tonga

Swimming with Gentle Giants appearing at the 2020 Ocean Film Festival

I’m excited to announce that my film Swimming with Gentle Giants will be featured as part of the 2020 Ocean Film Festival!

Produced and directed by Stefan Andrews from Ocean Imaging, Swimming with Gentle Giants explores my close connection to humpback whales and showcases some of the unique behaviours I’ve experienced while swimming with them in the pristine waters of Tonga.

Australian & New Zealand ocean lovers will be able to immerse themselves in the wonders of the ocean without getting their feet wet this coming February to April as the Ocean Film Festival World Tour makes a splash in cinemas across both countries. The festival, which features a carefully curated selection of the world’s most captivating ocean-themed will light up silver screens in 35 towns and cities. 

Tickets and screening times are available here

 

A big shout out to my amazing skipper Sione Fifita, expert local guide Vili Takau and Whales in the Wild who have supported and guided my adventures in Tonga for many years and who have helped make this film possible.

humpback whale mother and calf photographed on tour with scott portelli in

Another year with the lovely Bucketlist Family

One of my favourite times of year in Tonga is when Garrett and his family turn up for their annual pilgrimage to swim with the whales. I love the enthusiasm and connection they have with the whales. Their bucketlist journey takes them all around the world. Their latest v-blog really captures the essence of their last trip here with us in Tonga. Can’t wait to see you guys again next season. I love this video!!

heat run humpback whales tonga

Whales, whales and more whales

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:

rolex scholar melanie brown working on the Tongan fluke collective

A Mel O Drama

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

Rolex scholar Melanie Brown editing photos for the Tongan Fluke Collective

 

 

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