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departing maupiti ~ sleeping whales

Posted by on March 24, 2014

August 27, 2013

Maupiti's narrow pass requires careful navigation

 
 

To begin a passage from Maupiti to Suwarrow, one must first be able to exit Passe Onoiau in calm conditions.  Therefore, there was very little wind on our day of departure, and this gave us the perfect opportunity for some more whale watching just outside the reef of Maupiti.  Our plan was to exit the pass after lunch, whale watch for a few hours, and then set sail for Suwarrow by sunset.

Our afternoon was a lazy one.  By the time we exited the pass, s/v Flour Girl had already been waiting for a whale sighting for at least an hour.  Once we found our spot away from the reef, we turned off engines and allowed ourselves to sit and wait for any whale appearances.  Eventually, s/v Sueno joined the group.  We were all spread out in order to cover more territory.

Soon, we thought we saw a whale spout between us and the reef.  Sure enough, there were two humpback whales floating at the surface side-by-side, and they were sleeping!  We definitely didn’t want to motor directly up to them, so I came up with a plan.

two sleeping humpback whales

 
I positioned the boat so that it would quietly drift (with engines off) past the whales without disturbing them.  As we got closer to the whales, Wil and the kids prepared to slip into the water with their snorkel gear.  I remained at the helm, keeping an eye on the whales, and Wil and the kids entered the water.  There was no intention to getting too close, as we wanted to respect the whales’ needs.  We were only hoping for a good photo opportunity.

these sleeping whales literally sounded like they were snoring!

We were set up for a perfect viewing of these two sleeping whales when suddenly a local fishing boat came full speed right at the whales.  My mouth dropped open in shock.  As the fishermen reached the whales, the two animals woke from their slumber and dove as quickly as they could.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, and I figure there were three possibilities for why they did what they did.  They either wanted to ruin our whale watching for selfish purposes, wanted see the whales for themselves, or thought they were protecting the whales from us.  Which ever it was, they caused more disruption than we ever would have done.

After the whales’ departure, and before returning to the boat, Wil and the kids turned their attention to some tiny, little fish swimming in the deep blue.  We have some brief video footage of the diving whales and these little fish.  Click on Waking Whales & Little Fish to watch the video.

Once the little side excursion was finished, Wil and the kids swam back to the boat, and we continued to wait for more whales.  Eventually, we saw another spout close to the reef.  A young whale calf was breaching and playing by itself.  Where there is a calf, there is a mother supervising from nearby.  We never saw the mother whale, but we kept a safe distance, and watched the calf from afar.  Soon it was time to bid our farewells to Maupiti and French Polynesia.

French Polynesia was a fabulous country to visit, and we will miss many things about these truly special islands.  The Marquesas for their spectacular mountainous beauty.  The Tuamotus for their clear water and rugged coral atolls.  The Society Islands for the most gorgeous water, sharks, and manta rays.  The French Polynesians are warm, welcoming people who are always ready to share their culture with travelers.  We hope to one day be able to return to such a wonderful place.

a final view of Maupiti and French Polynesia

 
 

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