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Humpback whales – Vava'u Tonga

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Humpback whales are found in every ocean in the world. Each year, Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whales leave their feeding grounds in Antarctica and swim to the tropical waters of Tonga to mate and give birth.

Tonga whale season runs between the months of June and October with August and September being some of the best months.

Swimming with the whales – A childhood dream.

Early in the morning we started our expedition to find the humpback whales. Tonga is one of the very few places in the world where you are allowed in the water with these mild-natured animals. The whale guide "Ash" explained us in detail how to follow the rules interacting with these giants. He could tell us a lot about the whales behavior and was very happy to answer all our questions towards this experience. My stomach gave me a feeling of excitement and nervousness at the same time, my childhood dream was about to come true.

A few hours passed and till that time, we didn't spot anything, not even a single blow. It was raining heavily, which made it harder to see and due to the open deck we started to feel cold. The first wave of excitement was clearly gone, when suddenly one humpback whale breached next to our small boat."Let's glide into the water!" said the whale guide. What an incredible feeling to see them from such close distance. I was really looking forward to be in the water with them. But after this impressive breach, I was a little bit concerned to get in...Will they be gentle? Will it be magical or scary?

It was magical – The gentle giants.

Quickly I realized that these dinosaur looking animals are called "gentle giants" for a reason. They move so majestic in the water and very cautiously around us humans.

We spend several days on the expedition boat to increase our chances for further encounters. Only the first day we had rain, the next days Vava'u showed itself from the best side. Sunshine, less wind and many interacting whales. We saw a few escorts, a singer and baby calfs protected by their mums.

The encounter with one humpback calf was truly extraordinary. We spend 20 minutes in the water with a very interested calf, before its mother emerged from the deep. She took a few breaths, then she submerged into the blue again, allowing us to play and dance with her calf a little longer.

Dancing with the whales – White Belly.

Apparently if you are wearing a white shirt and get an interested calf, you can dance with them. The baby whale seemed to be very interested in "Eleesa", one of the guests. "Ash" the whale guide explained us that she looks like another baby calf with its white belly so if we are lucky the whale will imitate your behavior. She started doing loops and flips underwater, and so did the baby calf. It was such a great interaction, we will never forget!

The singing whale and his complex song.

Being a passionated free diver, the underwater caves (mariners cave and swallows cave) were another highlight of our trip. Last but not least, we finally had a "singer". I couldn't stop smiling, once I heard the beautiful vocals of a humpback male. As deeper I dove down, as louder the singing got. I could feel a slight vibration throughout my body. Quickly I took another breath at the surface to go back underwater where the song was most beautifully. Humpback whale males produce a complex song lasting 10 to 20 minutes, which they repeat for hours at a time. All the males in a group will produce the same song which is different each season.

Humpback whales – Did you know that:

-Humpback whales typically migrate up to 25,000 km (16,000 mi) each year.

-Females are slightly larger 15–16 m (49–52 ft) than fully grown males with an average lengths of 13–14 m (43–46 ft).

-Humpback whales are identified by the underside and trailing edge of their tail flukes; each one is different just like a fingerprint.

!!! Check this out !!!

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