Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vava'u -whale and dolphin adventures

Since the kingdom is so large (or at least spread out) you need to take planes to visit the other island groups... Unless you have boatloads of time to kill and are very patient with finding out the boat schedule. This makes exploring tonga very expensive and I could only choose one other island group to go to... I chose vava'u.
Vava'u is a beautiful island that looks similar to an octupus. (I asked around and I was not the only person to think this.) there is so much beautiful land meeting the water that it feels as though you are in heaven. I choose this island because it is best known for swimming with whales, something I was determined to do!
I spent one day on the whalewatkching boat and learned all about the laws to protect the whales and to try to avoid them being aggressive. This means that different boats will share whales and only 4 people will swim with a hale at a time. Swimming with them is quite the adventure. We first put our snorkel gear on and hopped in the water. We watched the humpbacks swim far below us. Suddenly we were given a signal. They whales were coming up. It was a good thing we all wore flippers because whales are fast! During some points I swam with the calf, but a few times I was directly next to momma whale. It felt amazing. I saw her big eyes looking at me as I did my best to take pictures of her while kicking my legs as fast as they would go.
During one of our swims we experienced a true falavelave. In the boat were 3 Germans, a French couple and myself. Three of us were having an amazing time with the whales when we heard a scream. One of the French gentlemens was struggling and became a distressed swimmer. The person from the company rushed over and did a tired diver drag I get him to the boat. He apparenly got a bad cramp and struggled with the strong waves Thankfully he was okay and spent the rest of the day on the boat.
After we had lunch the whales were tired and so they were in hiding. That didn't stop our fun. We went to a great snorkel spot and saw amazing aquatic life. Then we heard something on the radio.
One of the other boats from the company we were with had spotted dolphins and had attempted to swim with them. I learned that swimming with dolphins outside of sea world is a lot different that swimming with dolphins in the wild. Dolphins get bored easily and you have to entertain them and old their attention.
Five of us got off the boat where we saw the dolphins far below us. I guess we were being boring because they took off. This is where I learned my next lesson about dolphins-they are extremely fast. Even though we were going at top speeds, we couldn't keep up. Sad and exhausted we went back on the boat. We tried again and were unsuccessful. Then again. I was ready to give up because all the swimming into the waves was wearing on me. One of the people in our group dove down and did a dance for them. All of a sudden, they sprung into life and came up right next to us. They were playing in the water and having a great time near us.
The day was an amazing experience. I totally reccomend to anyone that they venture over to vava'u at this time of year to have the same experience. It is a totally different excitment from only seeing them on the boat to actialy being in the water with them.

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