Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whale of a Good Time

Every year around this time, the waters of Okinawa, Japan become home to some of the most amazing creatures on earth - Humpback Whales. I had wanted to go see them last year, but Matt was in Thailand, and I (being unemployed at the time) had very few friends on the island. Although Matt is currently deployed in Korea, I just couldn't let another year pass me by without getting to see these giant mammals! While many of my friends would like to go on the boat tour, most of them are too nervous to actually do it. Why? (You might ask) Because the trek out to the whales is supposedly a rough one, from which many horror stories of sea sickness tend to surface. I've heard stories of people throwing up on the ground, over the side, on each other... you get the idea. I'm not going to lie - I was a little nervous, imagining myself getting seasick and being stuck out there with nowhere to go. However, my desire to see whales was stronger.

I got my brave friend, Lyndsey, to go out with me. It was a decent day outside - started off a little chilly and cloudy, but quickly cleared up. After downing some Dramamine and tying on bright orange life-vests, we boarded the boat and sat on cushions on the floor, because all the window seats had filled up quickly. We departed from Tomari Port in Naha City around 9:00 in the morning, and the course took us north, not far off from areas that we've actually been to swim and dive at. After about a 45 minute boat ride, we quickly realized that all the sea-sickness people had warned us about was not from the actual ride out there, but from sitting at our location, rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth for an hour while we were to watch the whales. While Lyndsey ended up feeling quite nauseous the whole time out there, I, luckily, felt absolutely fine!

We saw our first whale right as the boat stopped - the huge creature came to the surface, blowing air into the sky and flapping his tail as he went back down into the ocean. And then there was another, and another, and another - they were amazing! Often, we would see many whales, and then we wouldn't see any for 5-10 minutes or so. When we saw them again, we would move our boat closer as if we were chasing them - us and the five other whale-watching boats that were out there! It was more difficult to photograph them than I had expected it to be. They were so quick and popped up in random places. I'd be looking 100 feet out, and then one would pop up just feet from the boat, right underneath me! Out of nowhere, one even FULLY jumped into the air (I wasn't quick enough to get a photo). It was HUGE and incredible how a creature that size is able to jump that high into the air! It was like a scene right out of a National Geographic magazine - It's hard to believe I actually got to see that, but I did, and it was probably one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed so far!

Sitting on the floor of our boat (named PINKA) on our way out to the whales

We were the only Americans aboard:)

The crew gave us a little instruction sheet in English... "When you feel like vomiting, do not vomit into the toilet, it clogs easily."

Lyndsey and I

Most of them were so close to our boat!

We kept hearing, "Sugoi!" "Sugoi!" (Wow! Wow!)

Right off Cape Zampa!

Check out this very short video clip of one of the whales:

I actually had an amazing time, and I can't wait to do this again with Matt!


  1. How Exciting! Another thing to check off your list! Love the lighthouse in the background. Wait..."Right off Cape Zampa"- is that the lighthouse we not only visitted but jet-ski'd past?
    Glad you didn't get sick! (I'd hate to think someone might clog the toilets...too funny!) Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yes! It IS the lighthouse we went to and jet-ski'd past! Good memory! Isn't it crazy how close they are??

  3. So cool Cortnie!! I did a whale watch tour last year in Hawaii, it was amazing! Your pictures are taking me back.. I'm glad you got to see them so close! It really is an awesome experience.

  4. Glad that your friend Lyndsey went with you...funny how you two were the only Americans:) Love the "vomit" instruction sheet! xo