Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Map of Tonga in the South Pacific

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Welcome home, whales!

It is now time for the whales to return to Tongan waters, and a few had been sighted around ‘Eua, an island to the southeast of us, and a part of Tonga. We signed up with Deep Blue Diving for a Saturday trip to welcome them back. Would we see whales on the trip? No one could say, but we would be thrilled if we did.

We gathered on the dock in the morning, and the weather was good. We got on board and made the 1 hr. 15 min. voyage to a Gilligan’s Island-sized island named Malinoa. We had time on the beach (15-minute leisurely walk took us around the island), a ceremonial kava circle, a delicious lunch, and a ceremony to welcome the whales. By the time it was time to go and look for whales, however, the weather had turned. The sky was gray, the wind cold, and rainclouds threatened, so we headed right back for Tongatapu. Alas, no whale sighting this time, but we have a whole season ahead. The whales come, give birth, and stay in the area until November.

Here are photos to tell more of the story:

We begin boarding for our adventure to welcome the whales.

Jim goes on board.

Our sighting of the island, Malinoa.

This boat will ferry us to the island.

Puaka tunu is the fire for our lunch.

A young woman, the tou'a, prepares the kava for the ceremony. Kava is made from water and the pounded root of the kava plant and drunk by men. It is used here ceremonially, but is also used by groups of men who gather for fellowship.

Our chief for the ceremony returns from the sea after giving the first bowl of kava to the sea god. He is wearing tapa cloth.

The chief and the talking chief go out to call the whales and welcome them back.

The chief blows the conch shell while the talking chief calls to the whales.

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