Living out my Dream in Tonga

Swimming with whales has always been a dream of mine, and the experience didn’t disappoint, in fact it had such an affect on me, I draw on it all the time. I will never forget my extraordinary encounter with the majestic giants of the sea.
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My experience began with learning about the whales and the area in which they lived at this time of the year, also why exactly they were here.

In the beautiful untouched islands of Vava’u, Tonga each year between July – October the largest population of humpback whales make it their home while they calve and breed.

We dropped a hydrophone into the water to hear their songs, I immediately got goosebumps. The whales singing is nothing short of amazing and haunting. You can hear them singing throughout the whale nursery.  The gentle female giants of the sea give birth in the tropical waters of Vava’u to ensure the safety of their new born calves.

After cruising around in the boat for a while looking for the gentle giants, we finally spotted one! I was so excited and nervous, I was about to jump into the deep dark ocean with these monstrous creatures, I had no idea what to expect. I swam like crazy to reach what I thought was one whale, then all of a sudden I was a couple of meters away, and there was not only one, but two! A mother and her beautiful calf. She glided effortlessly and proud with her baby who was very inquisitive. The calf stayed close to it’s mother, occasionally coming up to me, no doubt wondering exactly what I was.  Big Mumma kept a  beautiful black eye on her pride and joy. I couldn’t believe how trusting they were. We played together for about 30 minutes.

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I didn’t feel any fear, just excitement and admiration of these amazing creatures in their natural environment.  I remember at one point swimming down with them, not wanting them to leave me, or lose sight of them, I was under their spell. I caught myself breathless deep under the water. Once I realized I maniacally kicked my legs struggling to the surface for a breath of air. I was so enchanted by them I almost drowned! image

imageWitnessing the bond between mother and calf bought tears to my eyes and an overwhelming admiration for the graceful creatures. I eventually made my way back to the boat and was completely speechless, I simply shook my head saying “Wow, incredible, I want to go back in…when can I go back in?”

I did my swim with WhaleSwim ADVENTURES Tonga, South Pacific. Their eco-tours take place only in certain areas of their oceans (away from commercial tourism), where these encounters are guided by trained and experienced naturalists insuring that they have the least impact on these intelligent mammals as possible and that the whales are honored and respected always and not harassed or invaded in any way.

The Kingdom of Tonga lies due north east of New Zealand, just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Tonga is spread across 362,000sq km and consists of 171 remarkably diverse islands, which all told, occupy only 688sq km of dry land. Despite the country’s far flung nature, the Tongan people, who inhabit only a few of their islands – less than 40 – are a homogenous group and speak a uniform language, with only minor local variations. Nearly all Tongan’s speak some English as a second language and visitors will not need a working knowledge of Tongan to communicate with the islanders. The country consists of four main island groups: Tongatapu, Ha’apai, Vava’u and the Niuas.

I urge anyone who has a love of the ocean and it’s creatures to experience this humbling, once in a lifetime encounter. Tonga has so much to offer as a holiday destination also. I for one will be going back, once is simply not enough.

Happy Travels

Laura xx