June 8 marked a very special occasion for our trip. It was the ‘World Oceans Day’. The World Oceans day was unofficially celebrated on every 8th of June since its inception in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The day only became officially recognized by UN in 2008 and reaches global awareness ever since. It was an auspicious day to start our very first whale-watching trip in the gulf of Thailand.
We departed from Bangkok through Highway 35. That’s the same road to Cha-am/Hua Hin, heading to Rama II road. The route passes Mahachai from Samut Sakhon to Samut Songkhram province. Our van turned at Klong Kloan and we drove onto Bang Taboon located at Ban Laem, Petchaburi province.
On our way we passed through four main rivers in Thailand. There is Chao Phraya (in Bangkok), Tha-Jeen, Mae Klong (both in Samut Songkhram), and Petchburi river. Bang Taboon is where our vessel is moored, which also happens to be the river mouth of Petchburi River. We spotted a few long tail macaques as it was searching for food. Bang Taboon and Ban Laem area is famously known for shrimp paste called ‘kapii’ with their main ingredients from krill. The locals catch the krill in the ocean and leave them to dry out in the sun.
We arrived to our vessel, and departed at 9:30 a.m. About 40 minutes into our travel, we were able to spot a lone baby Irrawaddy dolphin near the mussel farm. Indeed a good sign to start off the day.
Our intention was to head north at first. We did stick to this plan for a while up until our captain passed a fisherman boat.
“We spotted several whales down South today. You should be heading there,” one of the fishermen said.
“Look, a dolphin!” said one of our passengers.
“That one over there!”
We smiled as our passenger was referring to the painting of a dolphin that was in front of the fisherman’s boat. Well…It didn’t take much guess to where we are headed now because that was indeed the only other marine animal that we could spot at that time. Our captain agreed and changed the course midway, and we headed south.
At 25 past noon, just after all the lunches were handed out, we heard shouts from Captain Lek.
It was too far for us to see anything, but man, these locals have incredible pair of eyes. At this point everyone started getting their cameras out. We are now onto something, and at least we are heading at the right direction.
Then 15 minutes later, it all became so clear.
We were able to identify the whale as Jao Petch, at an offshore oil platform.
‘Jao’ [เจ้า] has two connotations in Thai. It can be either referred to as ‘Mr. or Ms.’ and or also as ‘ruler’ – Thais have always view whales as the ‘king’ of the ocean. A well suited name to what is considered the largest mammals on our planet.
It gets better. At 2.24 p.m., we spotted a mother and its calf.
From this point on every 2-5 or so minutes, we would be able to see these majestic creatures coming out for a blow (breathing) and every so often goes on an endless episode of lunge feeding at every fishes that it can consume.
A happy day for us indeed – a very happy Worlds Ocean Day for us!