Speaking Whale in Mozambique
“Spyhopping, logging, lobtailing, tail-slapping, tail-sailing, pectoral slapping, peduncling.” Our guide Fernando Costa seems determined to name every whale surfacing behaviour on record. As the person in charge of marine activities and recreation at Anantara Bazaruto Island Resort he is well placed to do so. “But it’s the breach everyone is here for,” he continues, deftly pulling us back into group chatter with the mention of a crowd-pleaser.
That despite our best efforts to introduce variety into conversation it defaults to the giant cetaceans is hardly surprising. After all, we are on a whale-watching boat off the coast of Mozambique. And Fernando has a point. Everyone on board, us included, has their camera poised for breach action – a gravity-defying leap out of the water.
It looks effortless, even playful. And while it’s true that a single breach costs a whale only about 0.075% of its total daily energy intake, a long series of breaches may add up to a significant energy expenditure. Scientists are divided on why the gentle giants engage in this energetic activity, but as spectators we are mostly concerned with being on the right side of the boat when the telltale plumes of spray that shoot from a whale’s blowhole are spotted.
July brings the start of whale season to Mozambique. The southern right and humpback whales migrate to cold waters in high latitudes to feed and then travel to the warmth of the Indian Ocean to mate and calf, specifically between July and October.
Southern right whales are best observed close to shore in the southern part of the Mozambique Channel from June to December, closer to Anantara Bazaruto. Between July and October, the humpback whales showcase their acrobatic skills in the waters of the Bazaruto Archipelagos up to the Quirimbas Archipelagos near Anantara Medjumbe.
Both resorts offer guided whale watching tours ranging from three-hour excursions to half-day expeditions with snorkelling and island picnics thrown in for good measure. We prick up our ears when someone mentions that Anantara Medjumbe’s signature experience features a picnic on uninhabited Quissanga Island. Moby Dick and Robinson Crusoe adventures rolled into one? Sign us up!
We had another reason to seek an escape from civilisation. After getting up close and personal with the magnificent, highly intelligent creatures of the wild, holing up in our hotel room to watch “Our Planet” on Netflix just somehow didn’t cut the mustard any more. We wanted the magic to last longer, giving us enough time to process our emotions.
On Quissanga, as our waiter and chef busy themselves setting up a table in the shade of a Bounty Beach coconut palm tree, we quietly reflect on the experiences of the day. From the first sighting of a male humpback whale - accompanied by the otherworldly call of the whale-song - to the impressive acrobatics and the sense of awe that we carried with us to Quissanga.
How ironic it is, then, that left to our own devices on a tiny speck of an island, all we wish for is a boatful of fellow wild life enthusiasts to talk whales to.