Every year , from June to October, the humpback whales migrate from Antarctica to the warmer waters of the Pacific to have their calves and to mate. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to swim or snorkel with whales. We did not want to miss this opportunity. Although the end of July is still early in the season, we really hoped to have this unique experience. We checked the weather and saw that monday July 24th would be a good day, not a lot of wind, calm seas and sun. We decided to go with Vava’u whale watch at Mounu resort together with our fellow cruisers from SY North (Milike and Nejat). We made reservations for dinner on sunday evening at the resort as I had read that the food was excellent there. And it was!
It was hard to get up the next morning at 6.30AM, but the anticipation of swimming with whales made it easier. No whale watch company will guarantee that you will swim with whales as it really depends if they can find a whale that will let you come close. There are many companies “fighting” for a whale. We were lucky to be out there very early and till about 10am did not see another whale watching boat. After about 45min motoring we encountered a mother whale with a calf. Yeah!! Before we could jump in the water Kirsten and Amber had to evaluate if this whale was going to stick around and let us swim with her and her calf. 45 minutes it was clear this would not be the case. This early in the season mothers are hesitant and nervous because their calfs are still little. For this reason it is better to do this end of August and early september when the calfs are already bigger and the mothers are more confident. A baby whale weighs about 1ton when it is born and is between 3 and 5m long. It drinks approximately 500 liters of mothermilk per day ! The milk consists of 60% fat so they can grow quickly ready to swim to Antartica in October.
Here are videos taken by Mileke and Stefan. We found a whale pod with 1 female and 5 males. They gradually got used to us, and the swimming experience was fantastic, judge for yourselves:
We left Niue on friday July 14th (Bastille day) late in the afternoon to the tunes of great French music. We crossed the international date line and lost the 15th completely in a flash and arrived early monday morning the 17th in Neiafu, the Vavau group of Tonga.
After a visit from the health inspector, customs and immigration officials at the dock and paying our duties we were cleared in and free to take a mooring in Neiafu harbour.
The kingdom of Tonga is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy and the only Pacific nation never brought under foreign rule. It is the first country west of the International Dateline and they call themselves “the place where time begins”. They are a very Christian nation.
The next day we motorsailed to the Coral garden anchorage and snorkeled…
Stay tuned for our next blog post where we talk about our incredible whale encounter !