Whales in Mauritius: same-sex love, battles with squids and 20 minutes of sleep

Mauritius – an amazing island located in the Indian Ocean. It was once inhabited by the most unique animals and birds. The island was a cozy and safe place: there were no people here until the Middle Ages and there are still no predators. Some birds did not even know how to fly, because there was no one to escape from, and there was no point in flying away from the paradise. One of the most famous was the dodo bird, or Mauritian dodo. 

Unfortunately, with the arrival of man, the rules on the island changed: animals were caught to eat or just for fun. Trees, flowers and bushes were cut down to plant everything with reeds. It was planned that the island would become a “European sugar bowl”; few people were worried about preserving the species. All this has led to the fact that today many endemic birds and animals of Mauritius are considered extinct. And they are trying with all their might to restore the population of still existing species. For example,giant land tortoisescame here from the Seychelles. And they seem to like everything😊.

Sperm whales of Mauritius

One of the peculiarities of Mauritius is that whales live in its coastal waters all year round. Today we will talk about sperm whales - the most amazing underwater mammals. These whales can grow up to 20 meters and weigh up to 50 tons. They can dive one and a half kilometers and hold their breath for one and a half hours. They also need to eat at least 150 kg of food per day. To do this, sperm whales dive deep into the ocean and catch giant squids, which are almost as big as them. One day, a sperm whale was unable to swallow its prey because the squid had attached its tentacles to its head. And he weighed about 200 kg!

Mother Irene's clan

Sperm whales living in the waters of Mauritius belong to the Irene clan – one of the most studied in the world. Scientists know each of the whales by name and have been following them for more than 10 years. It turns out that all sperm whales have different tails: each pattern on them is unique, like our fingerprints. Animals are distinguished by their tails and special markings such as spots on the body or a missing piece of fin.

What have scientists learned during this time? All sperm whales, one way or another, descend from one old female – Irene. Today grandma has about 50 descendants! Females live in Mauritius all year round. Here, behind the reef, the depth is about a kilometer, which means you can dive for squid. Males need more food, so they have to swim to the cold waters of the southern sea, and return home only to reproduce.

In the absence of males, ladies do not get bored. They all feed and raise the babies together. It turns out that all females have milk, not just those who have recently given birth, and it is 6 times fattier than cow's milk. If the mother is tired or does not have enough strength to feed the child, sisters, aunties and grandmothers come to her aid. Older children help watch over the younger ones, play with them and protect them.

Sperm whales – incredibly tactile creatures. They always strive to rub against each other, cuddle or stroke. Scientists even noticed an amazing feature: females often caress each other and rub their genitals against each other’s humps, and also form pairs and take care of their offspring together. This is same-sex love)

Meeting with sperm whales

When I found out that in Mauritius you can swim with sperm whales, of course, I immediately wanted to. In Sri Lanka, I was also offered a similar excursion, but it was very expensive, and I had to go to the other end of the island. And Mauritius is small - everything is nearby, convenient! And so, one fine day, waking up at 5 am, I was waiting on the shore of Tamarin Beach, where our boat was leaving. I swim well, but it was still very exciting: what if the sperm whale doesn’t like something and attacks? What if I accidentally collide and get hit in the face with hundreds of kilograms? Getting ahead of events, I will say that it is, of course, possible to get damaged from sperm whales, but only if you behave aggressively and completely do not follow the rules of communication with them. However, there have been no such situations yet)

We set sail from the shore and the captain turns on the echolocator: with its help he determines the location of the whales. It’s not a fact that we’ll be lucky enough to see them: they may be deep underwater or moving too fast, making it impossible to see them. That day the ocean was still very rough and we got very seasick on the road. An hour later, we suddenly saw a fountain of water 100 meters away from us. “Look, there they are!” – one of the tourists screamed, and we saw a huge tail rise from the water and fall back into the ocean with a roar. Tears came to my eyes: can you imagine such huge, majestic, beautiful creatures swimming nearby, in wildlife! Not alone, tortured in an aquarium, but cheerful, playing with their relatives in the endless ocean…

While we were digesting what was happening, someone shouted nearby: “Holy crap, he jumped out!!!” Guys, he jumped completely out of the water!” And we all began to look around in the hope of seeing where. The captain explained that when the ocean is rough, sperm whales indicate their location to other groups. I thought that the seasickness that I felt, perhaps for the first time that day, was worth it to be here. Suddenly a huge carcass emerged from the water a few meters away from us. As if in slow motion, the sperm whale flew up above the water, and then flopped flat on its side, causing a towering fountain of spray. And behind him is another one. And further. We looked and couldn't believe it. The girls screamed. “Wait, save your emotions, – said the attendant, – you still have to get into the water.” And we already felt then that life was divided into before and after…

