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Photos & Video: Swimming with humpback whales

Underwater photograph of a pair of humpback whales in Tonga.

The 11-day expedition to Tonga enjoyed good weather, excellent company, and plenty of humpback whales. We watched rowdy males in heat runs, we cheered baby humpbacks as they practised breaching, we floated above a male as he sang his mysterious song…

Underwater black-and-white photograph of a female humpback whale, head down, tail splashing the water's surface, in Tonga.

…and we had the good fortune to swim with these graceful giants. Pure magic.

Video: In perfect weather on Day #4, we swam with our favourite girl. For hours, the beautiful young female danced with us and around us, building confidence and curiosity in us to the point that we could have touched her—it was the full eyeball-to-eyeball whale encounter.

The magic was over the moment when a herd of (what we assume were) horny males decided they had better things to do with her and broke up the party. The bastards. Bubble streams are a sign of aggression that you often see between rival males during a “heat run”. These are common topside sights during the humpback mating season, but we got a rare underwater glimpse of it. Our girl had attracted the runners to the tiny patch of vast blue we were floating in.

After much hooting, and a bit of hollering, we returned to our ship with sh!t-eating grins that would be stuck on our faces for days.

Where to next to top this…?

—Josh & Liz

New friends and old, aboard the expedition ship Nai'a

New friends and old, aboard the expedition ship Nai’a

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A. Fletcher

Breathtaking images! What a wonderful experience it must be to swim with these gentle giants.

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