Whale Ho!…..

Dear F&F, August 22nd – 26th

Makongai (Makongneye) Island

The weather was predicted to get nasty while we were at Namena Island. The mooring/anchorage area on Namena was not particularly well protected so we decided to head the 20 miles to Makongai Island. With a reefed main, it was a pretty bumpy ride in the short beam sea. We arrived at the island and anchored next to s/v \”Casteele\” a family of four out of Canada.

We went ashore on our second day and did \”sevusevu\” with Ketselle, the local village chief. He and two young researchers explained that they go up a hill (heart attack hill) and sit shifts counting the humpbacks which are now returning to Fijian waters after they were mostly wiped out in the 18th – 20th Centuries by whaling operations.

They said they had counted 60 last year and had seen some as recently as the previous week when the weather was more settled. The whales are there in the rough weather of course, they just can\’t see them amongst the white caps. Ketselle gave us a tour of the village and the former Leper Colony facilities (see photo gallery).

We also received a tour of the Giant Clam nursery. This was very similar to the one Cindy and I had visited last year in Aitutaki. The memories were certainly mixed.

The next day, Ketselle took me out with the dinghy to show me the local dive sites inside the reef. There were a series of at least six widely spaced pinnacles which I locked in the GPS waypoints on so I could find them the next day. It was pretty rough, even inside the lagoon, but small Makondronga Island would give us and the dinghy enough shelter to make the dives. We\’d been told the liveaboard dive boats, \”Nai\’a\” and \”Island Dancer\” both came here once/week so we expected some nice diving.

The next day, a 120 foot charter sailing vessel came inside and was taking two divers out coincidentally as we were leaving \”Beach House\”. We noticed a large breach.

This turned out to be a Mom and Baby Humpback inside the lagoon. Anja\’s \”sixth sense\” was at it again! She predicted the snake to appear when we were at Cobia Island and she \”had a feeling\” about seeing a whale this entire trip. At first we got close and Mom wasn\’t ready to settle down, but when the other dinghy left, she did and Anja got her first swim with a humpback whale! About a one minute snorkel, but if you never had this experience, it\’s quite amazing. Imagine a \”bus\” swimming right up to you underwater with flukes! The mothers can weigh up to 40,000 lbs. (about 18 metric tons).

We then did the first pinnacle dive. It was nice, but not as nice as the Chimney at Namena. That afternoon we did a second pinnacle and realized that our time in Fiji was getting short. I\’d already stayed a month longer than I\’d planned.

The next day we would sail to Pacific Harbor and meet Peter and Diana of s/v \”Quickstar\” to do one of the premier shark feed dives in the world near Beqa (Benga) Lagoon, south west of Suva. Here we might get to see an elusive Tiger Shark, Bull Sharks, Silver Tips and more. Any of these would be a first for not only Anja, but me as too.

KIT, Scott with Anja and a couple of humpback whales!….