Briefing

The rules for communicating with sperm whales in the water are simple: do not swim close so that you don’t accidentally hit them with your tail, do not make noise when jumping into the water, try not to exhale while blowing bubbles (for some reason whales don’t like this) and do not swim head-on at them head-on. Ideally, you want to move to the side of a group of whales so that they have a full view of you and you – their. If you swim towards them or jump off the boat with a roar, nothing bad will happen, but the animals will most likely dive deep into the water and the meeting will end. They can hold their breath for an hour or more, and during this time they will swim away completely into the... another place. It will be a shame. 

We had an operator with us who explained how to pose to make the most successful videos. You need to hold your breath and dive about 1 m underwater and stretch out along the swimming sperm whales. And then whoever knows how: “dolphin” or doggy style, with or without flippers – The main thing is to cope with the emotions of what you saw and only after that start filming. We dived in groups of 5 people. Anyone who was afraid or felt insecure was led by the hand to a safe distance from the sperm whale, showed that everything was fine, left him for a minute to take a video, and took him back. 

I was mentally preparing in advance to see the “train” passing nearby. I imagined how I would panic and how I would calm myself down. And she was the first to dive. Were you afraid that now they would float away, and then suddenly we wouldn’t find them? The sperm whales were somewhat smaller than the sizes I imagined. I didn’t feel any shock, just admiration and curiosity. We made a video and returned to the boat: the whales swam away and now we need to look for them again. 

Long-awaited meeting

We spent almost another hour searching. The second group was already desperate and thought that they would not be able to swim today. Everyone got seasick and it was very difficult. We sat and looked at the agitated ocean and knew for sure that somewhere below us there was a whole school of sperm whales, but they did not want to come to the surface, they were hunting. Then someone called the captain, and he jumped out of his seat as if scalded. We rushed and jumped on every wave so that it seemed like we were going to fall out of the boat. Two more boats were bouncing on either side of us. We were all driving towards another large group of sperm whales.

This time everyone went to swim with the whales. We were lucky: just today the whole family gathered: a male who returned home from the Southern Ocean, several females and many small sperm whales. They played with each other, staying in one place all the time and making loud cracking sounds. The kids swam closer to the people with curiosity. Sometimes they even tried to repeat some movements. It's so fun! They can be distinguished from adult whales by the sticky fish with which sperm whales are hung with toys, like a Christmas tree. Adults throw them off when diving into the depths, but kids can’t do that yet. The male looked impressive. He is huge, one and a half times larger than any of the females. He stood motionless and vertical in the water, demonstrating his manhood to the females. It was awkward and even scary to be around. Sperm whales, by the way, also sleep vertically. They simply freeze in the water with their heads up for 20 minutes - and that’s enough for them to get some sleep.

We swam there for about another hour, until finally we all took a hundred photos, videos and examined these amazing animals in every detail, and then went home.

Officially, swimming with whales in Mauritius is prohibited and approaching them closer than 500 meters is also prohibited in a boat without a license. It is believed that by doing so you are harming nature. But let’s think together what harms animals more: meeting a person on their own territory, where, if they don’t like something, they can swim/go into the depths, stand up for themselves, or a petting zoo, where animals live in cages and are forced to communicate with a bunch of visitors, eating on a schedule and being away from your family in unfamiliar territory? Despite the bans, no one is watching or trying to catch tourists, so I am in favor of the fact that you should still try. The memories will stay with you for a lifetime, that's for sure!

03.10.2023

Read also

View all

A brief introduction to parts of the island of Mauritius for tourists

This article aims to provide a concise and informative overview of the varied parts of the island, focusing on providing tourists and visitors with a...

246

Short videos with beautiful views of Mauritius

211

Introduction to Mauritius - a brief overview

Mauritius is a popular destination for tourists seeking a tropical getaway with beautiful beaches, clear waters, and abundant natural beauty. In this article, we'll provide...

544

PENTHOUSE FOR SALE IN TAMARIN - Property Reference: TH2..

#justlisted We are delighted to announce this beautiful Apartment property...

892480.00 once

416

Karate Black River

Beginner classes start 18 May 2023. Train for free for May before committin...

1400.00 a piece

669

AVALON GOLF ETSTAE RESIDENCIAL LAND FOR SALE

This piece of land comes with a pre-design concept ready to build for you w...

10200000.00 once

609