We are a group of 6 Hong Kong-based divers who travelled to Vava'u this year. Two members of the group went whale watching last year in July but felt there wasn't enough mother/calf interaction and so we decided to organize a visit this year.
We stayed at Mystic Sands, a resort located 15 minutes by car from Vava'u town. Al and Claudia of Dolphin Pacific organized everything for us, and Kjell/Mosi/Maka of Mystic Sands was very welcoming and made our stay smooth and comfortable.
Claudia of Dolphin Pacific picked us up on their "small boat" (C'Scape) each morning at the Mystic Sands pier, and we spent 6 days whale watching.
The first day was a bit of a bummer, because we spent 4 hours searching for whales but didn't find any. I was beginning to worry that the whole week would be a big waste but after lunch Claudia decided to ask one of the other boats if they would "share" a whale with us and we had a good intro whale watching. There were a couple in the group who had been to Niue in 2009 and they found the visibility to be less clear but the water temp was warmer.
We spent the beginning of the second day searching again but we got lucky and found some whales (which we shared with another boat). There was a mother, calf and escort who had become accustomed to whale watchers and didn't swim away so we spent around two hours, taking turns and shot some good photos. We also saw humpbacks mating, but at the time when it was happening I was really confused because I had no idea why two whales were rubbing against each other! It wasn't until we swam back to the boat when we all realized what we had just witnessed! The best part about this day was the whales didn't really move except when they came up to breathe, and we were able to spread out around them like a round table. We really didn't want to go!
The third day was also a mother/calf/escort interaction day. We found several groups of whales but they didn't stay as long as the ones from the day before and we had to chase a little but it was a good day in the water.
The fourth day the wind and rain started to pick up and the water visibility declined. We saw our first breaching whale but didn't see much action in the water so we spent a good part of the day taking surface photos. Claudia took us to Mariner's Cave for a relaxing swim towards the end of the day.
Al joined us on the fifth day. We were in and out of the water quickly because the whales we found didn't stay too long but we found some dolphins who swam with us quite a while.
The sixth and final day we had windy weather in the morning. We found lots of whales but none of them stayed too long for us to swim with and so we didn't get to swim with any whales. However, we saw whales breaching and spent a good hour chasing after one whale that breached, breached and breached. The conditions were rough and the seas were choppy but who would complain with so much action?
According to the couple who went to Niue last year, if you prefer warmer waters and if you enjoy both swimming with whales and taking photos of them from the surface, then Tonga is the way to go.
On my way back home I stopped in Auckland for a few hours to catch my flight back to HK. My flight was delayed due to the big earthquake in Christchurch and I later discovered an aftershock hit Tonga. I hope it didn't affect the whales or the people of Tonga.
If you're interested in my photos they're at www.flickr.com/wudai. Enjoy!!