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!!
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.”
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/
If you want to see some of the Video footage you can see this season’s wrap up here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcreHs7qcq0