Seacology Tonga 2011
Joining us for our second Whale Swim expedition in Tonga 2011 were Seacology, a nonprofit environmental organization with the sole purpose of preserving the highly endangered biodiversity of islands throughout the world. Seacology's aim is to ask villagers what they need in exchange for an environmental reserve on land or at sea. They offer villagers a win/win situation. Duane & the Silverstein's - made up of donors, friends & journalists, had made the trip to Tonga for a site visit. The village of Felamae on Uiha in the Ha'apai Group had been working with Tongan Fisheries & Seacology to set up a vast marine protected area in exchange for a new community centre. It being a very remote & traditional village, the community centre plays a vital role in village life. From celebrations, funerals, meetings & any social aspect of village life the community hall is valued in this part of the word.
please follow the link to Seacologies trip report.. & video highlights
Calm seas and curious whales. A perfect day!!! - taken by Bob
It got better & better. An epic heat run that included some spy hopping - captured by Bob
Heading for the village - taken by Bob
The village boxing team line up for inspection - taken by Bob
The community centre is open and the party begins - taken by Bob
The balloon dance extravaganza - taken by Bob
Tongan Tina is ready for Duane - taken by Bob
Family fun - taken by Bob
Another epic breaching display - captured by Bob
Pilot Whales joined Humpbacks to end an incredible day!!! - captured by Bob
All together now - taken by Bob
The last Whale of the trip & Bob got it. He breached all the way to our anchorage - Incredible
Pilot Whales turn up for a swim encounter - taken by Bob
The opening of the community hall - taken by Doug
'Do my ears look big in this?.' - taken by Doug
Happy Whale swimmers - taken by Doug
Duane mising the action. - taken by Doug
Brigitte look at the camera!!! - taken by Doug
Mum & calf relaxed in our presence - taken by Doug
Great shot taken by Eddie in the skiff
R u looking at me? - taken by Eddie
Spy Hopping - taken by Eddie
Another Spy Hop - taken by Eddie
Eddie gets up close
It's next to the skiff - taken by Eddie
Dolphins, Pilot & Humpbacks all together - taken by Eddie
One of the many stunning Islands that make up the Ha'api group - taken by Mary
Semi breach - captured by Mary
Lots of action with glorious weather - taken by Mary
Island times - taken by Mary
Baby breaching with mother close by - taken by Mary
All the kids joined in the community hall opening celebrations - taken by Mary
Great day topped off with Pilot Whales joining two Humpbacks - taken by Mary
Bobs typically dedicated pose, why he got so many great shots!!
Eddie captures another great shot from the bow!! - taken by Mary
Epic topside encounter on a glassy day - taken by Mary
Luckily for them there was also the chance to swim with Humpbacks & use Nai'a as an expedition vessel to access the remote Island. A fantastic group of nature lovers & world travellers were not disappointed. The best Whales, weather, topside & in water encounters were had during this trip - it truly was what dreams are made of. From the first till the last day the Whales cooperated, playing from dawn to dusk.
On the very first afternoon a majestic heat run totaling six large males competing for a lone female sent shivers down our spines. We were following the heat run in the skiff, clearly not intruding as the adult whales bumped, barged & snorted for over 30 mins within meters of our skiff - a truly Nat Geo experience happening in front of our very eyes & a memory i will never forget.
We spent one day during the trip on land and at Felamea. The village hosted the Seacology group for the grand opening of the village hall. A sumptuous feast was prepared & with great enthusiasm the villagers provided the entertainment. Tongan Tina, the large lady in the boxing gloves was clearly the highlight of the day - see photo gallery.
The weather Gods, nature, crew & guests all played their part in making this a trip of a lifetime for all those involved!!!!
“NAI’A made a believer out of me! Fiji has been grossly underrated by both divers and scientists. Incredible fishes here and definitely worthy of protection.”
~ Dr. Gerry Allen, Ichthyologist & Author, Conservation International