Explain Whales…

If swimming is supposed to be such a great way to get in shape, then explain whales. – Author Unknown (but clearly not a fan of exercise!)

One of the most fun things we are able to do here in Luanda is go whale watching.  Hubby’s company has two boats that are available for whale watching and fishing.  The first one I love, the second one…eh, not so much.  All you have to do is sign up to go and then show up.  My second week here, I was invited by Mrs. Boss Man to go out with a few other ladies on a “Bubbles Cruise” to see if we could find some whales willing to pose for a picture or two.  The name “Bubbles Cruise” referred to the fact that she was bringing several bottles of champagne with her.  Well, okay!  This added a new dimension to the trip!

We fixed up some sandwiches, packed our sunscreen, stuck on our sun hats, and then headed to the boat.  Food is provided by the crew, but apparently no one risks eating it.  Not that it is spoiled, necessarily.  But here, you always need to know a food’s history.  Do the ingredients come from a sanitary environment and are they stored a the proper temperature?  Not surprisingly, the boat crew does not provide a resume for their sandwiches, so we just bring our own.

Oh, and just FYI: sunscreen only works if you use it.  More on that later…

About twenty minutes outside of Luanda’s busy harbor, we spotted a pod of four or five gray whales lazily swimming along. It was impossible to tell if they were males or females, but there were a couple of babies in the pod.  They surfaced three or four times, teasing us with the hope that they would breach, and then disappeared under the water.  This happened time and time again. Each time, furious scanning of the horizon ensued, and we all took bets as to where they would surface next.  When they reappeared, the boat driver would gun the engine and race to their new location.  This was really fun (for about two hours), but too many pictures were being snapped of the backs of whales. Come on fellas, at least show us some tail!


The most excitement we had during that time was when one of the ladies lost a shoe overboard (don’t ask, alcohol was probably involved) and then two gals lost their hats as the drivers raced to catch up with the whales.  We weren’t fishing, but the crew got some use out of their gaffing hooks that day. And I’m sure had a good chuckle about it, too.

It's a Shoe Fish!
It’s a Shoe Fish!

After several hours of this, and two bottles of champagne, all of us needed to use the loo on the boat, but none of us wanted to be the first – partly because we didn’t want to miss anything, but mostly because the loo isn’t always Tidy Bowl clean.  Finally, Mrs. Boss Man ‘took one for the team’ and ventured below.  Those sneaky whales must have been watching her! No sooner had she gone downstairs then one of the whales decided to breach.  Of course, all I saw was the splash:


Mrs. Boss Man heard our screams of delight, and scrambled back upstairs.  With that, began a wonderful display of airborne acrobatics.  First one jumped and then another and another.  How those huge mammals are able to launch themselves completely out of the water, I will never know. I can barely drag my fat butt out of a swimming pool using a ladder. Swimming IS good exercise! Who knew?

Mama shows her baby how it's done!
Mama shows her baby how it’s done!
Now, it's Junior's turn.
Now, it’s Junior’s turn.

What a great day on the water!  To see something like this just about anywhere else in the world would have cost us a fortune, and the boat drivers would have been required to stay a specified distance away.  Here, the drivers can (and do) run the boats practically on top of the whales.  From the stories we have heard, you wonder why the whales don’t just get sick of the intrusion, and give the boat a bump just to teach a little lesson.  I certainly would!

Anyway, we had a great time and I felt very lucky to have seen such a rare sight in my second week as a resident.  Mrs. Boss Man has been on many boat trips in her three years here, and had never seen the whales breach before.  Lady Luck has truly been in my corner since I arrived!

Now, back to the use of sunscreen in Africa.  Folks, I grew up in Texas.  I know to be careful in the sun.  Africa sun puts Texas sun to shame.  I always put sunscreen on my face and hands (gotta protect against wrinkles and sun spots, you know) but have never worried about my legs.  In my entire 50+ years, I have never had a sunburn on my legs – until that day.  My legs were actually blistered!  Here I am, two weeks later, and I have what appears to be an extreme bermuda-shorts tan on my legs, plus permanent sandal strap marks on my feet.  Really attractive, let me tell you.

I can’t explain what made those whales breach after hours of swimming along contentedly.  Perhaps they knew we were not leaving until they gave us a show.  However, I did learn a very important lesson that day.  Always wear sunscreen – and a tight hat.

© 2014 Cheryl – All Rights Reserved