Day 1 We first spot the mother and calf hanging suspended in deep waters off the coast. Even though the tones aren’t ideal i love this photo because it captures so well the feeling of treading water and seeing these beautiful, immense creatures rise out of the deep, their edges glowing in the dark water. This was our very first swim. The sun was still not very high in the sky which made the water a lot darker than i was expecting both surreal and spooky. A black and white sea snake slither-swam past and the waters around us were studded with bioluminescence. This is a scene I will never forget. imperfect Photographs like this one always inspire me to paint. When painting I have a chance to more deeply capture, express and translate the emotion inherent in these interactions.
Day 1 Mama’s powerful tail. The mother and calf we met in the first picture lead us into shallow waters. As the sun rose, we swam over coral in twelve meters of TURQUOISE, crystalline waters. Mama hardly needs to move her tail at all to leave human swimmers in herr wake. Calves work hard to keep up with their mothers.
Day 1 The mother allowed us to swim with her and her calf for much of the day. We swam with them as long as we could keep up, then we would get back in the boat, catch up to them and slip back in. At first the mother was very relaxed while the baby was a little shy. As the day Progressed the baby gradually came out of their shell until they were jumping, Tail slapping, breaching, twisting and swishing without stopping. you could see the joy in every movement. Exhilaration in motion. It was stunning to see. The mother was calm and relaxed. She even slowed down allowing us to swim a little longer with each pass. On this swim the baby kept their mouth open underwater.
It’s not only a privilege to be in the water with the whales and to interact with them in ways that they allow but to see interactions between individuals, between a mother and her calf and the different ways the whales are underwater. How they move, How they play, how they rest. Never did I think i would ever experience such intimacy with humpback whales. I am in complete awe.
At other times, it was clear if a mother was uncomfortable with swimmers. If it was obvious from the surface (trying to get away from the boat) we wouldn’t go in. If it wasn’t obvious until we were in the water, we would end the swim and leave them alone. It’s important that these animals are treated with respect. I was amazed at how I was able to understand these basic signals from the animals even without very much experience. I think if we treat animals with respect and see them as the highly intelligent creatures that they are, it is apparent to us when they are under stress or relaxed. As human beings we are very capable of understanding the world on an energetic level, though this is a fact not always acknowledged in our culture/s.
mother and calf
Exhilaration in motion
Day 2 Exploring coral caverns
bait ball in Swallows cave
Day 3 early morning spotting / spouting
Day 4 Our group swam with this mother and calf nonstop for an hour and a half in deep water not far from shore. The waters were full of a reddish brown particulate matter which seems to have been either the result of a coral spawning event or an algae bloom. The murkier than usual waters made for somewhat anxious treading. The mother hung five to ten meters below while the calf went up and down to the surface to breathe. After fifteen minutes or so the mother would ascend and swim a little ways. Our group kept up as best as we could, swimming in the slightly choppy surface conditions. Credit is due to Matt Draper who after several years of apprenticeship, observation, guiding experience and heightened levels of instinct and intuition was able to keep his eye on the mum (and us) in the murky waters. I was disappointed with the shots I took on this day at first but on closer look I consider this to be one of the best shots I captured on this trip.
Day 5 The sun rises just as we leave the harbour entrance on our last day on the water.
Matt Draper - Our guide extraordinaire. I have so much admiration for Matt, a tender, creative and wild soul who pushes himself and others beyond the limits we too readily create for ourselves. He challenges himself creatively, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually – it’s impossible not to be infected by his energy. His goals for his art and for ocean conservation are inspiring and absolutely achievable by someone of his steadfastness and creative power.
Yours truly on the morning of our last day.
For prints and queries email Annebasquin@gmail.com.