Words and photos don’t do justice to the magic we experienced on this last charter. We met the friendliest whale ever known to humankind, watched three proud mommas present their young calves to us and shared a beautiful love dance between two young adults….
We began the trip with glorious weather: blue skies, sunshine and super calm seas. An absolute dream! Straight after breakfast we were already spotting whales, so we took advantage of the great conditions and got straight out on the skiffs. We worked hard – chasing many a disappearing whale tail – but eventually we were rewarded with some lovely first ever humpback encounters. We had a playful juvenile check us out for a good few minutes: we thought at first it was just going to be a fleeting fly-by and so were very excited when he passed on by then turned right around and came back to us! It’s so incredible to think they are as interested in us as we are in them. We then came across a true fly by: it was fast but adrenalin-pumping as three huge adults cruised below us over bright white sand. I think we all began to get a grasp on their true size after that!
Photo credits (Clockwise from top left): Rob, Rob, Mike, Mike
The next day, we had a very slow morning but not for lack of trying! We spent hours out on the skiff, following several hopeful looking pods, but they turned out to be most uncooperative: consistently ghosting us the second we dived in the water. We’re sure they do it on purpose sometimes and it’s quite humbling to feel mocked by a whale! However, our guests were super persistent and definitely racked up some ‘good karma points’ for effort. Well, they sure cashed in those points that afternoon! Straight after lunch we came across a group of ‘rowdies’: six or seven big adults showing signs of aggression and tussling pretty hard in the water. It was great fun following them from the big boat as they crashed around, throwing pecs and peduncles left, right and center! The loud, heavy grunts gave a good indication of how hard these big, beautiful beasts were working. It was exhausting to watch even! Eventually, the whales began to tire and slow down, breaking off in to smaller pods. We saw our chance and took it, quickly getting out on the skiffs. And, WOW, what an afternoon we had! We spent a good two hours in-water with the world’s FRIENDLIEST EVER whale. Obviously, we can’t actually prove this bold statement but we’re pretty confident it’s true…
Photo credits (Clockwise from top left): Mike, Mike, Rob, Mike
We were all so extremely satisfied with this once in a lifetime encounter that we weren’t too disappointed the following day when some nasty weather came in and we had very limited whale encounters. We got out on deck in the wind and rain and tried our best but the rewards were limited. Although those who were brave/daft enough to stay out there all morning DID get treated to an enormous double breach right by the bow! As the rain passed over mid-afternoon we decided to call it quits with the whales for that day and instead went in to the beach at Uoleva for a lovely walk and game of frisbee. After dinner, we had a few guests venture out for a night dive and they came back reporting hearing wonderful whale song.
We were so delighted the next day when all our guests had the joy of encountering their first mom and calf duo: it really is special to feel trusted by momma and allowed to share in the joy of her little one. In fact, at one stage, we feel like mom almost presented her baby to us – balancing little one on her nose and lifting him up towards us - and showing him off with immense pride. We came across a second duo and had great fun watching the baby’s curiosity get the better of him! Early on in the encounter, he had next to no awareness of us. Slowly, slowly, though, we could see him start to become aware of our presence: he began to swim a little closer and take a little peek at these weird things bobbing around on the surface. Eventually, he just couldn’t resist and came swimming RIGHT up to us. At this stage, however, momma was not amused and swiftly moved in and whisked him away! Sorry for getting you into trouble little one!
Photo credits (clockwise from top left): Chad, Rob, Steve, Mike
One great experience followed another. In fact, the following day was probably one of OUR favorites EVER. Late morning, we came across a pair of large-ish whales that showed a definite interest in the big boat: staying close and passing underneath repeatedly. We saw our chance and got wet-suited up immediately. After spending a bit of time with these beauties, it became apparent what we were watching: a male and a female in the midst of a graceful courting ritual! All in all, we ended up in water with this couple for over two hours as they danced just below and alongside us. It was truly one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever seen. They were both so gentle and so tactile: rubbing softly against one another, slowly twisting and turning in an ‘elegant entanglement’. And they didn’t mind our presence at all: in fact, it felt like they welcomed it. Numerous times, they both spy-hopped right alongside the skiff, as if to make sure we were still there. And time and time again, they would swim up close to those in the water and make the most direct, intense eye contact. We couldn’t look away! What an absolute privilege to share the water with these creatures.
We then enjoyed another gorgeous mom and calf day: two full 90-minute sessions, one morning and one afternoon. Momma was so peaceful, and just allowed us to hang still and enjoy her baby: we barely moved for the entire time! It was such a joy and privilege. It worked out so well we even managed to get a couple of our crew in the water for the first time ever with humpbacks: we loved seeing their even bigger than usual smiles when they got back!
Photo credits (left, top right, bottom right): Rob, Steve, Chad
In the last couple of days, we were super happy to check the only box left empty: a massive breaching fest! We spent well over an hour following a pair of unstoppable breachers, one with a white belly and one with a black. It definitely seemed like a competition as each one went harder and higher than the next until they slowly reached the point of exhaustion and eventually went their separate ways!
This was truly an exceptional trip in so many ways. There are so many special memories that will only ever be shared by those of us who spent these days together onboard! Thank you to all of you from the bottom of our hearts.
"Unforgettable, outstanding, unique in the world... you can be very prod of yourselves for what you offer people!" The Tresemer family of Costa Rica
"We have been fortunate enough to have had amazing wildlife encounters both on land and at sea. Nothing compares to this experience on NAI'A. Top it all off with an amazing crew!" Eric & Brandee
"It was really a nice trip and an extraordinary experience!" Guy & Danielle
“We loved every minute of our time with you in Tonga! It could not have been any better. Each and every member of the NAI’A team was outstanding and each of you made our whale expedition unforgettable. The whales, the hospitality, the guides, the skiff driving, the dinners and the singing and kava… Everything was wonderful. It was the best honeymoon ever!”
~ Buzz & Ellie