Despite being faced with the initial, unenviable prospect of an early wake-up, tonight the general consensus is that this was a truly exceptional day–even by Argo standards. After that 6:30 wake-up call and breakfast, during which James attempted to convince us that “flapjacks’ are a sort of granola bar bake rather than the blatantly more sensible American pancake, the crew split into the three groups that we will make up for the rest of our time in Tonga.
The first to depart was the whale watchers. Tonga is famous for the migration through its waters of humpback whales, and we are fortunate to be here just at the beginning of the appropriate season. This kingdom is also one of the very few places in the world where one has the opportunity to actually be in the water with the animals as they swim through. Today our shipmates saw both adolescent and mature humpback whales, as well as dolphins, and their stories and video footage have made the rest of us very eager for our turn in the next few days.
The second group was comprised of our tireless Divemaster candidates, who spent virtually the entire day running through drills with Tim. This included skills workshops, skin-diving exercises, and rescue drills.
Then we are on to group three, which includes both yours truly and the other Advanced Open Water candidates. This was our chance to spend some time ashore and explore Vava’u, this island off which we are anchored. Several shipmates, after accessing some desperately needed Wifi and cold beverages of which we had been sorely deprived for at least six days, decided to take a tour of the island with a local guide. Stefania took us first to Utula’aina Lookout, from which we had a spectacular view of the lagoons that dot the coast of Vava’u. Perhaps it was residual stress from the somewhat perilous ascent via a single-lane dirt road, but a certain shipmate had a literally audible reaction to the view. From Utula’aina, Stefania took us to a freshwater cave that is used by many of the children as a swimming spot. We followed their example and got some excellent footage for Rhea’s in-progress documentary about Argo Summer 2019. After that, we got to take in the Heilala Vanilla farm and a local restaurant.
Following a busy day for all, we reconvened on board for a delicious dinner courtesy of the chef team, aided by Kari, and are now about to start a seamanship lesson with Tim before another early morning tomorrow.
Pictured: Beautiful double rainbow from the deck of Argo this morning; Sam and Raul getting ready to get in the water with whales; Evan, Danny, and Maddie searching for whales; Margaux whale-spotting; Danny and Maddie with a whale surfacing in front of them; gorgeous humpback coming up for a breath of fresh air; Danny and Maddie so happy to go swimming with whales; two views of a humpback whale calf (the guide said likely only 1-2 weeks old); Garrison, Kari, and Frank on the whaleboat; the cave that the whale swimmers got to explore after their exciting morning; whale mural in town; Tim and the DMTs (Lucy, Henry, and Cat) practicing their rescue skills; DMTs practicing exiting an unresponsive diver.