A day in the life of.......... A virtual whale watch guide03/08/2012 11:44:17
Written by Sarah Jackson - A real virtual whale watch guide
The whales, dolphins, turtles and sea birds are brought to the public. A trip begins with adults and children being trussed up in lifejackets and given a safety briefing by our knowledgeable Captain, before climbing aboard our boats. We may not be out at sea but there's no guarantee you won't get wet...
I make sure everyone knows what to look for - a blow, a splash, a dorsal fin - and soon there's kids screeching at the front that they've seen a whale. The identification guides on board help passengers figure out what species it is and the skipper and I shout information about things like diet and diving habits over the wind and engine noise. As virtual as those may be.Why do I do this? After working as a real whale watch guide in New Zealand, the Azores and Mexico's Baja California, I've observed the impact of the moment when someone sees their first whale or dolphin and it's a moment I think everyone should have. It's a real privilege to be a part of. At Planet Whale, we firmly believe that experiencing the enormity of a blue whale, or the effortless grace of a bottlenose dolphin, or the explosive power of a sperm whale as it surfaces after a 2000m dive, reaffirms your innate connection with the natural world. In this way, we aim to bring the whale watching experience to the public to inspire a new audience to care about marine conservation.
A day in the life of..................
Education is key to a decent whale watch trip so our virtual tours are crammed with facts. By the end it's not just the kids asking weird and wonderful questions but their parents too, when we examine blue whale faeces as the whale dives in front of us and later when we stop to pick up marine debris.
As a turtle swims by I point out how it might mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish and we discuss the impact of litter on the marine environment. One child on the boat declares he will always recycle from now on, and the others enthusiastically applaud his decision -this is the stuff I hope they remember.
As we start heading back to the harbour, someone spots dolphins riding at the bow so we all hang over the front to watch them as they seem to fly under the surface. There's nothing much like the effortless grace of a dolphin as it swims, something a human could never replicate in the water. Least of all with a leaky snorkel and mask.
The Virtual Whale Watch will be in schools this month and at WhaleFest, the world's biggest whale and dolphin festival taking place 27-28th October, at the Brighton Hilton Metropole. Celebrating 30 years since the historic decision to ban the hunting of large whales, there will be the launch of our Save the Whales: Reloaded campaign, life-size whales and dolphins, expert and celebrity speakers, exclusive ocean films, fringe events and whale-y activities for kids and adults alike. www.whale-fest.com
We arrive safe and sound back in reality and the passengers disembark to tell onlookers about their sightings. I realise I don't need to help any seasick passengers onto the pontoon or hose down the boat. The benefits of virtual whale watching!