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Samhp

Moorea humpback whales

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Hello there while this is not a trip report I am fortunate to be going to Moorea to try swimming with the humpback whales in October. I am currently shooting with a Sony A7iii in Isotta housing and use a sigma 15mm or Tamron 17-28mm behind a 6 inch acrylic dome. I know the dome is small for the Tamron.
 

While I love my fisheye I have heard it can be nice to have some “reach” and most times you won’t be right on top of the whales. I’m debating whether I buy a larger dome for my Tamron or go with the 28-60 in a H63 flat port both which I have….and go with a wet optic like the AOI UWL-09PRO or WWL…

Of course the wet optic option is not tested by Isotta so don’t know if it will work well…

Any thoughts are appreciated

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@Samhp

Having done this in Moorea there are a few things to consider:

You are going to be doing a lot of surface swimming (much more than you think), and it's not always flat calm. Pushing a large dome through the water gets tiring...

My daughter shot with the A7III for quite a while ( in a Nauticam housing). She ended up switching to a Nauticam wet lens because it was just easier (and a little faster from a focus perspective)

Light fixes a lot of challenges... if you can, free dive down, shoot even or slightly up to the whales if you can, and try to keep the surface out of your images if you are not shooting up (if you are shooting up, the surface can/will act as a mirror, which is a nice effect).
 

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Thank you @oneyellowtang! This is very helpful, I am leaning towards a wet optic now. Some days I feel like I should just sell all of my stuff and upgrade to the sony A7iv and Nauticam gear…

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I was in Rurutu for humpbacks last year. I use an Ikelite housing with 8" dome. I used a Canon 80D with Tokina 10-17 and kenko 1.4 and found it to be perfect.

Be prepared for a lot of swimming and strategic thinking about where they are going, not where they are.

Edited by Btscott
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Freediving is usually not allowed, and swimming towards the whales neither. Boats have to keep a distance of at least 100m.

usually you see the whales in about 30-50m depth and then wait for coming up  

You can make a guess where are going to come up but it will be a 50/50. no fun without zoom capability. 
 

but the encounters are incredible 

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@fruehaufsteher2

I've been in the water with the humpbacks in French Polynesia on several occasions... never was I told you can't leave the surface to get a shot. Agreed, no one is free diving down 10-15 meters to shoot, but going down 3-5 meters from the surface was never an issue. 

A matter of fact: here's a quote from one of the local operator's site: "We will only be snorkeling and freediving with the whales."

If you were told you could not leave the surface that sounds like an operator restriction, not a general rule engaging with the whales.

@Samhp - don't underestimate the amount of swimming you will need to do, as @fruehaufsteher2 suggests, boats remain 100+ meters away from the whales, it will be up to you to swim to close the distance (and the whales are moving as well). For me, it ended up being at least 3x-4x more swimming that I initially expected... on the calm days this was fine, but on the days there was chop, it was tiring.

 

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Thank you for the great feedback, will need to put in more leg days and make sure I can cover those distances in a reasonable amount of time.

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@oneyellowtang in fact, just leaving the surface isn’t a problem, but going down seems to be restricted by law. This year it was the first time (?) the government set a ban on snorkeling with the whales for July. 
 

maybe they put the rules more tightly? 

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On 9/18/2022 at 3:00 PM, fruehaufsteher2 said:

@oneyellowtang in fact, just leaving the surface isn’t a problem, but going down seems to be restricted by law. This year it was the first time (?) the government set a ban on snorkeling with the whales for July. 
 

maybe they put the rules more tightly? 

Are we talking about the same location?  

I'm going to want to clarify as I'm set for next year there and would like to do some free diving training, and consider if I need/want even bigger fins than the ones I have (mares avanti quattro power).   @oneyellowtang -how deep would you try to get to to improve the composition?   While I've generally had a good SAC for my size, my single breath history with abalone diving is terrible.   I'm hoping a few days of instruction will help that.  

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@calbeardiver I just returned from Moorea, it definitely seems that freediving with whales is not allowed. I went with four different operators on private tours over a week (definitely better to book in advance if you aren’t taking a guided expedition) and all of them were very clear about no freediving. There can be quite a few boats around a whale and some of those boats can have up to 12 people on a boat. There were a few operators that dropped off their tourists right near whales and essentially would scare off the whales which can be annoying.

That being said we had some spectacular experiences. The baby humpbacks can be quite curious and will come right up to you. 

Everyone’s feedback about the amount of surface swimming is spot on…100 meters was a minimum and most times far exceeded that. 

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@Samhp, who did you go out with? The operator we went with limited their boat to 6 people, and our group of 4 were the only ones on the boat all 3 days we went out (that may have been because we booked 4 spots, only leaving a couple open each day).

We left the surface numerous times - only to a depth of 3-4 meters - no issues, no warnings. 

If you watch the video from MOOREA MOANA TOURS (mooreaoceantours.com) you will see guests clearly leaving the surface. 

 

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@oneyellowtang Since I had my family with me, I went private only so booked with various operators that had private availability, they were Pacifik Attitude, Tahiti Shark Expeditions, Moorea Deep Blue, and Moorea Ocean Addicts. As to freediving, well I guess it's up to the operators and/or guides how strict they want to be.

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