There was a palpable tension brewing deep within me.
It has been days that our whale watching and expedition trip got delayed due to inclement weather. We were scheduled to cross Babuyan Channel on February 26. But our host in Camiguin Norte Island informed me that we should reschedule our trip. Weather would have been a bit better by March 1 and 2. So, we only left Manila on February 27 and stay in Aparri for a day and a night.
By Wednesday, we checked out from the hotel early. By 7AM, we were already aboard MBca AAA-2 en route to Camiguin Norte. But two hours into the trip, the banca stopped sailing! Its propeller, I came to know, was lost into the sea and so they had to install another. I conferred with the boat captain to just return the vessel to Aparri. I did not want to take more chances and he understood my predicament.
The morning after, we were unsure if we can still go to Camiguin Norte. I almost resigned to the possibility that for the first time, I cannot bring my group to the island I hold so dear. That we could be going back to Manila in utter failure. I really was near heart-broken than morning. Still, calls had to be incessantly made to the Coast Guard Stations in Aparri and in the island. By 8:20AM, we were already inching ourselves out of the Aparri Delta.
It was not a pleasant sailing by any means. The rough waters of the Babuyan Channel produced high waves which lengthened the trip in the process. But as we were in the middle of the trip, we were treated with a show by pods of spotted dolphins. It was a welcome respite from an otherwise stressful ride. We finally reached Balatubat at past 3PM. Whew! Out of extreme relief and delight, I almost kissed its sandy shore.
The following day, the weather and sea conditions were not fit for whale watching. So, we spent our morning going to Tapao Falls instead. And in the afternoon, we basked under the sun along Naguilian Beach.
Anxiety and all other emotions bottled up and racing within me on that eventful Saturday. We started late for our only chance to see humpback whales in the wild. It was almost 10AM when we boarded a motorized banca manned by Jun Jun, Ate Awit’s eldest son. As I instructed Jun Jun to go around the waters between Pamoctan Island and Pinon Island en route to Magas-asok about 45 minutes later, I saw two blowholes. It was a portent of great things. Then slowly, they emerged from the deep blue sea! First, it was the mother. Then the calf. They swam beautifully side by side each other in a rhythmic fashion. And it was as close as ten meters away from us!
In all the years that I have been organizing whale watching trips in this blessed part of the Philippines, this was the first time that I saw a mother and a calf! What a treat!
Having been overwhelmed by a spectacular show of these humpback whales, I ordered Jun Jun to take the boat to Magas-asok where we will take our lunch, do some snorkeling, and just chill. And after we partook with our lunch, Jun Jun saw a breaching southwest of Pinon Island. I hurriedly ran to the shore and with my camera in tow, took some shots. If last year, we only witnessed one breaching, this time we had seen at least six!
Then to cap the greatest show in Camiguin Norte, the humpback whale did several tail slaps!
With all the hassles and stresses and anxieties that we all experienced during this trip, the up close and personal sightings of humpback whales were definitely worth it.
My best hope is that by next month during the Bless Camiguin Norte Project, we would see more of these.
To avail and experience an organized Camiguin Norte Whale Watching and Expedition Trip, LEGENDHARRY TRAVELS has one more scheduled trip this year. Join the Bless Camiguin Norte Project to have close encounters with these gentle giants.