And so this is it, our final charter of the Tonga 2017 Humpback Whale watching season…..boy, are we going to miss it! We were joined by the most fantastic group of guests this trip: some knew each other, some didn’t, some had been on NAI’A before, some hadn’t….but it didn’t take long at all before everyone bonded and the laughs were a-plenty. Thank you all for the great energy! It really is the people that makes a good trip great.
Photo Credit: Chris
The whales made us work hard for our rewards this charter: there were a ton out there but they seemed to be constantly on the move (perhaps they’re in the ‘endurance training’ phase of their preparation for the migration back to Antarctica?!). Our hardy gang put in the hours (and hours!) though and were able to enjoy some truly beautiful moments with these exceptional creatures. And, my goodness, some of the special encounters we did have were REALLY up close and personal.
Photo Credit: Oscar
Right at the start of the trip we had BREACH OF THE CENTURY!! We’d been following a couple of rowdy, aggressive males on the skiff from a very safe and respectable distance: we were having a great time watching them breach and throw themselves around. And then they disappeared. We thought we’d lost them, so Mary-Ann went into a mournful rendition of ‘Where Have All the Whales Gone?’. Well, apparently singing does the trick, cause the next thing we know one of these big boys breaches right next to the skiff. And we mean RIGHT NEXT TO: skiff rocking, wave over our heads, shrieks from all of us. We’ve never seen anything like it: mind-blowing, adrenaline pumping and just a little bit nerve-wracking!!! We’re more than happy for this to stand as a lifetime record, not even one foot closer please!
Photo Credit (Left, Top Right, Bottom Right) : Jason & Marielena (@Epic7Travel), Chris, Oscar
We had some great interactions with mom, calf and escort trios. Sometimes the escort can be a bit defensive and – a little frustratingly - take his girl away from us but, other times, the exact opposite can occur: he can be happy just to hang in the background and keep his eye on us, making sure we know he’s there, watching us watching him! And it is in these situations that momma has the confidence to relax around us, knowing she’s being taken care of. We had one wonderful encounter where escort was hanging low while mom and calf were at our level, circling around and around us and really engaging, getting close enough we had to launch ourselves backwards at times. An added bonus was the CRYSTAL clear water: the whales conveniently positioned themselves right in the mouth of a channel with clear open ocean water pushing through….much appreciated guys!
Photo Credit (Clockwise from Upper Left): Christine, Christine, Jason & Marielena (@Epic7Travel), Christine
Every one of our guests would likely agree that the real highlight moments of the trip were the occasions where we had the opportunity to spend quality time with the gorgeous momma and calf pairings: it’s just impossible not to fall for these duos. The magic of interacting with baby while trusting momma looks on is incomparable. The last two days particularly were phenomenal with multiple long, relaxing encounters. Our unstoppable guests put the effort in (lunch, who needs lunch?! Takeaway pizza to the skiff please!) and reaped the rewards. It may be clichéd but it truly is a once in a lifetime experience sharing the water with our beautiful humpbacks and we hope everyone has a mental photograph that will stay with them forever!
And so, one last time for 2017, we’d like to thank you for joining us here in Tonga. You guys brought fun, energy and the best possible attitude to this whole adventure and we loved sharing it with you! We look forward to setting sail with you all again one day hopefully. But for now, it’s off home to Fiji we go……
“Wow, wow, wow!! You all are so incredibly awesome and I’m so appreciative that you made this dream a reality. The chance to swim with whales in their own environment is something I will forever treasure.” Lynn
“Thank you for the trip of a lifetime….it exceeded expectations. Being able to look a whale in the eye as it glides past you and recognizes you is an indescribable feeling….Hats off to the incredible crew who made the week that much more special.” Marielena and Jason
“Not enough words to describe the amazing experience this trip has been for me….Thank you all for making this a trip of a lifetime.” Oscar
Coming In To Play by Chris
BREACH! by Oscar
Hey Good Lookin' by Christine
Home Sweet Home by Jason & Marielena (@Epic7Travel)
Launch by Scott
Moody Paradise by Chris
Roly Poly by Chris
Tummy Rub by Oscar
“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