Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Whale Watching

Okinawa is made up of the main island of Okinawa-honto, where Naha is located, and many outer islands.

Map of Okinawa Prefecture

This trip we spent part of our time in Naha and part of our time on Aka Island in the Kerama Island group.

While staying on Aka, we took a ferry to Zamami Island, where the whale watching association is located and went on an afternoon whale watching trip. The whales are in this area from late December to early April.  As with many things in Japan, we didn’t know what was going on until it happened.  The trip was scheduled to go out at one o’clock, so we took the 11:45 am ferry from Aka, arriving at the Zamami port a little after 12 noon.  It was windy, so the whale watching desk person said a decision would be made at 12:45 pm about whether the afternoon trip would go out.  We went out looking for a place to buy lunch and ended up buying something from a small store nearby.  We got back to the port and had to rush our lunch because at 12:45 pm the trip was ready to go out. There were eight “watchers” plus the captain and the guide on our boat.   We went out in the ocean at a fast speed, then slowed down to look for the whales.  It was very exciting to see these huge animals and I was surprised by how close we were to them. I could see the scars on their skin, we were so close!  There were a couple of other boats like ours in the same area.  Ted went up to the top of the boat to take pictures, while I stayed in the front lower area. The guide told us that the baby whales stay with the mothers for almost a year.

This was an interesting experience!

This was another boat, but ours was like it.


Here is some information from the whale watching brochure:

Humpback whales circle the northern hemisphere and come back to Zamami in winter to breed in the warm waters here.  Their breeding activity brings fierce fights among the males trying to get newborn calves around Zamami or seek mating with female whales.

Humpback whales typically grow to between 13 and 15 meters long and weigh from 25 to 30 tons.  Their bodies feature the long fins measuring one third of their body length – the longest of all whale species, and a lump on the head.  They can be individually identified by the markings on the back of their tails. This is how we are able to confirm that many of these whales return to Zamami each year.

Whale watching around Zamami first begins with the search for these humpback whales from the island’s observatories by our staff, who contact the cruise captain upon confirmation of whales.  Once the boat departs, the crew will be guided to the location where the whales are spotted through radio or other devices.  In order to ensure that you can get to meet the whales, any burdens on the whales are being reduced, such as making sure not too many boats gather in the same area or get too close to the whales.  You will be able to enjoy a whale watching experience that is both humane and whale friendly.

1 comment:

  1. Oh what a fantastic time, I'm so jealous of this! I feel like I missed a lot of things in Okinawa. I shall live vicariously through you~ :D