9/18: Whales! Day 1

I woke early to enjoy a quiet coffee in the dining area with my journals. Mounu was a peaceful, lovely place. With really delicious coffee.

09182014Coffee Please
Coffee, please!

After breakfast was served we loaded up the Phoenix and took off for a day of whale-watching and – hopefully – swimming with them.  The process involved Allan driving the boat with his head out the top; and Tony, Emi, and Ma’ata on the top level watching for the slightest glimpse of activity.

Tonga: you are here.  Allan drives the boat and whale-watches at the same time.

Very soon they spotted something Tony said he’d only seen once before: about 4-5 whales breaching over and over again. All that activity turned into a heat run: the female expresses interest by slapping the water with her pectoral fins over and over again. Then the males come running.  What’s next is a pursuit in the water as the males give chase and she breaches over and over again.

The water was rough and rocky, and there were 2-3 other boats out there with us.

09182014Breach (9)
09182014Breach (12)
09182014Breach W Boat (1) Edit
Heat run
09182014Breach W Boat (4) Cropped
Multiple breaches

Next we headed inland to calmer waters and to search for a mother/calf combo.  What we found was a “singer” – a whale sitting still, upside down, and singing. He flapped the surface a few times with its fluke. When we got in the water it stood still for a moment then slowly moved down and tilted horizontally. Out of nowhere another whale showed up and the two of them disappeared off into the blue.

09182014Breach (20)

09182014Breach (25) Edit

09182014Fluke (6) Edit

09182014 UW Singer (3) Edit
Singer, solo
09182014 UW Double (4)
Singer and friend
09182014Mounu Island (3)
Mounu Island

We arrived back at the island around 2PM (lunch was on the boat) – which gave plenty of time to nap, snorkel, or both.  I opted for a snorkel out in the shallows.

09182014 Sardines
A school of sardines always hovered over the grass off the island. We called this our “Sardine Run”
09182014 Vino

Dinner was a re-cap of the day, and how well we did (or didn’t) swim.  And also a very in-depth conversation of how the academic community publishes papers and studies, and yet doesn’t spend any time out or in the water with the whales.  They come down for 2 weeks, take photos of flukes, and consider that a study. They don’t use the resources of operators or the people who are out there every day.  And wouldn’t it be interesting if they did?

09182014 Fresh Catch (3)
NIghtly fish and lobster delivery
Otto, the crab-hunting schauzer