Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Tonga's "Blowhole Coast"

One of the sights that the taxi drivers of Nuku'alofa were pushing was "the blowhole."  We had little interest in seeing a blowhole - having seen many and having super limited time on the island, but I eventually said ok to it as it was on the way to the bats, supposedly.  This was actually an undersell by the taxi drivers - it isn't a blowhole.  It is a COAST of blowholes.  The entire coast as far as you can see each direction has multiple blowholes, and this is actually very cool to see.  Photos, as usual;, do no justice to it, but I tried all the same to capture a bit.

There is a platform to stand on and take photos (albeit you have to ignore the hawkers set up to try and sell you needless knick-knacks).  The photo above is looking to my left - blowholes all along the coast, I can't lean out far enough to get them all in a photo.

Looking the other direction, with bad light as a result, the same was true - blowholes as far as one could see.

A moment of calm before the next wave.

Probably this last one is my favorite shot - the water crashing on the gorgeous, terraced coast was mesmerizing and it would be easy to stay a long time here, if it weren't for intense sun, a cab driver waiting to move on, and the lurking hawkers wanting to engage and sell handicrafts.  Overall, I was glad we made this stop, and if I were in charge of marketing I would call it the Blowhole Coast vs. "the blowhole." For some unknown reason all along the coast the driver claims there is just this one point you can actually see it - no other pull outs.  That seems silly!  But then, who knows if it was true; the cab driver info on Tonga seemed inherently unreliable.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Humpback Whales - From the Boat

I had thought that on our trip to Tonga to try and swim with humpback whales, there would be great opportunities for photos from the boat.  With two groups of snorkelers, and only one group in the water at a time, I had imagined that when I wasn't in the water I'd be taking pictures.  This turned out to be pretty much folly.  For one thing, you have to get ready to get into the water very quickly, and very often.  It's hard to get out of the water, get your camera out, and then get a shot before you're going in again.  When the whale is down, there is nothing to see - when the whale is coming up, you're getting ready to get in the water with it.  So, in the end - I have VERY few shots of whales from the boat.  Here are the few I managed, most with my small, cheap Panasonic Lumix Z19.

We saw a young baby breach more than a dozen times.  I didn't have my camera with continuous shots and it was at a distance - I managed ONE far away capture only.  The dot is a baby breach!


This is a guide in the water giving the signal that he/she has found the whale.  Now 4 snorkelers will swim out to the guide.  As you can see, you can get very close!

A mother whale's pectoral fin compared to a boat - as you can see, she's huge.


Several times, a baby was lifted up by mom's nose when breathing.  I never really managed a shot of it - but here at least you can see both mom and baby.

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Another nice pectoral shot

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fruit Bats in Tonga

Supposedly Tongatapu has a bat sanctuary on the northwest part of the island.  We had a very, very brief stayover on the island and I wanted to see the bats.  Unfortunately, the one bad/sketchy/unpleasant aspect of visiting Tonga are the taxi drivers.  Although they are nice, they all seem to be running a scam or several and it is very difficult to extract prices and information from them.  As a result, I don't know if we ever made it to the bat sanctuary or if our driver just drove to a tree full of bats and claimed it was the sanctuary - but either way I did see a lot of fruit bats.

This is one of my favorite shots, as it is very hard to get a photo of a bat in flight - they are so fast, and there are so many trees.

I love this bat, hanging on by three toes and looking relaxed about it.

Somehow I caught the eyes at a fun angle in this lucky shot.

Not perfectly in focus - but my only other bat in flight captured.


"Fishing Pigs"

One of the things to see in Tonga listed in most guidebooks is "fishing pigs." Of course, I always try and see animals above anything else, and so in our brief stopover in Nuku Ľalofa, Tonga, I wanted to try and see fishing pigs and fruit bats.  Neither proved all that easy.  Apparently the fishing pigs are mainly on the north side of the island (Tongatapu) and only can be seen at low tide.  The low tide, the location of the hotel, and a big storm made seeing them a challenge.  However, I did manage to see them by sheer chance off Vava Ľu at the Old Harbor. 

They were rooting in the sand, but not swimming or in the water, so "fishing pigs" is probably over-selling what's happening.  Still interesting to see them though.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

California Sea Lions

Recently we were in Newport, Oregon.  Upon stepping out of the car near the coast, there was the sound of a lot of sea lions, barking and calling to one another.  We walked out on the dock and saw sea lions on platforms, on rocks, and swimming all over the place.  A metal cage was present, which researchers can close and then tag some of the sea lions for study - the cage was filled with sea lions when the door was open.

Although there was clearly quite a collection of these animals, and a few signs giving some information about them, there was no explanation of why they gather in this particular location in October.  It's always nice to see marine mammals, regardless of why they are there - and this viewing we had Maisey and a guest dog with us.  The dogs were unimpressed by the incessant sea lion barking.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Grey Whales Feeding

This weekend we went to the Oregon coast, and saw three whales feeding near Depoe Bay.  They were at some distance, and I only had a 30x zoom on my point and shoot camera - but I managed to get a few photos where the whales are at least discernable.


It was certainly a radically different whale viewing experience than swimming with humpbacks in Tonga last month!  It is always great to see whales in the wild though - and everyone nearby was craning to see them and thrilled at the chance.

The Littlest Humpback Calf

Two days in a row we were able to swim with a very small (less than 2 week old) baby humpback whale calf off Tofu'a'a.  This particular mother was very comfortable with people in the water with the baby.  Both mom and baby showed off for some of the boats with fin and fluke slaps (baby tried to copy mom) and lots of baby breeches.  Some of the photos of this pair are among my favorite of the entire trip.  Note that the baby likes to cuddle up under mom's chin.
The baby, though much bigger than us, was very small in comparison to mom.  The bond between them was palpable.
I adore this shot of the calf:
This particular mom and calf we had a chance to be with for an extended time as they napped.  It was surreal - at one point the mom and baby were under us, and between us and them floated lots of soccer ball sized jellyfish.  As luck would have it, it was the last drop of the day and lasted longer than usual and my camera battery died, so I have very few photos of that particular swim with them - bit lots of indelible memories.  We also, the following day and last swim of the trip, saw this same baby nursing.  Amazing!!