.
“Here whaley-whaley!” we shouted, all stiff upper lips and inhibitions gone. Songs were then adapted to introduce the ‘w’ word. ‘Whale Meet Again’ was an obvious choice; the one we finally struck gold with, though, was ‘Whales Just Want To Have Fun’, an adaptation of Cyndi Lauper’s 80s hit. The mother whale responded playfully to our out-of-tune croonings. She kept coming up alongside the boat; every now and then she would spray us with her spout. It got to the stage that we could predict it – we would see her taking deep breaths before she made a huge exhalation and completely soaked us. The more we laughed and sang the more she seemed to enjoy it. She spyhopped several times, as if to get a good look at these strange, giggling creatures .