About this time every year, humpback whales travel from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Pacific to calve. Sadly, last year I was unable to make the same journey from New Zealand to the Pacific to swim with and photograph these incredible marine mammals. Unfortunately, this year is no different to last, with the Pacific being closed to travel and the pandemic still raging through the majority of the world. As we struggle to comprehend what the future may hold, I thought I would reminisce on one of the best trips of my life to the warm clear waters of Niue...
Niue is a small rocky atoll protruding out of the South Pacific. A great place to see whales from land, Niue rises abruptly from the depths, which means its waters are rich in life and the perfect place to view whales. The deep waters' close proximity to shore allows the small number of visitors to the island to see whales from their hotel terraces and often from the side of the road.
With such an abundance of whales, it's important that they are respected and looked after, which is the reason Niue was made a whale sanctuary. With this legislation in place, tourism operators abide by strict guidelines so that both local business and whales can live in harmony for the short time they visit this special rock.
Swimming with whales is not guaranteed anywhere in the world, so if you were to visit for a whale swim holiday, set your expectations lower, just enjoy the fact that you are on an isolated tropical island, and whatever happens happens. It is the ocean after all, and you're looking for wild animals. In saying this, Niue is one of the best places in the world to see and swim with them, which is why I have returned year after year. I also maximise my chances by going out with the best whale swim guide in the business, locally owned Fish Niue Charters. Bj and his partner Ness run a very professional charter business offering fishing charters and whale and dolphin swim adventures.
Starting off the trip is an experience in itself. Meeting at the Sir John Roberts wharf, the only boat launching facility on the island, we drop the boat off the side of the wharf, climb in and then motor out of the channel. As Bj quietly keeps an eye on the horizon for blows, fin slaps and spy hops, our guide Ness shares her wealth of whale knowledge as she talks about their migration patterns, incredible singing and their behaviour.
Swimming with dolphins
Not long into the day, a pod of spinner dolphins decide that they want to play. After a few minutes of assessing their behaviour, it was decided that the spinners would be quite comfortable in our presence so in we jumped. What followed was an incredible hour of shooting pictures in unbelievably clear water. These dolphins are different to our bottlenose at home, as they are not as inquisitive, but that didn't matter, they were still quite happy to have snorkelers around.
After a magical dolphin experience, it was time to continue our search for whales. Rounding the corner of the island, and with the sun starting to set, a blow, which is when the whale surfaces to breathe, was spotted just a few hundred meters away! Gearing up in anticipation, I sat on the side of the inflatable, hoping that the whales were in a mood to interact. After several minutes of observation it seemed my luck was to continue as I quietly slipped into the warm, crystal clear waters of the Pacific. The sight I was to behold will be etched into my memory forever. No words can describe being in the water with these magnificent animals, so I will let my images do the talking from here.
If you would like to experience these life changing, Humpback Whale encounters, get in touch with me to discuss affordable private trips to one of the best whale spotting locations in the world.
For more images of Niue, visit Dan Shootz Photography.