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Where the whales roam

There is a certain magic about swimming with a humpback whale.

The sun had finally come out and even though the wind blew creating an icy temperature the warmth of it on my face and the glittering diamonds it created on the ocean’s surface added to the excitement we had been living in for the past six days. The southern group of islands in Tonga and its humpback whales had charmed us with their appearance, their swimming, breathing, playing and their mere presence. Villi slipped easily off the back of our boat, the Maris King as she lolled gently in the rolling swell. Pila, our skipper slowly eased the nose of the split hulled vessel into the direction of the waves to ease the rocking intently watching as Villi cut through the water with his long black fins. As the guide on board the boat Villi was searching for and locating the singing whale after we had watched him dive to the ocean floor below. The four of us, initially strangers and now firm friends, sat ready on board adjusting masks, snorkels, fins, cameras smiling and joking constantly as it had been over the past 6 days. A flock of sea birds flew past us, easily gliding and swooping over the surface of the ocean looking for food on their way towards a sheltered nest. A large blue catamaran sailed towards a protected bay near the remote Blue Lagoon Resort with its themed falls, white sandy beaches and aqua blue waters. Our final day of swimming with these majestic creatures and the sun was shining, the sea breezes blowing and the whales were had come out to play breaching, splashing, diving, tail slapping and beckoning us to swim with them.

The day was rapidly ending and with our final swim looming we had come across a large singing male whale busily serenading his female companion at the sandy bottom of the ocean. The sound was magical and loud as we listened to it through the hull of the boat. Adult whales tend to only have to breathe every twenty minutes and we had timed this lovely couple as coming up for air every 15 minutes and now we were just waiting to swim with them if we they were settled enough to welcome our company. Villi’s hand shot up. This was our signal that he had located the whales and we were too quietly slip off the back of the boat and make away towards him.

‘Go!’

Pila’s command was loud, simple and direct. He was a man of little words, small in statue and bronzed and wrinkled by the sun but with bright blue friendly eyes and always had a cigarette in hand. Out on the ocean he worked his magic in maneuvering the Maris King around the waters of Vava’u.

‘The whale is singing’ he smiled.

The water was clear and visibility was good with the sandy ocean bottom below and the sun above us. The distinct noises of the signing whale instantly surrounded us its loud and melodic tune vibrations throughout your entire body. It was magical! The two whales were below us nose to nose on the ocean floor seemingly oblivious to the world outside of each other. As we sat there waiting for them to surface, we floated easily in the clear, blue waters marveling at the sounds and the creatures below. It was peaceful, calm, serene and an eternal moment.

Then all too soon there was the seemingly slow movement as the whales started to surface and as they were settled, it was slow, steady and flowing as they rose to the surface their eyes training on us gently and the singing unwavering as he turned all his attention on charming her. The surfaced and then dived again three times as the signing continued and time stopped as we floated studying them, enjoying the music and embracing how incredibly lucky we were to be in the company with creatures so beautiful.

All too soon it was over and the whales moved on taking their love, their beauty and their singing with them. After they left, the five of us floated in the water, smiling and laughing and enjoy the freshness and freeness of our unforgettable experience.


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When not working on international adventure trips as a guide and medic, Rachel spends her time surfing, trail running, learning spanish, indulging in her passions for photography and writing and planning her next expeditions. Life is all about every beautiful sunrise and sunset!



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