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Kevster

Tonga - Whale swim

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I am planning a trip to Tonga this year to catch some whale action.

 

I know peak season is generally Aug/Sep.

 

 

Is there any advantage of going early Aug or mid/late Sep. Are weather or the heat run factors?

Are the whales more stationary later in the season, allowing better encounters?

 

There are several group trips available that i may join, ranging from $3000 (3-4 days in the water, cheap accom) to expensive 8 day trips that cost approx $5000.

One of the photo trips is very early Aug, could this be too early? Any other info/tips regrading accom would be appreciated. Any accom to avoid?

Edited by Kevster

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Hi,

 

I am looking at going there mysef next year, I have been looking at different options and one thing to take into account is the amount of people on the Whale swim trip.... Only four people can get into the water at any one time, so if there is a group of 8, your time in the water is going to be half if there is only 4. Blue Lagoon Resort offers trips with 4 people per boat.

I have been told that October can also be very good and there tends to be more calfs around Sept/Oct and they are very curious leading to some fantastic encounters.

Obviously I have not yet been there so the last comment is only info I have gained by speaking to people.

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I run trips over there and the season is great from July till mid October, earlier in the season the calves are smaller which can mean some really special images as the size difference is huge. Yes later in the season the calves are bigger and then can come close but it just depends. I know people who have had their best calf encounters in July, I am actually shooting for a big 3D project in July and then on my own trips in August / Sept as long as you are in the season you will have a great time.... no I should say a mind blowing time!

It is correct that you can only have 4 people and a guide in the water at one time but I have found that 8 is a good max number as it means that you get to get surface shots, relax, grab a coffee. It is reasonably physical getting so having a breather isn't a bad idea. I also find that in the group there are always people who are happy to sit out a couple of sessions so the keen people can get shots etc.

I have a couple spots left on my trips if you are keen, one on the first week and two on the second week, the details are here.

http://ginclearfilm.com/swim-with-humpback-whales/

A couple of advantages of going with me are that I charter the vessel for the whole day not just 5-6 hours which the other operators do which means that we can leave early and return late if needs be to get the shots / time in the water everyone wants. I have never found people disappointed with the amount of time in the water they have had.... plus on our private charter it means we can go to a few out of the way locations.

No matter who you go with you will have a great time, do note though that Blue Lagoon gets booked very quickly. In fact I think they are pretty much full for 2013.

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Kevster,

From my experience,

1. Weather variation is the most important factor for the whale watch. It is difficult to spot the whales in windy/rough conditions but that you can't control. Pray!!

2. Go with the boat that has fewer people even if it costs more cos you'll never be bored with the whales. The rule is 4+1 guide in the water. Check with the operator, if they have more than 12 paxs, skip them. I'll go with max 8 paxs for my next trip.

3. Heat runs are fun to watch on the surface but difficult to keep up with in the water. Usually, the skipper will try to find mom/calf for best encounter as the calf needs to breathe more and they stay longer at the surface. Calving starts as early as July- check out Tony's very informative blog.

http://www.tonywublog.com/journal/record-number-of-humpback-whale-calves-tonga-2012

 

Good luck with the whales!!!

Happy bubbles,

Jovin-

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My better half & I have a trip booked next month to Tonga as well. It's our 1st time there to try & catch the humpbacks & I've been browsing the forums to find more info about what to expect in Tonga & how the whale watching is conducted.

 

What are water temps like in Aug? We're trying to decide what thermal protection is needed, perhaps 5mm wetsuits or maybe even a drysuit if water temps are in the low-20s. I've read from the whale-watching sites that water temps can go as low as 21ºC in Aug.

 

Thanks in advance!

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Water temp for the whale swims is around 23-25C but closer to the 25C. I hate being cold but only use a thermal rash vest as you can spend most of the day looking for a whale to swim with and then suddenly you need to be in the water fast. Getting in and out of 5mm for me is a pain in the arse. Plus you will be really buoyant in a 5mm as most boats won't carry weight belts. Remember as well if you are shooting you will need to be reasonably maneuverable and bobbing around on surface in a drysuit aint gonna work that well. A 3mm would be better and a thermal rashie means that you can have options... good weather / warm water just rashie..... colder where both.

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Thanks for the info, that's useful to know. i dislike being cold too but what you're saying makes a lot of sense.

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