I woke up just after the sun came up after 6:00 and made my way to the dining area to journal and organize pictures. There’s really nothing better than typing away with a coffee and the silence of only the surf.
The whales were evasive this day. Lots of boating around and not finding any whales, or finding whales with too many other boats. At one point we found a mama, a calf, and an escort, but they deliberately turned and swam away from our direction. After 10 minutes of following and hoping they’d slow and sit, we got the message and left them alone.
It seemed that the whales just didn’t want to play with us. I teased Serene that I’d have nothing to write in the journal, so I’d have to dedicate this entry to her “Rape and Pillage of the Ocean”. Luckily she was saved. After lunch and almost time to head in, we were saved by the other Mounu Island boat – on loan to another service – who called to say they had a mother and calf who were close to the surface, would dive and swim, and then stay close to the surface again. It was the same mother/calf from the day before though a bit friendlier… until we got in. Then they swam. Each group of us had about 60 seconds in the water before they dove, and then we tracked them for a while from the boat. Luckily, the calf was feeling energetic and showboaty, giving us a lot of photo ops.
An hour of tracking, they slowed down and we tried for one more swim. Magical. Mama and baby just sat in the water, completely still. He was completely under her head and would occasionally come up for a breath. One time he surfaced about 10 feet from me. Mama gave us a good 15 minutes with them – and it was extraordinary. I’ll bounce around the ocean all day long if this is how it ends.
Arta Tequila: We’ve started a few group-driven traditions for ourselves here in the last whale spotting Tonga trip. One is Tony’s bottle of Arta tequila, which he was gifted earlier this season from the owner of the company. Most of us associate tequila with crazy nights and horrible hangovers, but a good agave-based tequila like this is a delicious thing. So we celebrate each evening with a round of drinks and I track the end-of-night bottle level with a camera shot.
Gary’s Storytime: The second tradition is a new one (here on day #3 together) which we kicked off the night before when we learned that Gary had written a collection of children’s stories. We made him promise to tell us a story this night, which explains how we ended up sipping tequila and listening to the first chapter of Ginger and Mrs Peabody.
Crab Hunting: The final tradition – not unique to our group – is taking Otto crab-hunting. Otto knows it’s coming, so he starts circling after the dessert plates are cleared, his little feet tapping and his nose huffing as he waits impatiently for us to go to the beach. The process of the crab hunt takes a few different elements:
1) Running down the beach with our solar-recharable lights
2) Spotting out the crab holes in the sand along the shoreline
3) Calling his name with great enthusiasm, “Otto Otto! Otto Otto!” and frantically pointing to the hole
4) Waiting with anticipation as Otto sniffs the hole to see if anyone is home
5) Laughing as he digs and digs and digs and eventually comes up with a crab, which he then chases all over the beach
6) Moving OttoOtto along when the crab starts to play dead in defense “Come on Otto! Otto Otto!”
It’s the last thing we do before turning in for the night, which is usually around 9:30.