Tonga, has always seemed just out of reach, with timing and costs and the two of us with all our gear….
When we heard that Sunreef Diving in Mooloolaba had started doing humpback whale swimming tours, my first thought was i had to be apart of that……so finding out through my contacts the right person to call, after months of talks we finally got the nod!
We were on our way to the Sunshine Coast for 2015 humpback whale season!!
As it overlaps with the whale shark season a little, Ed stayed behind in Coral Bay, and I came to Mooloolaba alone to begin the season. What surprised me the most was the water visibility. Being so close to two river mouths i didn’t expect much…. but i was impressed with weeks of 20+ meters of vis. This is because of the cool clear waters pushing north along the east coast of Australia.
The start of the season was great with plenty of marine life around. Dolphins, huge turtles, young humpbacks, mothers and calf’s and amorous males on the pursuit, and the season only got better.
In August and September we had the best interactions, with one of them lasting for a continuos 45 minutes. This was a very rare chance to hang out with some very curious young males. They were as interested in us as we were in them. I couldn’t believe it when people actually started getting out of the water saying that they “had had enough“, a concept that I still don’t understand as I will never have enough interaction with these incredible animals!!
These males would swim under us, let us swim along side them for a while and then roll over and disappear…. just when we thought the interaction was over……SURPRISE! There they were, directly below us, asking us to come and play with them again.
Over the course of the season, as with any wild animal tour, we had days where we did not see anything, days where there were no in water interactions and ruff weather days. We had a very windy season which meant there were a lot of canceled days, and time spent wishing we were out on the water. The success rate on these tours was about 80% this year on days where whales were actual spotted, however a successful day could of been getting a glimpse of a shadow in the distance. This is an improvement for their first year of operating where it was about a 50% chance of seeing them in the water.
As a new operation only in its second year, i foresee that they will only keep improving as they learn more about the behavior, conditions and ways to interact with these incredible animals.
It is an absolute privileged to be able to have the opportunity to swim with Humpback whales, and interact with them on their terms. Something that every ocean lover should do!