Monday 12 September 2011 – Tonga’s no-work Sunday laws have left everyone refreshed and ready to get back on the water and see whales today! The enforced day off is a lovely way to experience a bit of island life, with just a few eateries open, but nothing else. So for some it’s a visit to church for a taste of the amazing harmonies of the local congregation; for others a lazy brunch and a kayak paddle across to the island of Lotuma for a spot of snorkeling.
As Dreamcatcher heads south from the Mystic Sands jetty, the group’s fresh eyes spot the blows of two whales ahead in the sheltered channel between Hunga and Nuapapu. We catch up with them and they become interested in the boat, swimming with us as we continue southward. We make our first drop, and as expected we get no more than a cursory glance as they swim by. We make a second drop – again a brief encounter – but the whale’s curiosity is building and they turn toward us they pass. On drop three we’re rewarded as one of the animals, a male, decides to show off his underside, rolling through 360 degrees just below the surface, pecs outstretched amongst the morning’s shafts of sunlight. We get a few more drops as they head into the clearer water beyond Foeata, before we leave them to continue their journey without distraction.
It’s lunchtime now and we’re close to the coral gardens between Nuapapa and Vaka’eitu, so a hearty meal and a chance for some reef snorkelling is in order. The colour palette at Coral Gardens is a subtle mix of greens and lilacs, painting a rich scene of marine diversity in a crystal sea.
As we head around the bottom end of Foeata for a northward run on the outside of Hunga, things get a little lumpy but it isn’t long before we are in shelter of the high seacliffs. Blows are spotted well out to sea, so we head westward into the open to investigate. The blows are from a resting mum and cautious calf who’s interested in us from a distance only. Mum will let us swim above her… and the calf sneaks a peek from beneath mum from time-to-time. The afternoon light shafts are making their way down into the blue, and so I position the group to take best advantage of them.