Dolphin & whale watching cruise in Shiretoko / Rausu

  • Dolphin & whale watching cruise in Shiretoko / Rausu



    by Shungo Hanaoka

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    DSC_6639At one of Japan’s World Heritage Sites, Shiretoko / Rausu, large numbers of dolphins and whales gather to be seen from early summer to autumn. Since it was the beginning of the season, we took the whale watching cruise ship.

    DSC_6604You can book your ride at the office building of “Shiretoko Nature Cruise”, which is located behind the roadside station “Shiretoko / Rausu”.

    DSC_6608Enter your information into the boarding list. Be sure to book your seat at least 30 minutes before boarding.DSC_6609The actual boarding area is the sightseeing ship boarding area (inside Rausu Port), which is located a 1 minute walk from the office. There is a sizeable parking lot nearby.DSC_6610The cruise ship is called “Evergreen”, and has a boarding capacity of 50 people. There are three types of seats available: 2nd floor seats where you can enjoy the scenery from a high point, 1st floor seats where you can see the dolphins and whales up close, and inside seats. Once onboard, you can move between the seating areas for a better view.DSC_6654Once the ship leaves, you can look behind to see clearly the magnificent mountain range of Mt. Shiretoko, and more. These mountains also offer a fascinating contrasty scenery as they retain their snow even in mid-summer.DSC_6835We spotted a number of black dorsal fins. They are Dall’s porpoises, which grow up to 2 meters in length. It seemed like they were swimming together as a family.DSC_6651The captain of the ship communicates with other fishing boats to find where they last spotted the dolphins and whales. Once the captain determines and heads to the sea area, the staff onboard the ship use their binoculars to spot the animals, and point them out for the guests onboard.DSC_6823Here is the tail of a common minke whale. It appeared for just a short second. Up close, you can hear it making “psssh” noises as it breathes. These parts of the ocean are known for being extremely deep compared to other areas, ranging as deep as 2,000 meters. This is also the reason why large whales gather in this particular area, because the depth and fresh water that flows from the nearby forests afford ample nutrients for the planktons and other small prey in the area that come from tides or during winter.DSC_6727There are also birds in the area. Pictured is a group of Procellariidae. The ship was closing in, and the birds were taking flight all at the same time. They created a big rustle on the water surface. Quite impressive!DSC_6697Beautiful snow on the mountain range of Shiretoko. It looks like a piece of art.DSC_6684Shadow of the Kunashir island far away.DSC_6700The staff explain the habitat of various animals and more using pictures.DSC_6857The cruise sometimes gets close to the unseen maritime boundary between Japan and Russia. Two hours and thirty minutes will fly by as you meet various wild animals and birds on the ship. Set out on a journey to view the rare animals and the magnificent scenery of Shiretoko’s snow-covered mountains.

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