Let The Pun and Games Begin!
WHALEcome to the first humpback whale trip of our 2017 season here in Tonga!!! We (along with our guests!) have been waiting for this moment for over a year and FINally it’s here!! Ahem, enough of the puns already…….Ok, sorry, we’ll stop…..though you can exPECt a few more before the season is out!
We could not have asked for a more wonderful group to share this great adventure with. After 14 long years apart, it was a joy to welcome back Tom and Patrice, who got MARRIED on NAI’A in Fiji the last time they were with us. Also returning home were Ernie and Jamelle, always so easy and relaxing to have onboard. New to NAI’A but becoming family so quickly were: ‘Mama’ Trish and her beautiful family David, Emily and Camellia; Jeff and Christina joining us from Japan; Fred and Jennifer (this was Jen’s first liveaboard and we suspect won’t be her last!); awesome sister team Susan and Carol; Yorkshire duo Paul and Jo; and last but never least NAI’A founding father, Rob Barrel. We realized just what a good gang we had when by day 6 we realized we still had no idea what anyone did for work back home: we were too busy chit chatting about a million other interesting things!
Photo Credits: (Clockwise from Top Left to Center) Paul, Ernie, Tom & Patrice, Ernie, Ernie, Paul, Susan
We were treated to some truly spectacular whale action on this charter: everyone worked hard and put in the effort (humpback whale watching is NOT for the faint hearted!) and was rewarded with special moments that will undoubtedly stick with them forever. We spent many a glorious morning hour up on the sun deck scanning the horizon for surface action. It was fascinating to watch - and attempt to interpret - a whole host of dramatic behaviors: spy hopping, pec slapping, peduncle throws etc. And on more than one occasion we’d be intently watching something on the horizon when, as if from nowhere, we’d suddenly hear a huge blow right beside the boat: rushing to the sides to peer over, there’d be an enormous humpback RIGHT THERE!! They sure can sneak up well for such big creatures….
Photo Credits: (Bottom Left Clockwise to Center) Paul, Paul, Paul, Ernie, Tom & Patrice, Paul, Paul, Susan, Rob
After our fill of surface action, we’d load on up onto the skiffs and head out to get ‘up close and personal’ with a humpback whale (or two, or three, or four!). And by ‘up close’ we mean a matter of mere feet away!! There simply aren’t the words for what we experienced actually IN the water with these beautiful creatures so we’ll leave it to the pictures here to do the talking. Suffice it to say that each and every guest is leaving with their own special memory: whether it be an inquisitive juvenile playing with you for an hour at a time, a mom allowing you to observe her as she trains her young calf, or the adrenalin rush as a huge adult comes past then turns back to check you out and stares you in right in the eye! We are truly the fortunate few to get to experience such magic.
Photo Credit: Paul
There’s so many incredible photos and videos from you all, which sum up perfectly the experiences we’ve shared this charter. But in terms of sheer beauty this one by Paul is in a league of its own. We’ve entitled it ‘Yin Yang’ and the grace of movement it captures is just wonderful. Thank you Paul for sharing!
Photo Credits: (Top Row) Paul, (2nd Row) Carol, Paul, Carol, Paul (3rd Row) Carol, Rob, Carol (4th Row) Paul, Carol, Carol
We were also lucky enough to enjoy some fantastic dives: Tonga offers some really impressive hard coral gardens, often crystal clear visibility and an impressive variety of fish life. Night dives were particularly impressive, offering up stupidly big decorator crabs, giant nudibranchs and species of pipefish our guides had never seen before!
Photo Credits: (Left Column) David & Emily (Center Column) David & Emily, Rob, David & Emily, David & Emily (Right Column) Chad, Tom & Patrice
Being right out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by true paradise islands, we made the most of our down time with glorious beach visits almost every afternoon. Some of our gang had drones with them, the footage of which really shows off the natural beauty of our surroundings. Got to wonder just how few people have walked in these footsteps?!
Photo Credits: Selection from Tom & Patrice, Ernie and Susan
For us, a great charter is made by three things: great experiences (check!), great Fijian crew (check!) and great guests (check!). Such friendly, easygoing characters full of smiles and interesting stories. It was so lovely to see you all bond so quickly and share in this once in a lifetime experience together.
So, our first Tonga trip draws to a close: thank you to all of our guests and crew for making it the trip dreams are made of. We feel so privileged to have shared this with you. We hope five, ten, fifteen or twenty years down the line you’ll look back on this trip fondly and enjoy that special memory you’re each taking home with you.
“A trip we will remember a lifetime….Truly a special boat, a special crew and a remarkable place.” Fred and Jennifer
“From the moment we arrived to the moments before leaving, we felt like a member of the family! Thank you for the trip of a lifetime.” Patrice and Tom
“This trip was the best birthday present ever!! Everything was amazing….all 1st class.” Jo and Paul
Eyeliner by Carol
A Study In Black & White by Paul
Not Gonna Lose Sly by Ernie
Illuminated by Paul
The Movements A Little Wooden by Ernie
Momma's Extended Family by Chad
Does Family Time Get Better by Paul
Peek-A-Mo by Emily
Twos Company by Paul
“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