Tonga we went on a whale watching trip...but with a difference. We were able to
swim with the whales. The whales come here for the southern winter, between June
and the end of October, to breed and give birth to their calves. In
November they return to Antarctica to eat their fill in the rich waters
there so we were just in time to see them.
taken out in a RIB and we searched far and wide before finding a slightly
And then we
came on a much more sociable female who was doing a number of antics including
fin slapping and she breeched no less than 4 times. To see 40 tonnes of flesh
hurl itself into the air is impressive but the excitement of the moment makes it
difficult to photograph!
There are a
number of theories as to why they breech and fin slap. The most likely
explanation in this case was that there was a male nearby that she was trying to
attract. Another explanation is that it helps to dislodge dead skin and
parasites, and yet another that they just think it is fun.
while she calmed down a bit and allowed us into the water. She was having little
naps head down in the water whilst a nearby male sang to her. On the second
occasion she came to the surface tail first she let her tail rear up high
out of the water about 3 metres from us before swimming off
This was a
totally magical experience that we hope we might repeat one day. It is slightly
controversial to swim with the whales as some people say that it disturbs them
and stops them acting naturally. However, from our limited experience the whales
were aware of our presence and not at all phased by it. If they did not want us
around they simply swam off. It is pretty difficult to track an animal that can
hold its breath for 20 minutes, although our guides had an almost uncanny
ability to find them. There are very strict guidelines that the whale watching
crews have to follow amd they seem to abide by them.
tries to hear the song through the hull of the boat.
here are interesting and different to those further east. Oddly in the places we
have snorkelled so far there are less fish but the range and health of the
corals seems better. I discovered these attractive "dusky anemonefish" defending
the anemones that they live in commensalism with. Commensalism not symbiosis
because although the fish are never found without anemones the anemones do not
need the fish apparently. Another odd fact is that the fish are all males to
start with and a dominant female stops them becoming female... until she
dies and then another male becomes female to take over the role.
other interesting fish, many of which are quite territorial and like to try to
scare you off.
and others just ignore you.
And this is
surrounded by beautiful beaches............
and when its not raining, by