Whale Swim adventures in 2018

Aloha Whale People,

I live in Maui, the whale capital of the Pacific.  The Northern Pacific Humpbacks come each year to breed and give birth. It would be all to easy to lead groups here to observe and document whale behavior but it is against the law I don’t.  Instead I organize expeditions around the world to where this activity is permitted. Thats why I have traveled to Tonga each year since 2005. This is an area where the whales are present and the government issues a limited number of permits to observe  and swim with whales.

Over the years I have had some incredible experiences and learned a lot about the whale behavior, the whale swim industry.   That is why  I am so excited to share some details regarding the 2018 Tonga Whale Swim Season.

Sanctuary.1 copy

Safe place for Mother whale to tend to her calf.

In 2018, I will offer three adventures in the remote Ha’apai island group of Tonga. The idea is to cruise  among the channels and shallow bays,  that lie amongst a myriad of tropical islands looking for the playground.   This is an area that we know from previous years that the whales like to frequent.  In this area we will find whales that are open to having a mutual interaction with humans.  This means the whales that want to be with us as much as we want to be with them.

wildlife

53 foot sailing boat called Wildlife

The first adventure is a 8 day cruise Sept 12-20th on the 53 foot sailing catamaran Wildlife, owned  by  Tristin and Dave Sheen. These people are the real deal with years of experience and share a genuine love of whales.  There are two cabins for guests on the boat making it perfect for 4 people.  The cabins can be divided for singles or as a comfortable queen for couples.   Guests will get on and off the boat in Tongatapu which is about a 40 minute drive from the Nuku’alofa international airport.

Once on the boat guests will have a safety briefing, enjoy some food, unpack, and put their snorkel gear together as we sail off towards the islands of choice about 60 nm away.

Each day the program will be to wake up have coffee and get the boat underway after breakfast. We will evaluate the days conditions and set our course to wherever the visibility and whale activity will likely be best.

Once whales exhibiting behavior experience has shown might lead to a mutual encounter the captain will say get ready.  At that point people put on their wetsuit, grab their fins and GoPro and make their way to back of boat for entry.  The captain will say standby until he is sure of the behavior and once the boat is positioned in the opportune spot, he will say enter the water.

Syncronized swimming ©DJH DJH_3272

Mother and calf swimming in the same position

At this point the group slowly swims with the guide towards the whales, keeping fins beneath the surface to minimize sound and wake.  Once the guide sees a mother with calf,  everyone stops and simply floats as a group.   This helps the mother determine that we are not a threat.  Once comfortable with our presence good things tend to happen.

I am referring to the mother wanting to rest and beginning breathing cycles.  This means she goes to 25 feet and levels off then sleeps for 20 minutes.  During this time the baby needs to go up and down 4 or 5 times to breath.   Each time the baby comes to surface  it might get more curious and little by little come closer and closer.  It may take one or two of the breathing cycles of the mother for this to happen but when the calf is confident and playful it is game on. Sometimes babies go under you and blow bubbles or do a dance, while some just hang in front of you and flip over and swim around upside down. A few really curious calves have touched people.  Something about making human contact they can’t resist.   I do not condone touching the whales, but when a baby whale wants to touch you, there is not much you can do.   The thing is most whales seem to  know exactly where they end and we begin.

Mother, calve, and new boyfriend

I look really small next to these whales

Each day we will sail among the islands looking for signs of whale activity.  In the late afternoon the Captain will select an island to anchor near for the night.  Once the boat is secure guests can use dingy to collect shells, walk on beach, take pictures of sunsets, or possibly enjoy a bond fire.

Cost for 8 day adventure is $6,390 per person.  Trip insurance is mandatory. Does not include flights, layover costs, gratuities, alcohol, ground transportation, trip insurance. Non refundable deposit of 50% at time of reservation, and 50 % balance is due May 1st, 2018.

