Don’t worry be Haápai & swim with a whale

2 September Monite
The water is lapping off to my left. It is an inky black peppered by a light here and there from a yacht or distant island. Sandy Beach is everything you imagine a south pacific tropical island to be …aquamarine water, white beaches and no-one much anywhere. Bliss. Our first evening in Haápai.

Sonia, the ABC local radio foreign correspondent on Foa Island, Haápai
Sonia, the ABC local radio foreign correspondent on Foa Island, Haápai

It only took 20 minutes to chill out and slow down to island pace when arrived this afternoon… I had to do my ABC radio interview in ankle deep water as this was the best place to get reception. Life can be tough for a foreign correspondent!!! The snorkelling in the deep clear water is different to the reefs we have been to elsewhere – bottom is a much longer way down. Our family fale shared with Stewart and Lesley, is very comfy and has a little patio overlooking the water… What more could you possibly want?
(Very sad to learn my Chillingham primary school teacher Mr Chttick died this week. This family had always played a special role in our family… They hosted Dad’s wake at their lovely Banora Point home and Mr Chittick was MC at Kotoni and my wedding nearly 27 years ago. A very special man.)

Kotoni was not looking too keen about the whale swim... or was it the sailing trip??!!
Kotoni was not looking too keen about the whale swim… or was it the sailing trip??!!

3 September Tuesite ‘tafuaha’ whale day.
Only in Tonga and the Dominican Republic can you eyeball whales in the wild and today we experienced the magic that is whale swimming. We left the resort on a sailing boat at about 9.00am in the morning in search of whales and within an hour we’d had our first encounter… A big one heading through the bay. It was a glimpse … but I was hooked!

I still can't believe I actually swam with little fella!
I still can’t believe I actually swam with little fella!

By the end of the day we had seen lots of flapping and slapping and got up close and intimate with a couple of mothers and their playful babies diving up and down under the waves. It was so serene and not as scary as I had thought it may be. Swimming with whales is hard to describe … the surreal feeling of being up so close and personal with these massive mammals who didn’t seem to mind lots of voyeurs peering at them… was a combo of wonderment, while being overawed and humbled… a truly magical encounter.

4 September Pulelulu

Weather can only be described as unbelievably shitty. Wet and quite cold. A day for finishing my editing job, reading, chatting and doing not much else. Dinner at Matafunua the dive place just up the road was yummy: Thai curries, chocolate brownies and berry crumble.

5 September Tu’apulelulu
After brunch Lesley, Stewart and I rode bikes to the township of Pangai about 14kms away. It was lovely treadling along past plantations through little Tongan villages. We found the local ‘Westfield’ shopping complex (haha) consisting of a bakery (only selling white loaves), a ramshackle guest house (well the sign said it was a ‘guest house’) and the Real Tonga agency. Now Real is the new very controversial Tongan airline that keeps cancelling flights left right and centre. A gust of wind or whiff of rain seems to create havoc. A guy at our resort has already had to stay two extra nights and missed all his connecting flights back to Australia. We are all trying to just going with the flow… after all this is Tonga!

We cycled around town, found a woman making tapa cloth, ran into Una a Tongan woman we’d met on the plane and found the bay side King’s Ha’apai residence… although he prefers to stay at a resort when he is here… It is a little rundown!  Una had stacks of excess luggage to bring to her family so she had asked us if she could have the luggage allowance we didn’t use… no worries – she was very happy as we saved her a few hundred dollars.There were the ubiquitous pigs everywhere and we even found a cafe and were served coffee, brownies and psychedelic green ice cream by a lovely leiti. The rain held off and we were home by 5.00 for drinks, dinner and a teeny weeny glimpse of a sunset.


4 thoughts on “Don’t worry be Haápai & swim with a whale

  1. I have been to Foa for the last two years and actually getting in the water with a whale is really hit and miss. The hit rate is about 1 in 4 and at $300 per trip those are not very good odds.


    1. We were very lucky Ben… Two whale swimming trips and two beautiful encounters! Being in the wild i guess it is always going to be unpredictable…


  2. great. Sounds very peaceful and interesting as well as beautiful. love the variety a weekend can bring for you all. Sad news about mr Chittick. I was lucky enough to catch uo wth Sharon, who was in my year at school at my recent reunion @ Tweed. What a small world !!XX TT


  3. Life sue is a beach for you !! Enjoy, I may pop out to Lake Canobolas this afternoon dip my toes in the balmy 12 degrees water, not that I will be able to see my toes among the weeds and murky waters of Lake nob!
    Sue xxxx


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