Whale Videos - Vava'u, Tonga

Thursday, August 29, 2013

These are a few underwater video delights which we took while in Tonga. It's a mixture of swimming with the whales, the audio track of a 'male's whale song' and finally some neat footage of the caves we visited. Enjoy!
This is a video of our swim with a mother, calf and chaperone. It's difficult to get a sense of their sizes but they were huge - at least up to 15m in length. The calf was trying to feed several times near the end of the video.
This calf was so inquisitive - amazing!
This is the audio that I recorded from a male whale which was 15 meters below me. The sound was so strong I could feel it vibrating through my body

These are two videos of my swim in Swallow's Cave - a beautiful place in Vava'u which if you time the afternoon lighting correctly is magnificent!

A 'Whale' of a Time in Tonga!

After another tiring 6 day/night passage from Suwarrow in the Cook Islands, we entered Neiafu Harbour in Tonga after sunset. Thankfully our friends on Chilli Cat and Maloo were on hand to guide us through the narrow channel. After securing a mooring and catching up over a bottle of wine and a few beers we were ready for a full night’s sleep.

The Vavau Group of islands in northern Tonga has built itself a reputation of being one of the premier cruising grounds in the world. With sheltered waters, over 90 anchorages as well as being a breeding ground for humpback whales, we were excited to get out of town and explore!

During the months between June and November hundreds of humpback whales migrate from the cold waters in the Antarctic to breed and calf in the Tongan waters and Vavau is one of only a handful of places in the world where you can get in the water and swim face to face with these giant mammals and we weren't about to miss out. As Sunday is a strictly observed day of Sabbath, tours are not allowed to operate so we decided to make the most of the tourist free waters by taking Lazy Bones out and trying our luck with the whales - and what luck we had! After 45 minutes of cruising along, we spotted a mother, her calf and a large chaperone in the calm waters off one of the islands. Not wasting a minute, Megan suited up and jumped in the dinghy and headed out to see if they would be relaxed enough to let her swim with them... they were!

This calf was so gentle and inquisitive! He/she was about 3 meters long.

The calf was continually diving down and feeding from the mother

We spent all morning with these amazing animals. It was truly the most incredible experiences of the trip so far.

Our friends from Chilli Cat joined us as well.

This is a picture Chilli Cat took from their boat - look how close they come to the boats!
Mike was unable to swim with us due to his perforated eardrum so he was our whale spotter and boat support! 
He did get some amazing pictures from above the water!

Other than swimming with whales, there are loads of interesting snorkeling opportunities in Vavau, including Swallows and Mariner’s cave. In waters too deep to anchor in, Mike waited on the boat while Megan jumped out and explored on her own.
Timing is important to enjoy the caves properly. Luckily all of the tour groups had left and the afternoon sun provided beautiful lighting for the thousands of small fish.

Just as stunning, Mariner’s Cave can only be accessed by diving down and through a large opening. Having Charles and Luca from Chilli Cat on hand, provided some great picture opportunities!

Beautiful, uninhabited islands. We anchored here for a night.
We also spent several days anchored off the small island of Lape, which is home to a village of only 26 people. In an effort to raise money for community projects, the villagers host a Tongan feast every second weekend for all of the yachties in the anchorage.

We were warmly greeted on the wharf with fresh flower leis and the hearty Tongan smile of Coolio – our host for the evening. We spent an hour walking around the island while Coolio gave us explanations of how they live day to day. We met several children, saw the school and the simple methodist church and finished with a coconut husking demonstration. All while dinner was being roasted on an open fire. In addition to the suckling pig, there were numerous local fish dishes and a variety of salads. Plenty of food for all 30 of us!

After waiting in the outer islands for a weather window, we set sail for Savusavu in Fiji, which is approximately 400nm. This was THE best passage we've ever made. Consistent winds of 15-20 knots, calm seas and a lot of bites on the lures kept us happy.
 Our very first yellowfin tuna. This fish has been elusive to us until now and we caught two in one day.

 Poisson cru and sashimi were on the menu for dinner.
Not wanting to disrupt our winning streak, we put out a few more hand lines and were rewarded with this huge sucker. This is the biggest bull mahi mahi we've ever caught and our freezer is now full.

We were sailing in close proximity with friends of ours on Bella Via, who were able to take some great shots of us while underway with our spinnaker flying.

We arrived safely in Fiji after a great 3 day/night sail and are looking forward to the next chapter in our journey. Bula!