The 2018 Humpback whale season is about to kick off and as we get closer to seeing these majestic gentle giants, I can’t help but think of some of the truly amazing encounters we had last season. After 17 years taking people to swim with whales, I am still pleasantly surprised by the multitude of different behaviours I observe that have rarely been seen before. Last year we had baby whales licking their lips with their big frilly tongues, adult interactive whales that would spy-hop inches in front of us, false killer whales trailing the boat, pilot whale pods extending for kilometers across the ocean. So much to see in a season.
But I think the highlight would have been the 15 plus Humpback whales pursuing each other in what is called a ‘heat run’. The heat run is the ultimate wildlife encounter, multiple whales competing for a female which can last for hours or even days. Males show a multitude of behaviours while in a heat run: bubble netting, open mouth gulping, physical contact, loud acoustic sounds, it is truly one of nature’s great events. After 17 years I have documented some of the most common and unusual behaviour seen by Humpbacks in the region, but it is truly heart-thumping and adrenaline-pumping action to be a part of.
Check out the footage capturing this amazing behaviour above and below the surface:
So, I had the privilege of hosting the 2017 Rolex scholar Melinda Brown for a Month in Tonga. as part of her year long program she joined us for a month to work with me on the Tongan Fluke Collective, some coral gardening projects and plastic pollution education, oh and of course she came to swim with the whales. the time went fast but we did so much and I am glad she had the opportunity to join us on location.
Check out her blog on the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society, here’s a short snippet from the introduction: “A column of mist pierces the horizon, followed by a deep unearthly ‘fwisssssh’, as if the ocean itself has come up for air. A large dark shape slides through the ocean. Its body slicing through the waves. It lifts its tail out of the water. This creature that we call whale has incredible origins. It has an incredible evolutionary path it has taken. The journey to become a whale was long and complex. To understand why cetaceans fascinate me so much, I need to tell you their evolutionary tale first.”
Rolex scholar Melanie Brown editing photos for the Tongan Fluke Collective
Humpback whales and Orcas have been sighted in large numbers feeding on herring. Scott Portelli and Waterproof Expeditions offers great opportunities for Whale Watching, photography and snorkeling in the crystal clear Arctic waters, which is an experience in itself!
This trip is for anyone interested in Orcas, Humpback whales, white tailed Eagles, Arctic winter, Northern lights, Moose and spectacular landscape. The best time of the year for this phenomena is November through the end of February when the balance between light and access to herring and whales is at its best. The winter days in Norway provide excellent light for photography. We will spend the daylight hours looking for whales and other wildlife and, if the opportunity occurs, snorkel in the crystal clear waters.
With the newly rebuilt live aboard yacht MV ‘Malmö’, we are flexible to follow the herring and the Orcas deep in the fjords and deliver great chances of success.
During the darker hours you will enjoy the warm and cozy comfort of the expedition yacht while our expert guides entertain you with presentations and educational information on wildlife and cinematography. Excellent food is served with a fine selection of wines and beers.
Arrival at Evenes or Tromso airport and transfer to the harbor to board the MV Malmö in the afternoon.
Day 2 – 6
We follow the schools of herring and pods of Orcas in the protected surroundings of the beautiful Norwegian fjords. Prepare for cold but rewarding days out at sea with spectacular sightings of an unique display of nature. Have your cameras charged and whenever possible be ready to slip into the cold water for a Polar Snorkel adventure or enjoy the phenomena from the spacious deck on board the comfortable expedition yacht, MV Malmö.
Disembarkation and transfer to the airport.
A comfortable expedition vessel, recently refurbished and a piece of maritime history, with large wooden deck space and ‘al fresco’ dining area. With 2 large zodiacs and experienced expedition team, the ship provides the ideal platform for small groups, families, friends and incentives looking for the ultimate Arctic wildlife experience in the utmost comfort.
The vessel carries a maximum of 15 guests in 7 outside twin cabins.
4x Twin cabins with bunk beds and private shower and toilet in the cabin
2x Twin cabins with bunk beds and shared facilities and washbasin in the cabin
1x Triple cabin with bunk beds and private shower and toilet in the cabin
All cabins are serviced daily and a laundry service is available.
International cuisine is served in the cozy lounge with bar and direct access to the ‘al- fresco’ dining area outside.
The bar is stocked with alcoholic beverages and sodas and of course we take care of your special wine request.
A separate Saloon with lots of books and tv screen is a great room for relaxing moments after an exciting day full of adventures.
Dates & Rates
Start and finish in Tromso:
14 – 20 November 2017 – limited availability
21 – 27 November 2017 – limited availability
7th – 13th January 2018 – limited availability
Twin Private Cabin € 3.385 per person
Twin Shared Cabin € 3.295 per person
Triple Private Cabin € 3.185 per person
I have been visiting Tonga for 13 years and spent many hours on the water photographing Humpback whales and I can tell you, every time I get in the water with these magnificent creatures, I am just as excited as the first time. Tonga has so much to offer, picturesque landscapes and underwater environments makes this place paradise for Photographers, and don’t forget the added bonus that you can swim with whales. It really is still paradise. Every year I see something different or have one of those unforgettable encounters. This year I had a baby whale shoot up from the depths and breach half a meter in front of me, exhilarating to say the least. This year Travel & Fashion Blogger, Laura McWhinnie from This Island life did an interview piece about her time in Tonga with us, check out the article here:
This year we started the Tongan Fluke Collective, which encourages visiting photographers to donate Fluke shots to help ID the different individual whales that come to Tonga each year. You can find out more about the program here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tonganflukecollective/ – Anyway we will be running a number of Photographic tours in the next year or so to various destinations, so stay tuned.