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RTW 08/09

Humpback Whale of a time in the Kingdom of Tonga

TONGA | Tuesday, 30 September 2008 | Views [1028] | Comments [4]

Howdy, I'm back.

Have been so chilled out the past week I haven't had the motivation to write anything on here. Have spent the last week in the Kingdom of Tonga on the Vava'u group of Islands, a one hour flight north of the main Island, Tongatapu.

The reason for coming here was to swim with the Humpback Whales who migrate from the Antarctic every year to the warmer waters to give birth. Tonga is now regarded as the top destination in the world to see Humpback Whales with the added bonus as one of only 3 places that you are allowed to swim with them (don't ask me the other 2).

My first encounter with the Humpbacks was last Wednesday morning when we had to wait for about an hour before another boat moved away from where the Whales were hanging out. They are very strict here about only having one Whale swim boat at a time interacting with the Whales and only four people are allowed in the water at a time. By the time it came to our turn the Whales had had enough and where on the move. I got into the water only to see a mother and baby swim past and managed to get a couple of crappy pics.

I decided I would go out again last Sunday. We spent the first hour finding a whale and came across a baby humpback. The babies cant hold there breath as long as the adults and usually give away the locations of the whales easily. We approached the baby and turned off the boat engines. Our skipper was very knowledgeable and informed us that the mother would be lying below the surface while the baby played above. We waited for a while and sure enough the mother surfaced with another adult humpback which was her escort. After sussing out if the whales were comfortable with our presence we got on our snorkel gear and 4 of us and our guide swam out towards the Whales.

I cant put into words the feeling when you get the first view of these amazing animals in the water. The mother was approx 50 feet long and the skipper reckoned that the baby was about 15 feet long and 7-8 weeks old.

We spent about a minute with the whales, before the mother decided to move away. Got back on the boat and waited until the mother relaxed again and the second group got into the water. The baby got very playful with the swimmers and they got about 10minutes in the water with the Whales.

On my second swim the male escort with the mother was visible and swam just behind the mother. The baby whale was very curious and came very close to us a couple of times to get a better look. We spent about 10 minutes in the water with the Whales this time before heading back to the boat and having our lunch.

Apart from swimming with the Whales the past week has been all about relaxing. Every Friday there is a boat race in the bay and people who want to take part meet at the yacht club and tourists come along to volunteer to be crew on the boat for an hour during the race. It's more a fun race than anything else and is usually the starting point of a very long night on the town. The boat that I got to crew on came 9th out of 10 boats but we still got free beers for taking part.

I thought 10days in Tonga may have been too long but I'm going to be a bit sad flying back to Tongatapu tomorrow. I have met some really great people here and had the best snorkel of my life.





great to hear you are having such a wonderful time.. the photos are great and congrats on the marathon...

  Anne Marie Oct 5, 2008 6:45 PM


Hola Paul,
It looks like you're having a very interesting journey and you are choosing well the places where you're going.
I think it is coming a little bit late the picture I'm sending you but we wanted to encourage you in your races .. I am not sure if I can upload a picture here. If I can't I'll send it to you by email.

Have a wonderful time

Hasta la vista


  Lothar Oct 7, 2008 12:15 AM


fantastic photos of the whales. Watch out for the mojitos in South America.

  Arthur, Clodagh & Oran Oct 7, 2008 9:55 PM


Had the best time with you in Tonga Paul! and thanks for the beer! ha ha, love tuesday BBQs!

  Sarah Goodall Oct 30, 2008 1:12 AM



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