A little over a month later, we meet again

It’s been over a month since our first trip. Most of us met at the foundation at 6 a.m. in the morning. I have been told earlier that the remaining passengers will be meeting us at the pier. What was particularly exciting about the people who will be meeting us there is the fact that the groups consists of underwater diver enthusiasts.

We all met at the pier at around 8.50. By the time we departed Bangtaboon, it was 9.06 a.m. After warm welcomes from the staff, we explained our agenda, routes, and regulations.

Tour asked if anyone have Nikon cameras on board as he was offering Nikon lenses for anyone with these cameras for the day. There were two passengers on board this time using Nikon cameras. Khun Julee has a D40, and Khun Taewraew has a D3100.

Khun Julee was slightly reluctant because she is a beginner and that her Nikon is only an entry level camera. Tour then reassured her and others on board that he will be teaching photography workshop to everyone who is interested.

Tour took out an 80-400 f.4.5-5.6 VR for Khun Julee, and 702-200 F2.8 VR lens for Khun Taewleaw to use. It was gigantic and it kind of reminds me of soldiers carrying huge bazookas. You can just tell that Julee, and Khun Taew was very happy taking pictures with these lenses for the rest of the day. As Tour was teaching how to take pictures, many of us were snapping pictures away with the rare birds flocking at the mussel farms.

Less than an hour later at 10.16 we spotted an Irrawaddy dolphin from a distance. It briefly appeared for us to see for about ten minutes. It seems like a déjàvu moment for me, as I remembered this scene from a while ago. My thoughts drifted for a few moments.

Then something amazing happened. The whale appeared in front of our vessel. I stared at the watch – It was only 10.28 a.m!

whale 1

I couldn’t believe what was happening as it’s only been an hour and we are already seeing a whale on our journey. Everyone gathered to see the whale, some of us taking out their DSLRs, compact cameras, and their iPhones.

And then I realized it all made some sense. The surroundings were great. The water was completely still, there were schools of anchovies to be seen, and we noticed lots of bridled terns and common terns around the area. These are usually good indicators that whales will appear.

We were able to identify the whale as Jao Petch. At one point it came so near our vessel that we were only three meters away from the majestic creature!

While this was happening we encountered another vessel also coming to see whales. It was Khun Jumroon’s vessel along with a few of his passengers. We were all waving at each other and we all exchanged smiles from a distance.

Jao Petch kept its lunge feeding consistent and it stayed fairly close with us until around 11 a.m. I guess it made us hungry too from all that lunge feeding. We ate lunch at noon at 11.30 a.m.

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About almost an hour later, our captain spotted a whale again. We got up on our feet once again to check. It was still quite far for us to see anything.  I wasn’t able to recognize what whale it is that we spotted just yet from a distance.

But after a while, Tour and the captain were firm though that it was still the same whale that we saw in the morning.

In this case, we were able to tell which whales it is because we kept quite an extensive profile of each whale we encounter in gulf of Thailand.

We were able to tell that it is Jao Petch because it has a distinctive behavior – when it does it daily lunge-feeding, it comes up slowly and open its mouth only slightly. It has a marking inside its mouth in two places; one circular mole on the top left and the other one on the bottom right of its palate.

whale 2

I guess Petch really misses us a lot after not seeing us for over a month.  He stayed with us until 1.32 p.m.

We headed back at 3.45 p.m. and ended our trip by visiting another boat, a restaurant on a makeshift boat parked on land for a very delicious seafood meal. It sure is a great way to end a trip with style.

About the author

Pairat Temphairojana (Pai) is working as a journalist in Thailand. It was in 2009 when he first saw blue whales in a whale-watching tour in Alaska – and upon hearing that such majestic creatures like the Bryde’s whales is populating in the gulf of Thailand, he did not hesitate to join as a whale-watching guide in Thailand. He believes that having proper standards and regulations for a safer whale watching activities in the gulf of Thailand is necessary and can lead to a more sustainable tourism for the locals living in the region. Pai will be regularly joining us on board as a field observer and a reporter on our frequent visits to the Gulf of Thailand.

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