Ever since I can remember I have always dreamt of being in the water with whales! Any whale, or dolphin for that matter i wasn’t fussy just so long as I could swim with them and share their underwater world.
From the moment my small plane flew over the top of the Ha’apai group of islands I knew that I’d be back here many many more times, and I hadn’t even reached the good bit of meeting the whales yet. I had seen many whales from above the water but to be in the same environment with them in the ocean was i finally about to live my dream?
No one EVER forgets their first encounter, mine was with a resting female. As a group of four people we all slid quietly into the water, the water in Tonga is tropical warm and is so crystal clear you immediately see the sandy bottom 30m below. The whale is approx 30m from the boat so we very quietly snorkel towards her. You can almost hear everyone’s hearts beating with anticipation, the feelings are a mixture of excitement and anxiety as no one knows quite what to expect.
All of a sudden an image that looks to me like a jumbo jet living still under the water appears into our vision. As we near her we all let out squeals of excitement it is such a surreal and overwhelming experience. We are now approx 8 or 9 meters from this plane in the ocean we can clearly see her smooth leathery skin and the barnacle nodules that cover parts of her body. There are also some large remora fish hovering underneath her 5 m pectoral fin, her soulful eye which I can see is filled with wisdom and knowledge. She looks at all of us individually we seem to be as intriguing to her as she is to us!
Suddenly there is a second eye peering over the top of her as unbeknownst to us a calf that has been suckling underneath her has decided to make itself known. The humpback calves are the most curious of all the baleen whales. This beautiful little one must’ve been less than a month old and still the size of a small car! So young and yet so boisterous, the calf swims straight to us, no fear whatsoever. He Swims circles around us diving up and down underneath and around us. His mother calmly keeps a watchful eye but seems nonplussed and definitely not threatened in anyway.
The calf thinks of us as a new game, hide and seek with the humans. Sometimes he dives the 30m down underneath his mother and then pops up on the other side of her to take a peek, other times he swims right up to us stopping short to lie on his side showing off as he does his pec slaps his mother has no doubt been teaching him in the past few days.
We enjoy this moment for what feels like hours but is probably only 30mins or so before we decide to let them be and continue with their nursing. The whales will be here for around another 40-50 days courting, mating, giving birth and teaching their young. We are lucky enough to have 3 amazing whale swimming experiences on that first day and I will never forget a moment of it.
I would love for everyone to experience what i have which is a moving soulful experience that will last in your memory forever.
Live your dreams what ever they may be