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Date: 20 Aug 2012 00:16:29
Title: Swimming with whales - the most amazing day!

We had a boat day on Wednesday but on Thursday we were ready for more Niue amazingness! We woke up and heard on the radio that there were breaching whales in Avasele Bay, a few km's around the corner from the mooring field. We hadn't see any yet so we quickly slipped off our mooring and headed down to Avasele. A rib full of paying passengers on one of the dive boats cruised past us, and when we arrived in the bay, they had found the whales and were following them fairly closely. They seemed to be moving pretty slowly, and then to our amazement we saw everyone on the dive boat get into the water and start swimming next to the whales. Lucky buggers! We were stuck on our yacht and knew that there were strict rules about how close we were allowed to get, but we couldn't remember what the minimum distance was. We stayed well away, admiring the whales from about 500m away. We were itching to get closer but didn't want to get told off by the dive boat, although they were practically on top of the whales! There were 3 humpback whales, and they weren't breaching anymore but there were quite active, coming up for air every couple of minutes (they can hold their breath for half an hour at a time!).

After about 40 minutes the dive boat left, and there was no one else in the whole bay. The whales were pretty close to the coast and not moving quickly, so we decided to hop in the dinghy, and leave Mystic drifting in the bay - there was no wind, no current, so despite what it may sound like, she wasn't going anywhere. We dinghied over and quickly had the whales within 20 metres of the boat. They were so big and yet so graceful in the water. They didn't seem to be at all perturbed by our presence, rather they swam towards the noise of the dinghy engine, so we got into the water. They were not far away at all, about 10 metres, a male and female making hilarious attempts at mating, and their sleeping calf. It was so incredible to be in their presence underwater. They came very close to us, swimming right underneath us and having a good look. We stayed in the water with them for at least half an hour; it was very hard to leave! Eventually Mystic looked like she was getting a little far away so we reluctantly waved goodbye to the whales and headed back to the yacht. We did another fly by in the yacht on our way out of the bay and again they came very close to the boat, at one point coming up for air right on the bow!

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In the afternoon our underwater adventures continued as we went diving with Niue Dive company. We normally just get our tanks filled and dive without a guide but given that the dives are in caves and one of the sites was quite far away so we parted with some cash and got a dive boat to ourselves! We went to Limu twin caves - two caves next to each other with a tunnel linking them, and then to Bubble Cave - we swam under the ground and emerged into a cave where sea snakes nest. There are loads of sea snakes in Niue's waters and they are fun to look at and not dangerous. We only saw one in the cave, but as the swell outside shifted up and down the pressure inside the cave changed constantly and our ears were popping all the time! They were fun dives, and to top it all off, when we were coming up after the first dive, we heard a whale song, getting louder and louder. We couldn't see the whale but the sound was amazing - like a creaking door! As we got back into the boat we spotted the whale about 100m away so we zoomed off to follow it, and then we saw it breach about 8 times! They are such huge creatures it is amazing that they can lift their whole bodies out of the water with just a flick of their tale! It then proceeded to lift it's tale up and smash it down on the water about 20 times, each one creating a massive slap against the water. Our dive guide thought it must be a young one to have so much energy!

One of Niue's harmless sea snakes

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It was such a fantastic day. We had planned to end it with a slap up meal in the posh resort on the island, but the yacht club was hosting a pot luck dinner for all the yachts, so we did that instead. Everyone brings a dish and you all help yourselves. Definitely good for a big free feed!

We departed for Tonga on Friday afternoon. We were very sad to leave Niue, it has been one of our favourite places on our trip. There is so much to do and everyone goes out of their way to help you out. While we were there, a freak accident occured in the mooring field one night, when a whale became entangled with a mooring line. It must have been sleeping and then freaked out big time when it got its fin caught - it dragged the mooring line over the reef, and pulled off the bow roller, front cleats and steel pulpit bars from the front of a yacht similar to ours, and also snapped a halyard that was tied off to the forestay. The poor guys on Knotty Lady have consequently had to face at least a week of boat work to get their boat sailable again, and in Niue there are no marine shops or spare parts. But everyone has been so helpful to them - it seemed the whole island was lending tools and offering their workshops to them. It was such a freak accident - amazing the power and strength the whale must have had to do so much damage. Dennis and Nicky are just grateful that they didn't lose their whole rig as the forestay would have been the next thing to go.



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