Whale Watching in Kuwait

By Michelle Lambros

Whenever we cruise to Kubber Island, we leave from the al Kout Marina in Fahaheel, where it takes only 30 to 40 minutes to get to the island.  As we cruise, I always try to keep my eye on the horizon, as we have spotted schools of dolphin a few times over the years.  But, last Friday, what we spotted was a complete surprise.

We were about 20 minutes into the cruise when we spotted a big white splash off the distance...what at first appeared like a jet ski jumping over the waves.  I thought my eyes were playing tricks, then our friends’ daughter jumped up and ran to the edge of the boat…she had seen it too, and I trusted her young vision better than my own.  We turned the boat and followed it.  And there it was again, not jumping, but emerging in the waves.  At first we thought it was a whale shark, as they have been spotted in our water here and are pretty well known.   

Then we saw it come up again and again, maybe six or seven times in total.  And it was clear that it was much too large to be a whale shark.  We estimated it was at least six or seven meters in length.  It wasn’t easy to capture on video, but we did get a few good photos.  We have shared these with some marine biologists in the region, and they believe it was indeed a Bryde's whale. We googled Bryde’s Whale and it seems to match our photos.  In fact, the Bryde’s Whale also has a white bottom which would explain the white we saw from the distance when it jumped. Extremely rare to see in our waters, but they have been spotted here before.   

Here is a description of the whale…"The Bryde's whale (pronounced "broo-dess"), is named after Johan Bryde who helped build the first whaling factory in Durban, South Africa in 1909. Sometimes known, appropriately, as the "tropical whale", this is the only baleen whale species that lives all year-round in warmer waters near the equator. The identity and number of species in the "Bryde's whale complex" however is still unclear. In addition to the "ordinary" Bryde's whale, with a worldwide distribution in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans, one or more smaller forms which tend to be more coastal in distribution have also been described”.  "Of the baleen whales , recorded (in the Arabian Gulf) have been Bryde's whales (Balaenoptera edeni), Minke whales (B. acutoristrata), Fin whales (B. physalus), Blue whales (B. musculus), and Humpback whales (Megaptera novaengliae). “

I suppose it does make sense that whales could wander up from the Arabian Sea, as whale sightings are fairly common just south in the Gulf of Oman.  So now we know it is completely possible to find them here, and that there are several species that may make an appearance in our waters.  We hope to share this information with the Kuwait scientific community and hopefully we can find out more about our very special whale encounter.








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