“The whales do not sing because they have an answer, they sing because they have a song.”- Gregory Colbert
Few animals stir the imagination in the way that whales do. Whales have a sense of deep mystery about them, and they form one of the most specialised groups of mammals alive on earth today. Whales are the largest mammals on the planet, and whales, in general, are known for their high intelligence. Two broad groups of whales exist today, namely the toothed whales which catch prey, and baleen whales which sift small food items from the water. Whales have held special symbolism in many cultures throughout human history and can be associated with good luck, wisdom, speed, strength and freedom. Below are some lessons from whales we could adopt in our own journeys:
- Remember your roots. Both in their evolution and individual life paths, whales return to the sea they came from. Vertebrates first evolved in the sea before eventually moving onto land. Their ancestors later returned to the sea, taking advantage of its rich food supplies, evolving in a variety of whale species as they adapted to their marine surroundings. In their personal life journeys, many whales are known to follow specific migratory routes at certain times of the year for breeding.
- Take up space. Whales naturally take up space, but it’s their presence that leaves people in awe of them. Whales remind us of our right to exist, to voice our opinions, to pursue our purpose and goals, and have a body, any kind of body.
- Effective communication. Do you speak whale? While we’re sure most of us have jokingly asked this question in a “whale voice” after watching the film Finding Nemo, we really should aim to communicate like a whale! Whales are excellent communicators, with various ways of getting their message across, the most well-known being echolocation. Because whales live in water, their messages have a longevity that airborne messages lack, in that they are carried over much longer distances. This reminds us that our own communication can have ripple effects into the future.
- Most whales are wanderers and travel the world for a variety of reasons. They tend to seek out the warmer currents and go with the flow, syncing with nature’s rhythms.
- Make a difference. Besides the critical ecological role that whales serve in the oceans, there are many stories of how whales have helped others, including seals, dolphins and people. These brave and purposeful acts have left people speechless and even more in awe of these wonderful creatures, reminding us that no matter how ‘big’ you are, you’re never too big to lend a helping hand (or fluke)!
Hopefully, you’re inspired to get out there and have a whale of a time! Worldwide Experience offers some amazing opportunities to volunteer for our oceans, giving you the chance to observe and conserve whales and other marine wildlife:
Located along South Africa’s beautiful Garden Route in Plettenberg Bay, Conserving Whales offers volunteers the opportunity to assist with conservation, marine research projects and community work. The driving force behind the project is protecting the abundance of marine life through the formation of a Marine Protected Area. Some of the marine species you can expect to see are southern right whale, humpback whale, Bryde’s whale, Indian Ocean humpback dolphin, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Cape fur seal and Great white shark. Worldwide Experience intern Liam wrote about his experience of Conserving Whales here.
Great White Sharks have sadly been given a bad reputation over the years, but they are beautiful and sensitive creatures with a vital part to play as an apex predator in the ocean. Not far from Cape Town in South Africa, volunteers join our marine biologists to learn more about this fascinating species, while sharing their experience, passion and newfound knowledge with visitors to the area. Other species encountered are whales, dolphins, cape fur seals and the endangered African penguin. For more information, click here.
The ultimate “surf ‘n turf” conservation programme invites volunteers to assist not only with marine conservation but also reforestation on land. Marine conservation projects focus on turtle monitoring, coral farming and seagrass and fish surveys in the turquoise lagoon surrounding this tropical island. All of this has a positive effect on other marine wildlife beyond the lagoon, including dolphins and whales. The most common whales in Mauritian waters are the Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Gray’s Beaked Whale, Dwarf Sperm Whale, and the Sperm whale. For more information, click here.