picture shows walruses in pond

Kamchatka Peninsula Siberia

At our first walrus haul-out, we were cautioned that walrus are skittish around humans, so we must approach stealthily. “Stealth” meant crawling on our bellies through purple squishy vegetation up a tall hill and peering cautiously over the edge. We looked down on a heap of pink and black blubber—and ivory. The tusks were amazing, and every time one walrus shifted, his tusks dug into a mate, who shifted and gored another. They snoozed through it all, totally unaware of the gawkers with cameras taking in the scene or any naptime injuries.
To reach the second haul-out beyond a short dune, we walked upright, chatting, until we were nearly on a level with that gang of dentition and flab. Yes, they skittered into the water at our approach, but they went out only about seven feet or less. These guys seemed to enjoy posing as much as we enjoyed seeing them—and so close.

Later, reminiscing about the amazing viewing, it came to us that we had probably been played by our guides. There had been no need for all that earlier belly-scootching. The first group of walrus never knew we were there. Or cared.

And we all secretly speculated about the timing of our next dental appointments.

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