My Life In Vallarta / Dancing with Whales

I don’t know about you, but we often find ourselves postponing going places or doing things that are close to home. We know they will always be there and somehow time passes and we keep procrastinating. Nothing breaks that cycle quite like having guests arrive from out of town.
Some close friends of ours just visited. Although they’d been here several times in the past, ten years had gone by since their last visit, and my how things have changed. They were interested in seeing some of the surrounding countryside so we rented a car and spent a few days going places they’d never been. An overnighter to San Sebastian and Mascota, and then a day trip to San Pancho.
While we rested up, (who but visitors can keep up such a pace), they explored on their own, and then with only one full day left, we all went whale watching. Now if this is something you’ve never tried, believe me it is a fantastic experience and one you won’t soon forget.
We arrive promptly at Pier Los Peines where we join eight other adventurers and watch the colorful iguanas sun themselves while we wait for our guide. She arrives and gives us an enthusiastic and informative overview of whale behavior. You never know from day to day what you will see but she tells us that if we are lucky, we may see a mother and baby pair, a female being courted by two males and/or a mother baby pair with an escort. The whales may show us their flukes (did you know these are like fingerprints: no two are alike?) or wave with their flippers. We could even hit the jackpot and see a breach. Chattering excitedly, we board the boat and don our lifejackets, described by the guide as “airplane style”. Now begins the leisurely motoring out of the channel into the main waters of the bay. As our Captain accelerates, the boat suddenly begins rising and falling in the extremely choppy waters. This is January, when waves are high, even in the normally tranquil bay. The waves slap against the hull tossing our tiny vessel, the wind rushes by and I’m thinking, “Wow, she forgot to tell us how to inflate these vests”.
Less than 20 minutes out, someone shouts “Whale on the right!” Sure enough, there’s a tiny fin and a small arching back breaking the water. A baby! Almost immediately, the mother surfaces, placing herself between the boat and her baby for protection. I’ve already forgotten about the waves and the life vest. Mother and baby submerge and reappear about three minutes later. We follow along for several sightings.
Our Captain spots several “blows” some distance away. He speeds up until we reach what turns out to be a group of three: a female and two males. Text book! Time seems suspended as they submerge for several minutes and then reappear. The pattern repeats and they remain always in graceful motion, arching their backs and flaunting their amazing flukes. With an uncanny sixth sense our captain anticipates their every move and locks into a dance with these marvelous mammals. The males’ antics reach a feverish pace and just before we move on to new territory, they treat us to some flipper slaps and a partial breach.
Our final encounter is with a mother, baby and male escort. Once again we follow along, almost as if we are part of their group. They submerge and seem to disappear then suddenly, there they are; mother and baby on the left of the bow and the escort on the right, so close you can see his scars from battles of previous years. A collective “wow” escapes all of us and we marvel at the timelessness of these rituals.
Just before we wave goodbye to these noble creatures the male emits one final blow and the sun’s late afternoon rays produce a rainbow just above his back. My clothes are wet, my glasses coated with salt, but my spirit soars as the dance ends and we head back to the dock. Soon these mighty creatures will begin their long trek north to feed over the summer months. When they return next year, I’ll be watching for them. Will you?