Channel Islands: Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins (and some whales)

One amazing thing about Channel Islands National Park, is that despite the beauty abounding on the chain of four islands that make up the land mass of this park, the majority of the wildlife and preserve are underwater.  The Santa Barbara Sound (the channel between the seaside towns of Santa Barbara/Ventura and the islands) is teaming with marine life and the weird and wonderful kelp forests.  
So while we were 2 weeks early for normal whale-watching season, we were able to get  on a boat anyways (in fact, we ended up boating every day of the 3 we were at Channel Islands).It was amazing.  Right out of the harbour, we saw a juvenile grey whale. It was a little shy, but as soon as we pulled ahead, it breached 4-5 times, leaping out of the water in joy, perhaps because the silly boat people were leaving.
Then, as we stood freezing on the deck but enjoying sailing directly into the wind, we saw a black mass on the horizon…. It looked at first like a flock of gulls – but in a few seconds we saw it was a massive pod of common dolphin, headed straight for us.
There were about 500 in this pod, and they swam alongside our boat, jumping in our wake, diving and racing at the bow.  It was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen. Then to truly blow my mind, we soon ran into a second pod.  This time, there were over 1,500 dolphins, and it was just incredible.  In New Zealand, S and I jumped into the cold cold winter ocean to swim with a few hundred dolphins, and as many as there were then, in shear numbers this pod takes the cake in triplicate, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.
We were already as happy as clams (though I’m never sure where that expression came from), then we saw a humpback whale.  It’s not their normal migration season, but here was a mature humpback near Anacapa Island  (and us), surfacing to rub its back against floating  kelp patties, flapping it’s fluke to flirt with us, and once, even coming up right behind the boat to check out the strange humans. It was pretty spectacular to see this enormous animal frolic so close to us, and we followed him (or it followed us?) for about an hour.
Tail of a humpback whale, with Santa Cruz behind us.
Humpbacks like to surface over kelp patties, as a way to wash and scrub their backs
Seeing the humpback close-up, off the back of the boat
Oh, and there were seals and pelicans!
I’m more than a bit in love with Channel islands already, and that’s before we even land to explore the islands.

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