Tonga, I only ever travel here during the whale season. I’m addicted.
Between July and October, humpback whales arrive in Tonga having travelled from Antarctica to give birth and mate. Its warm, its calm, millions of whales have made this journey since the dawn of time.
My last visit was Vava’u and this time I’m visiting the island of Ha’apai.
The place I called home for almost two weeks was Matafonua Lodge, here I was spoilt. Situated at the end of a peninsula it has an amazing reef, incredible beaches and incredible hosts.
When you travel and find yourself in a place where you immediately feel safe and welcomed you instantly relax and you know you are on holiday!
The accommodation is a traditional Fale, a traditional thatched hut with the addition of a comfortable bed and every night the sound of the ocean puts you to sleep. It’s dreamy.
I learn more from the likes of award-winning photographer Scott Portelli, I swim with humpback whales every day (except Sunday, an official day of rest here in Tonga), I visit resting leopard sharks, I explore as much of the local lagoons coral reef as possible. This is my daily routine.
Approx. reading time: 3:05 minutes
I’m speechless when I first lay eyes on the Lagoon.
We are a small group that came together to swim with the humpback whales, learn about their habits, spend time with Scott who has over a decade of experience swimming in Tonga with these gentle giants and has a wealth of knowledge to share.
Our group is an international one, Finish, German, American, Australian and Kiwi. It’s great seeing strangers come together from all over the world and become good friends so quickly. It makes it all the more amazing sharing these incredible swims during the two weeks we are here.
The whale season had only just started so we need to keep our expectations in check, they are wild animals and arrive as they please as it suits them.
When we leave the white sandy beach each morning at 9 am we’re then out at sea on a small boat for 6 hours a day, I typically hate boats but my sea legs seem to kick in quickly this time around, could I finally be getting better at this boat business? I really hope so.
They breach, slap their tails, they blow. The spotters shout out as to the direction of the whales – “2 o’clock, 11 o’clock” and loud ‘WOW! “Over there’ with plenty of finger pointing.
The days pass slowly at first and our sightings are many but we aren’t always lucky finding suitable resting whales to enter the water with.
We are well looked after, our Guides, our Captain and the lovely team in the resort kitchen cooking our meals doing a fantastic job of ensuring we are equally impressed with our meals as we are with the Robinson Crusoe like island we visit to eat our lunch at regularly. It’s a tough gig to beat, your own private island for lunch, plenty of free coconuts taken straight from the tree.
Our new group makes a pack on day 1, every evening we met at the sunset bar. Aptly named, also the perfect place to recap on the days’ events, get to know each other a little better and just kick back and relax, zero stress.
The last few days of this trip are my favourite, amazing long swims with inquisitive adults, multiple mother and calves. The dopamine is pumping it’s emotional, it’s exhilarating, its hard to describe even a second time around, connecting with nature on this scale changes you. It makes you a better person. It helps me make smarter choices to avoid single plastic, to take better care of our planet.
I’m frothing and am already planning another trip, I hope you enjoy the pics!
Every evening we met at the sunset bar.