Having a whale of a family vacation is a lot like the rest of life.
It requires a fine balance between planning and spontaneity.
If you carry too much with you, you’re limited in what you can do. If you try to do too much, you’re too tired to enjoy or appreciate where you are. If you do too little, you’ve missed the opportunity and feel like a lug.
By shear chance, we found the perfect balance between planning and spontaneity this summer. The key for us was to plan things for the beginning and the end of the trip, leaving a few open days in the middle. In the first days at our destination, we listened, read and learned about the good stuff we didn’t know about or consider before we came. A few key calls along the way helped tremendously with being able to do things we wanted to do. Years ago, I learned the hard way, that canceling reservations is much easier than getting them at the last minute.
Case in point. Last Sunday morning while on vacation in the San Francisco Bay area, a friend and hostess was reading the morning newspaper. She said, “Oh look, they’ve been seeing lots of whales around Monterey.”
Having a 12-year-old whale fiend daughter, I was curious. I read the short news story that said local naturalists weren’t sure why numerous Blue Whales, the largest animals ever known to live on earth, had arrived during the week.
Not being an early riser, my first inclination was, “ I’m sure the trips will be sold out by now.”
I almost let it got at that, but decided to give it a try. Two days later, my daughter and I set sail on a three-hour tour.
On that day, the sea was like glass, as opposed to the time nearly 20 years ago when my husband and I took the same expedition and encountered giant waves that tossed the 42-foot boat around. Memories of what that trip did to his landlubber stomach prevented my husband’s joining us.
Barely 30 minutes into the trip, we spotted Blue whales lunge feeding on krill. One of the naturalists became overjoyed when she spotted a giant reddish splotch on the surface.
“It’s whale poop,” she screamed.
Our boat headed straight for the poop to take a sample for university scientists to study. One of the deckhands lowered a big bucket and brought up sea water/whale poop, and we were off again.
All in all, we saw 18 Blue whales, more than a hundred Risso dolphins, a Minke whale and a dozen Humpback whales. One of the Humpbacks came right up to the boat. It even sprayed my daughter and me, along with seven other whale watchers. (Whale breath stinks something fierce, by the way.) The naturalist said Humpbacks are naturally curious, and the behavior was not unusual. We could see barnacles, the whale’s eye, mouth and the rest of her body up close.
It was so peaceful – almost a spiritual experience. We couldn’t have planned it better had we tried.