To kick off my second blog post, I have a question for you: Have you been watching Blue Planet II? If you’re located overseas, it’s a British nature documentary shown in the UK on Sunday nights – and it has had me hooked. Even if you’re not a fan of oceans (which can’t be too many people), the incredible photography and revelations about what lies beneath these vast expanses of water would surely captivate and stir up emotions within even the hardiest of human souls.
Over the past 30 years I’ve been extremely lucky to experience, first-hand, some of the seven wonders of the ocean world. And it makes me nauseous to think that the way we are living our lives today is gradually destroying, not just the coral reefs, but also some of the most intelligent and resourceful marine life that grace our oceans. We’re poisoning the waters these sublime creatures call home, and for what? For our own selfish needs—that’s what.
My first wonderful ocean experience was watching the orcas (killer whales) pass by Telegraph Cove in Vancouver, Canada. We were on a small tourist boat – so were able to share what was a truly amazing experience with everyone on board. To see men and women alike reduced to tears by these magnificent specimens was humbling, to say the least. As well as being beautiful and extremely clever, these creatures also really care about each other. Us humans could certainly learn a thing or two from them!
The second sample of nature at its finest I enjoyed was also in Canada – during a boat trip from the town of Tofino, on Vancouver Island. This time the vessel we boarded was a RIB (a rigid inflatable boat) – and that’s all there was between us and the Pacific Ocean! I’m not a great swimmer and panic if I can’t touch the bottom of a pool or the seabed. However, when treated to an hour of humpback whales playing close by you, that vulnerable feeling simply washes away. Enriching the experience were the things we learned – such as whales engaging in tail-smacking to either clean themselves or be playful. And when their tail is in a diagonal position, the message is you’re getting too close and invading their space. It’s all such an adrenalin rush – and difficult to put into words exactly how it makes you feel.
My third and most memorable experience out on the ocean ‘road’ was during a three-week holiday on our friends’ sailing boat in La Paz, Mexico. We had no idea what to expect… which made it all the more exciting! On our first big trip out into the Sea of Cortez – off the Baja Coast – we travelled to the island of Los Islotes—where sea lions famously go to breed. As we approached the rocks ready to drop anchor we were greeted by a group of playful pups (infant sea lions), who came right up the side of the boat before leaping out of the water towards us. Our friends, who are extremely competent swimmers and divers, plunged into the water to swim with the sea lions. It was amazing how the pups interacted with them—and I was very tempted to jump in too! The near-perfect scene was given a sharp reality check as we noticed the bulls laying sedately on the rocks to keep a protective eye on their young. Our friends had forewarned us they can turn vicious in an instant if feeling threatened – so you always have to respect their private space.
On another trip we sailed to the Bay of La Paz, an area where whale sharks – the biggest fish in the ocean – make an annual visit. On organized excursions, people are allowed to swim behind them for a short period, getting quite up, close and personal. I feel that’s a step (or stroke) too far—but it is providing a source of employment to those running the tours, and there are strict rules and regulations in place to protect the whale sharks. These formidable fish are actually quite harmless and gently glide along just below the sea’s surface—making them easy to view. Upon our arrival, out of the blue, two humpback whales breached alongside the boat and said a warm hello. It was over so quickly… but what a treat! During that trip we saw some more breaching humpbacks, flying rays, and a personal favourite of mine—dolphins! What a joy. They came right up to the bow of either side of the boat and played in the wash. It was truly spectacular! I recently heard someone call into a radio show and make a comment about Blue Planet II – saying: “once you’ve seen one dolphin you’ve seen them all.” Believe me, that couldn’t be further from the truth—and was quite an arrogant, naïve remark.
Our final whale experience was arguably the most special of all; on a boat trip to see the gray whales in San Ignacious Lagoon. The female whales travel here every year to give birth to their calves – and the boatmen all know the whales by name. We were privileged to have a mother gray swim right up to the boat with her baby; even allowing us to stroke her head and taking great delight in spraying us with water through her blowhole. To be fair, it didn’t smell great! But the special connection we made with them over-powered everything. Incredibly, to top things off, her calf then appeared alongside her, rolled over and allowed us to tickle its tummy. These whales are enormous, and when they approach the boat it looks like a submarine heading right for you. However, as they reach the boat they dive down underneath it and appear almost magically on the other side. You don’t feel a thing. Simply incredible!
While the three weeks interacting with an array of wonderful sea-life will forever live in the memory, I also came home sporting the powerful realization that we, as humans, have an obligation to protect these beautiful oceans and the masses of majestic creatures and plants contained within them. They are such an important part of our planet – and if we don’t start to reverse the damage we are doing, future generations won’t get to enjoy similar life-changing experiences.
Every species that is lost through over-fishing, killing sharks for their fins and killing whales for cosmetic and other reasons, will ultimately destroy the food chain from which we all benefit. Let’s dump all the plastic that we don’t need – and if we have to use any, make sure it’s disposed of responsibly so it doesn’t end up in our oceans. We must stop the destruction! What kind of beings are we to ignore what is happening right before our eyes? These creatures have just as much right to be on this planet as we do. Oceans cover approximately 71% of our planet, and we have to wake up to what is happening before it’s too late. We have to individually and collectively take responsibility for all the damage that we, as a race, are inflicting on our marine life. Not least for the fact that our planet’s survival depends on it. It’s in our own hands – but the change needs to happen NOW. Not next week, next month or next year; right NOW! We can all make a difference—and we MUST!
Until next time,
Granny Flapjax X