北海道・知床で【ホエールウォッチング】①:海から知床半島の絶景を楽しもう♪ (Whale watching at Rausu, Shiretoko Peninsula, Hokkaido)


I visited the Shiretoko Peninsula, a World Heritage site in northeastern Hokkaido, during June 8-14. I saw many, many stunning views while I was there, but the most memorable experience for sure was the whale-watching cruise in the Nemuro Strait. So, that's what I'll write about in this blog entry.



Just for your reference, Shiretoko is here:


We took the whale-watching boat called "Aruran Sansei (Aruran III)." It is owned by Marumi Hotel Shiretoko-Rausu, the hotel we stayed at for the entire length of our trip. The hotel conducts the whale-watching tour every year between May and October.


もちろん、天候によっては運休になることもあるのですが、朝7時過ぎにはまるみのフロントにその日の状況が貼り出されるので、宿泊客はすぐにチェックできます。朝ごはんを食べるついでに確認しましょう♪ まるみに泊まっていない方は、フロントに電話でお問い合わせできますよ。

Of course, whether or not the tour will run that day depends on the weather. But, if you stay at Marumi Hotel, you can check the boat's status at the front desk every morning. I recommend you come down for breakfast at a bit past 7 a.m. and stop by the front desk. If you didn't stay at Marumi the night before, you can call the front desk and inquire about the cruise.



The boat leaves the Rausu Port every morning at 9. The tour takes roughly 2.5 hours, coming back to the port at around 11:30. It costs 8,000 yen/adult and 4,000 yen/child -- but, there's a special discount available for those who stayed at Marumi Hotel. For more information, please see the bottom of this blog entry.


It is necessary to be at the port by 8:30, so ideally, you should leave Marumi about 15 minutes past 8. If you didn't come to Shiretoko by car, tell the front desk and they'll arrange a car for you.

What to do and wear before boarding


Once arriving at the Rausu Port, stop by the waiting room -- a little brown hut near the entrance to the port. You will be asked to write your name and contact info (e.g., address, telephone number) in a notebook, so do that first, and then get ready to board the ship.




Rausu is quite cool even during summer, and the average high when I was there (in mid June) was around 15 degrees Celsius (about 59 degrees Fahrenheit). The wind is normally strong out in the ocean, so expect the temperature to drop 5-10 degrees Celsius. You may borrow a windbreaker at the waiting room, but I suggest you bring your own winter gear.


As for myself, I wore a long-sleeved T shirt, sweater, ultra-light down jacket from UNIQLO as well as Montbell's Thunder Pass Jacket. I had two layers on the bottom too: long pants and rain pants. This turned out to be perfect for the cruise. Also, don't forget your winter scarf and gloves! Everyone on the tour was dressed pretty much the same.




Enjoy Shiretoko's breathtaking views as seen from the ocean


Once we put on our life jackets, everything was set -- at 9 a.m., the Aruran III set off from the Rausu Port.



We could see the red and white striped Rausu Lighthouse against the backdrop of Shiretoko Mountain Range.



The boat sailed through the Nemuro Strait with Shiretoko on the left and Kunashiri Island on the right. It was foggy at first, so we could barely see the outline of the island. The other side, however, cast a mystic atmosphere, with a layer of mist blanketing the surface of the water off Shiretoko.



As you can see from the picture below, the boat is rather fast. Make sure to wear a hat with a string so that you won't lose it.



A bit later, we noticed that the water in front of us had some black spots. It turned out to be a large flock of short-tailed shearwater, resting and feeding on the ocean surface. These birds come all the way from Tasmania -- an island off the coast of Australia -- to Shiretoko every spring and are said to travel a whopping 32,000 kilometers in a year!


They immediately start running away when the boat approaches -- and I mean, quite literally. They don't fly away; they actually run on the surface of the water at high speed. I wish I had a zoom lens so that I could take some close-up pictures.




We were all busy taking pictures when an announcement about spotting killer whales came in. They were said to have been seen off the coast of Aidomari district -- much closer to Rausu than we had anticipated. We all stare at the surface of water for any sign of the orca... and there it was! A fin poked out of the water near another ship!



At first, I thought there was only one killer whale. But, soon after, we found ourselves surrounded by many! This blog is getting long, so I'll tell all about what we saw in my next entry. Lots of pictures coming!!


(Nemuro Strait whale-watching cruise "Aruran III")
運営 (Operated by):知床羅臼の宿まるみ (Marumi Hotel Shiretoko-Rausu)
24 Yagihama-cho, Rausu-cho, Menashi-gun, Hokkaido Prefecture
TEL: 0153-88-1313

定期航路(5~10月) Regular operation: May-October
Depart from Rausu Port at 9 a.m.; return to port at 11:30 a.m. (there may be additional cruise in the afternoon)
"Aruran III" boarding deck at Rausu Port: 6 Funami-cho, Rausu-cho
Adult: 8,000 yen (7,200 yen if you stay at Marumi Hotel); Child: 4,000 yen (3,600 yen if you stay at Marumi Hotel)

※当日乗船も可、事前に予約がベター (Can board without reservation, but if possible book in advance)
※10名以上の団体は1割引き、学生団体は2割引き (10% discount for group with 10 or more people; 20% discount for group of students)
※旅客定員:67名 (Boat capacity: 67 people)
※天候不順による運休あり (The boat may not operate in bad weather conditions)

by neko_fukurou | 2017-06-19 00:20 | 旅:北海道

アメリカに11年に暮らしていた、バイリンガルライター、翻訳者、編集者。UCLA卒。食や旅、歴史や文化、演劇(特に宝塚歌劇)について、日記風のカジュアルな英語と日本語の両方でつづっています。Japanese-English food and travel writer/translator based in Tokyo.

by neko_fukurou (aya satoh)
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