The Humpback Whales of Francisco Coloane Marine Park, Patagonia
Aboard MV 'Forrest'
by Tamara Albarran, travel writer and photographer
In this new article you can read all about our collaborator Tamara's trip as she shares her wonderful experience on board MV Forrest during her two-day expedition to Carlos III Island where she enjoyed the company of imposing Humpback whales, diverse seabirds and lots of other wildlife amid the spectacular scenery of the evergreen, lush fjords and channels in Chilean Patagonia!
Join her on this moving, in-depth, first person account that reflects the powerful impressions and emotions that are always part of these nature trips to the remotest and most pristine wild areas of southern South America.
A van picks me up to take me to Bahia Carrera, where a red-and-white ship with the name 'Forrest' painted on the side is anchored. Two zodiacs wait for us in the beach. The drivers greets us warmly and briefs us before handing life vests. We're a small group, barely 13 people for a vessel that accomodates 20 passengers.
On boarding the 'Forrest', our charming ship that will take us on this exciting adventure, the crew welcomes us with a pisco sour cocktail. The lounge is captivating. It's hard to tell if it's the kindness and charm of our hosts, the warmth of the woods or the soft ambience music. Everything pairs up with the nicest weather, no wind, no swell. A surprising calm in this Straits where choppy seas are most usual.The evening is our company as we sail past the Froward Cross under the shadow cast by Mount Tarn and bid farewell to the coasts of Punta Arenas. The last good-bye, the last ray of light from San Isidro Lighthouse.The air is chilly, so typical from here, but refreshing. To breathe it in on the outer deck until the last sunlight ray connects us with the vitality of nature that we look for, a nature so pure and pristine in this part of the world.
Once inside the lounge we make friends around a glass of Scotch, and they brief us about where we're going and what we're doing. We look at maps, ask questions. We laugh and go to bed, dreaming about the great next day. Cabins are cozy and comfortable, it's nice to find soft dry towels on the bed, which keeps you warm as the gentle rocking invites to sleep.
Breakfast is ready. Everyone's up and fresh. Some feel sleepy because ofthe anchor noises at midnight. Even so, everyone's in good spirits and expectating. We sail towards the Shag Pass, and as we get there, a fluke greets us from afar. They are here. We sail quietly and soon a shy Humpback Whale appears before us. We notice its presence as it exhales, a strong noise with a geyser-like bushy blow that gives its presence away. Little by little we quietly approach and areable to contemplate this gentle, friendly and quiet creature as it swims and feeds alongside our ship, while we look in childlike awe. This is just the beginning.
After some time contemplating its imposing figure, we sail along Barbara Channel towards Alacalufes National Park, looking for unnamed glaciers that welcome us among cormorants, albatrosses and a lone condor. Zodiacs to take us closer to the glaciers are prepared, guarding a safe distance from the ice mountains that calf into the bay from time to time from this mountain of blue ice. After sailing into a channel flanked by cormorant rookeries, we arrive to a beach for a landing. A little stream from the inside of the glacier gives us the purest of waters, locked for centuries until now. Ice, morraines, green waters and mountains where hanging trees full of birds can be seen, are the perfect backdrop for a whisky or hot chocolate. We sail back to our ship, and the postcard images are overwhelming.
Back in the ship, we sail towards Francisco Coloane Marine National Park. Here we find South American Sea Lion and Magellanic Penguin colonies, that group in black-and-white patches that dive and surface time and again as they look for food in the waters. The skies, though overcast, presents us with a sunray here and there from time to time.
Rupert and Carlos III islands watch over each other while we sail between them. A pair of shy whales lure us back into Shag Pass and as we enter, three playful Humpbacks come to greet us. Once used to our presence, they approach and feed and play nearby, showing their flukes and presenting us with great photo opportunities. Looks like a rhythmic, delicate dance. Makes you wonder how such a large and heavy creature can also be so subtle, graceful and delicate. Every time their imposing flukes dives into the cold channel waters, they show their delicate beauty in sinchrony with the seas. The blows attract all our attention, like a prima ballerina in a majestic stage full of life. A star, no doubt. Each fluke is like a fingerprint, a unique individual mark. Each year they arrive back to feed and are documented and identified to keep a record of their visits. This is part of a conservation and protection programme.
It's been an incredible day. We say goodbye to the fjords, their wildlife, their islands with their greens and the red sunsets that mix with the clouds, accompanied by calafate sour and lamb barbecue.The drinks pass along with milennary ice cubes, and bonds are strengthened. Our last evening and night in the gentle rocking of the ship.The following morning we wake up to find ourselves back in Bahia Carrera, leaving fjords and wildlife behind, but feeling like we are still in a unique place.
And, like one of our fellow passengers said, God probably lives here!
See more Tamara's images here.