Whaling was once popular in Tonga and practiced on a subsistence level, but it is no longer allowed and Tonga joins many other countries that have turned harvesting of whales into a new industry of whale watching.
We are glad we waited till Tonga to go on that whale watching trip. We saw whales swimming and breaching outside of the reefs of Aitutaki and Palmerston. We had the opportunity to book an excursion to see whales in Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Niue. But most cruisers wait to go on that whale swimming trip until they arrive in Tonga. Although we paid 2.000 Pangaa (€ 800) for this family trip, we will never forget this special experience.
What we learned: each year, humback whales make the 6.000 km journey from Antartica to their winter breeding and birthing ground, including Tonga’s tropical waters.
They begin to arrive in June and most new calves are born between July and September. They don’t eat while breeding in Tonga. They start hunting again when they reach the Artic waters in October. Calves live of their mothers’ milk.
Humpbacks are the most acrobatic of the large whales and are known for their spectacular breaches, tail lobs and spectoral slaps. They are also known for their vocalizations called whalesong. All humpbacks in one area sing the same song. The song evolves when new whales join a group.
They rest in calm water between Vava’u’s islands and can be seen at depths of 15-20m and often just metres from shore. Always under scrutiny, local whalewatch operators adhere to strict regulations to insure that these mammals will always find a peaceful haven in Tonga.
Whalewatch operators follow strict rules for safety reasons and also out of respect for the whales.
We had to jump in the water and maintain eye contact with mother whale. You can not start chasing whales. You stay with your guide and when the mother feels at ease, you might get lucky that the calf comes up and swims to you. We’ve experienced it 6 times. Mother and escort whale also came up a few times. According to the captain of our ship Ashlee G., we were extremely lucky to spend so much time swimming with the whales.
Here is some other footage: Watchoutthetale
Hasta la vista!
Thanks documentary maker Guillaume for the pics and s6 with your projects and work https://m.facebook.com/AcrossTheSaltyRoads/