With a week to go the divers are keenly packing and struggling to keep their luggage within the allowances. With a day to go we are told that our internal flight has been cancelled – oh no!
We had two options stay at home or go on an adventure. We chose the adventure of course.
So on Friday, after a long day of flights and dealing with the lack of flights we finally checked in to our hotel in Nukuʻalofa, Tonga’s capital on the island of Tongatapu. The following day we visited the local markets for some souvenirs and hired a van to explore the island. There is a lot to explore and we only managed to see a few highlights – the 3 Headed Coconut Tree, Tsunami Rock and the Blow Holes.
Sunday is a day of religion, family & relaxation in Tonga so we took a ferry across to the small island of Pangaimotu to spend the day snorkeling around the wreck, exploring and relaxing on the sandy beaches.
Late Sunday we were finally given information on our travel plans with 1/2 the group flying to Ha’apai and the others getting to experience the ferry. It actually wasn’t that bad if you like cheap instant coffee and pot noodles! Though it was long ~5 hours, the seats were comfortable and they played an old All Blacks game & movies to keep us entertained and we saw whales along the way!
So by mid afternoon the whole group was back together and everyone was keen to get into the water snorkeling with plenty of marine life and corals to explore and to find the resident Leopard Sharks in the channel. Which we did and he was stunning!
The staff at Matafonua Lodge were fantastic and re-organised everyone so that we didn’t miss out on any of our dives. Each day we headed out for 2 dives before returning for lunch and then heading out again for a third dive.
With 24 degree waters, 20m+ visibility great reef structures and coral formations we loved the diving and saw some very cool creatures. There were plenty of morays, a variety of shrimps, anemone fish and other reef fish to enjoy and 100’s of photos were taken and reviewed over dinner later each evening.
My highlights were the Orangutan Crab and Leaf Scorpion Fish.
As much fun as we had snorkeling, diving, relaxing and eating we were really here for just one thing – SWIMMING with WHALES!
This is an experience you won’t want to miss and it never gets old. It is difficult to describe just how incredible it is to be so close and so trusted by these families. This was my 4th time snorkeling with humpback whales and their babies (if you can call something 4-6m long and weighing nearly 2 tonnes a baby!) and each experience is unique.
Will we head to Tonga again? – in a heartbeat but preferably without the adventure next time!
So if you want to get your own selfie with a whale in 2020 let us know.