A Series Of Extraordinary Events
Well, we’ve just got back from our second Tonga Humpback Whale trip of the season and, oh my, what a charter it was: we didn’t want to return to port! We were fortunate enough to witness so many extraordinary events, just getting better and better as the week went on. We shared this incredible time with an eclectic bunch of guests: Bret Gilliam and his group of 12 who regularly travel and dive together, along with Colorado couple Dyann & Kevin, German duo Thorsten & Vera and Londoners Florence & Bryce. It is a pleasure to have shared such special moments with you all.
Lookin at you looking at me. By Bret Gilliam
Photo Credit: (Top Left Clockwise) Thorsten, Trey, Bret, Bret, Quentin, Kevin
We think some of the most spectacular experiences shared by all were during the time spent with gorgeous humpback mothers and their calves (often with a watchful escort dutifully lurking in the background!). We literally spent HOURS with these pairings, delighting in their acceptance of our presence and the trust placed in us. Sometimes we would hang back a little and peacefully observe, trying to understand what was happening just feet away from us. On more than one occasion it would seem that Momma was teaching her baby to hold his breath as she’d tuck him under her belly for a minute or two before gently easing him up to the surface to breath. Other times, the interaction was much more full on as Momma sent her calf over to play with us! We laughed through our snorkels as he’d come right to us, showing off his tickly white tummy, then roll over up to the surface and practice his pec slaps: we were always on standby ready to back pedal as he may be a baby but he’s still huge and hasn’t quite mastered spacial awareness yet! What really blew us away was the vocalization during all of this play. So loud we could hear it even above the water, and sometimes a bass so deep it would vibrate all the way through our bodies
Photo Credit: Top Left Clockwise: Trey, Trey, Kevin, Thorsten, Trey, Thorsten
As well as being actually in the water with these impressive creatures, we spent a ton of time observing their wild surface behavior from the safety of our big steel boat! It’s just incredible to see and hear the pec slaps, tail slashes and full on breaches. About half way through the trip we had a really special afternoon on the bow as we witnessed the ferocious raw power of nature: we followed a group of at least 12 huge humpbacks engaging in a vicious ‘heat run’, where males aggressively compete for the attentions of a female. These guys kept going at a speed of 6-8 knots for over FIVE HOURS!! Not just racing but fighting: repeatedly smashing into each other, whacking each other with their 3 ton fins, launching out of the water to body slam into another, grunting with the sheer exertion. The strength and power was just incredible: WE all sat exhausted at the end of the day just from watching!!
Photo Credit: (Background, Top Left Clockwise) Peter, Thorsten, Thorsten, Bryce, Kevin, Peter, Peter, Quentin
It was not only with the whales that we struck gold! We also had some really special moments when out diving. Underwater, guests enjoyed a huge marble ray, an eagle ray, turtles, sea snakes and Spanish dancers on a variety of both day and night dives. A lucky few even came across a lounging zebra shark, a really unusual find in Tonga. And on the surface on the way back from a dive, no one could believe their luck when the skiff drivers spotted a WHALESHARK!!! It was ‘just’ a juvenile and certainly wasn’t shy: we hope you find your way back to Momma little one! The ocean really did spoil our group this charter….thank you!!!!
Photo Credit: (Top Left Clockwise to Center) Florence, Florence, Peter, Peter, Kevin
In between all the whale action and diving, we still managed to enjoy a good amount of ‘down time’: cocktail hour usually kicked in about four and we enjoyed beautiful sunsets as we settled down for dinner. A couple of afternoons we re-found our ‘land legs’ as we took the skiffs in to a couple of tiny islands, enjoying beach walks and a little tour around one of the local villages. And everyone really enjoyed a relaxed, musical evening at our infamous kava party!
And so our second charter here in Tonga draws to a close……it’s going by far too fast! Thank for joining us here on NAI’A, we hope you’re all going home with wonderful memories of our newfound friends, the humpback whales. They sure did show themselves off to the extreme this week!
“Well, there isn’t much you can say other than WOW!!!!!” Kevin and Dyann
“The trip was a great mix of whales, diving and just chilling out on the boat. I’ll be back to try the Fiji experience!” Susan
“Spectacular whale shows! Great crew and food.” Hugh and BJ
Leaping for Joy by Kevin
Ready Steady Dive! by Bret
Got The Whale Memo Slightly Wrong by Peter
End Of A Perfect Day by Quentin
Hairy Hermit by Thorsten
All Aboard by Trey
Home Sweet Home by Bryce
Moody Clouds by Florence
Top 'N Tail by Peter
Group Dance by Quentin
We Have Lift Off! by Thorsten
Up Close And Personal by Trey
Tickle My Tummy! by Florence
“Fiji is a hot spot of biodiversity. We’re here for the rich colorful soft coral reefs as well as the unusual stuff - the strange little creatures and endemic fishes.”
~ Dr. Tim Laman, biologist and National Geographic Photojournalist