 

 

The second adventure is Sept 20-29th,  2018  and is a land based GLAMPING adventure based on Namuku island in  remote area of the Ha’apai group.  This means really nice tents with real beds on the edge of the jungle, adjacent to a pristine beach.   A few steps away there is a main house for meals and socializing. There are horses to ride, hammocks to flop in, great snorkeling, and an organic garden.  The bathroom is compost style and rainwater is used for bathing. The adventure includes transfer to and from the island on Wildlife,  7 days private charter on Tropic Bird, and 9 nights accommodation and all meals. There will a minimum of four and maximum of six participants.

Everyday but Sunday we will go out in Tropic Bird after breakfast and spend the day observing and swimming with whales.  In the late afternoon we will head back to the barn and enjoy a fantastic sunset and dinner.   The views are fantastic and at least once during the adventure will be a bonfire on the beach.

The cost is $4,890 per person. Trip insurance is mandatory. Does not include flights, layover costs, gratuities, alcohol, ground transportation, trip insurance.  Non refundable deposit of 50% at time of reservation, and 50 % balance is due June 1st, 2018.

DSC_1365_bw_cropped.1

incredible encounter with baby Humpback Whale

The third adventure is a 10 day liveaboard cruise Sept 29- Oct 9th on Wildlife, the 53 foot sailing catamaran. There are two cabins for guests on the boat making it perfect for 4 people. We can accommodate five upon request.   Cabin beds can be divided for singles or configured as a comfortable queen for couples.   Guests get on and off the boat in Tongatapu which is about a 40 minute drive from the Nuku’alofa international airport.

Once on the boat guests will have a safety briefing, enjoy some some food, and have time to unpack, and put their snorkel gear together as we sail off towards the islands of choice about 60 nm away.

Each day the program will be to wake up have coffee and get the boat underway after breakfast. We will evaluate the days conditions and set our course to wherever the visibility and whale activity will be best.

Once whales exhibiting behavior experience has shown might lead to a mutual encounter the captain will say get ready.  At that point people put on their wetsuit, grab their fins and GoPro and make their way to back of boat for entry.  The captain will say standby until he is sure of the behavior and once the boat is positioned in the opportune spot, he will say enter the water.

The group swims with the guide towards the whales, keeping fins beneath the surface to minimize sound and wake.  Once the guide sees a mother with calf,  everyone stops and stays in a group.   This helps the mother determine that we are not a threat.  Once she is comfortable with our presence good things tend to happen.

The ultimate encounter begins with  mom starting a breathing cycle.  This means she goes to 25 feet and levels off then sleeps for 20 minutes.  During this time the baby might go up and down 4 or 5 times.   Each time the baby comes to surface to breath it might get more curious and little by little come closer and closer to us humans. When the calf is confident and playful, it is game on.  Sometimes the new born whales blow bubbles, do a dance, flip over, and swim upside down.

Each encounter has its own rhythm and as long as our presence does not interfere or change the whales behavior we will hang around.  At such point it becomes obvious the baby needs to feed or that the whales need to be alone we will fall off and get on the boat.

Each day we will sail among the islands looking for signs of whale activity.  In the late afternoon the Captain will select an island to anchor for the night.  Once the boat is secure guests can use dingy to collect shells, walk on beach, take pictures of sunsets, and possibly enjoy a bond fire.

Cost for 10 day adventure is $7,990 per person.  Trip insurance is mandatory and not included. Nor does this adventure include flights, layover costs, gratuities, alcohol, ground transportation, trip insurance. Non refundable deposit of 50% at time of reservation, and 50 % balance is due May 1st, 2018.

 

 

 

 

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About Doug Hoffman

Portrait and underwater fine art photographer.
This entry was posted in bucket list adventure, Dive with a Photo Pro, guided photo tours, guided photogrpahy adventures, guided whale swim tours, guided whale swimming adventures, humpback whales, incredible adventure, Island scenic, life, Nature Photography, photo tour and workshop, swimming with whales, Travel, underwater photography, whale photography workshop and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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