Location: Tonga

Today dawned bright and early with yet another 5:30 am fire alarm. This time pancakes were the culprit, but we didn’t mind too much because we had to wake up at 6 am to start our day anyway. The third and final group was going on their whale tour, some were going to be fun diving on the Clan McWilliam shipwreck, the DMTs were continuing their training, and the others had much-anticipated shore time. I was among the whale swimmers for the day, and our experience did not disappoint in the slightest. The other two groups had amazing whale tours, and there was a bit of anxiety that the final group might miss out- whales make no promises to be there when you are looking for them! But fortunately, within a few minutes of beginning our search, Emily spotted a spout, and the chase was on. I use the term “chase” very loosely, because we cautiously and respectfully motored over towards the whales, and slowly approached, hoping not to scare them away. Once we got close, they dove, tails and all, and we feared we might have seen all we were going to see of them for the day. But they didn’t seem to be bothered by us in the slightest, and they continued to surface about every 10-15 minutes for close to three hours. Every single swimmer got great views of all three juvenile whales- 2 males, and one female. It was amazing to think that as adults, these whales would get EVEN BIGGER than they were because they dwarfed us and the boat we were on. When they dove, they would be just at the very edge of our eyesight in the somewhat murky waters, but as they surfaced, they did so slowly and would check us out inquisitively along the way. We even were rewarded with whale song by the males near the end of the morning. After several hours of enjoying the presence of these magnificent creatures, we moved along to let the other whale tour boats have a chance- turns out we were the only lucky ones to find whales today! We then went to a protected cove to have lunch, relax, and take a dip. Everyone was hungry after all the excitement, so we ate, and a few people swam and snorkeled in the shallows. A few others enjoyed the warm sunshine, and a few even caught a small catnap. Then we snorkeled in a natural cave and explored the cracks and crevices, searching for critters. We were rewarded with some amazing bait balls of small schooling fish in the shadows.

The DMTs got to do their Discover Scuba Diving experience this morning with Tim. This is where they simulate taking non-certified divers on an open water dive in a highly controlled environment. Apparently, they had great fun pretending to be silly and clueless divers, and they took turns leading their friends around on this dive. The fun divers went to the Clan McWilliam wreck, and they had an equally spooky experience. They saw a large grouper friend and some tiny blenny friends amongst the murk. The folks onshore enjoyed lots of restaurant food, coffee, and wifi- three treasured things when you get to walk on dry land.

After some very jam-packed days here in Tonga, we have memories we will cherish forever. We look forward to a couple more days before it’s time to move on to our next destination, Fiji.

Pictured: Emily, Anastacia, Ian, Ryan, Shelby, Coral, and Rhea after our whale of a day; double rainbow while we were searching for whales; the three humpbacks we got to swim with today (photos by Shelby Davoren); drone footage from Saturday’s whale tour (filmed by Danny); photos from above and below water in the natural caves we got to swim in (photos also by Shelby); the group before whale swimming; a view of the cliffs near Vava’u.