Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

My first whale

  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

In Polynesia, there are not only lagoons, coconut trees and yukulele trees. There is also the ocean and the whales!

A calf not shy

Except on TV, I had never seen a whale before this trip to Polynesia in october 2012.

It happened in the Society Archipelago, near the island of Maupiti, ocean side, of course.

It was during a diving trip, with the adorable Lionel Clin, instructor of Maupiti Nautique [EDIT: the diving center of Maupiti is now called Maupiti Diving and it is run by Yannick and Nelly]. It is the only structure on the island to do scuba diving (well, "structure" is a big word, let's say that it is Lionel's house which acts as a center, and, to dive, you just have to contact him : he organizes everything for you, he comes to pick you up and takes you to his boat).

That day, there are four of us on the boat: a couple of French divers, Emmanuelle and Bruno, Lionel and myself. We have just finished our dive.

Still soaked, we prepare to return to the island when Lionel spots the grey back of a whale, between two waves.

Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

Quickly, I take back my fat waterproof box containing the camera, with which I have just made pictures under water.

I don't have time to wipe the dome, on which the drops are still streaming. With the weight of the box, the swell and the drops of water, the pictures will be rotten, but never mind.

We are scanning the waves, when suddenly, very close to us, on our port side, there is this strange noise: "Pfffff... pschiiit..." Barely 2 meters from the boat's hull, we see a whale appear!

Or rather, a whale calf. Yes, it is smaller than the whale seen further away (the mother, presumably), but still a nice size! Probably bigger than our boat.

Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

Not shy at all, he came to see us up close, really close - you can see it on one of the poor pictures I managed to take, since there is even Emmanuelle's blond hair in the frame, in the left corner...

Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

We have just the time to see his little curious eye, for a brief moment, and here he is diving! He probes under the boat, disappears, and comes out on the other side, on starboard! He remains a little on the surface, taking his distance, this time, then disappears again under water.


Maupiti. Meeting with a whale. Polynesia, October 2012.

We hesitate one moment to put ourselves in the water, in flippers-mask-tuba only, to try to see again the whales, but the waves and the current dissuade us from it.

We return, overexcited, amazed... Not returning from our luck.

The breath of the whale

Since I've been scuba diving (my first bubbles date back to 1999), I've been lucky enough to cross paths (on a boat or underwater) with some of the big beasts that live in the sea: dolphins, sharks, moonfishes, manta rays and even whale sharks (well, ONE whale shark, in Richelieu Rock, Thailand, in 2006)…

But I had never met a whale before.

So, inevitably, it is something to see emerging from the water, very close to the boat, the huge gray and dripping back of a big beast that goes "Pffff..." Even before being impressed by the spectacle, by the size of the animal, I am touched, overwhelmed, by its breath.

There is nothing more moving than this hissing, this breathing out, which means: this beast is not a fish, this beast is like me, it breathes air, just like me...

In short. I met my first whale in Maupiti, Polynesia. And I still can't get over it.


Trip to Polynesia - October 2012

  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

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  1. Arf, I have chills for you 🙂
    I've seen them from far (too?) away in Australia, and I dream of seeing them again one day, it must be magical to see them up close.

    1. @Jérémy Janin: yes, it's really magical!!! Saying it is one thing, experiencing it is another... We were still in the right season. There can be a lot of them around.

    1. @Manta: yes, it's beautiful, incredible, moving... You can't imagine how happy I am to have had the chance to experience a moment like this!!!!

      If I ever go back to Polynesia, I'll find out about the whale season first, to make sure I've got all the chances on my side to experience it again... (sigh)

  2. We also had the chance to swim with them in Moorea, and of all the encounters we had in Polynesia this one remains the most beautiful (on par with my mantas 😛 )
    They were lagoon side so we could swim with and hear the male sing !! A concentrate of happiness this day!
    I'm thinking of sending you an e-mail soon, as we're planning a trip to Thailand and I may need your help with the dives.


    1. @Julien: lagoon side!!! Wow... And you even heard the famous whale song... Fantastic!!!! It must have been really extraordinary... I'll have to go back, I want to experience it too!!!!

      For Thailand, don't hesitate to send me a private note... 🙂

  3. I've seen quite a few, but always dead... They've come to die on the coast... It must be wonderful to see them swim!

    1. @Nono: Wonderful, yes, that's the word... 🙂
      I had never seen a whale either dead or alive before that day in October 2012. I sure hope to see more, and alive!!!!

  4. It reminds me of my "sperm whale" holiday in Mauritius. I was lucky enough to swim in the middle of a school of sperm whales and it was an incredible experience.
    Too bad you couldn't swim with it.

    1. @Denis: arf, it must have been something, say ...

      As far as I'm concerned, it was quite a first! Getting into the water, given the sea conditions that day, would have been a bit risky. But I do hope to have the chance to see whales again, and to be able to swim close to them, one day...

    1. @Laurence: totally awesome encounter, yes!!!! I just want to experience it again, but swimming with the whales, next time....

  5. But... but... how is that possible, I saw a whale before you did 🙂
    Well, okay, not quite so close...

    For me, it was in northern Iceland... but I wouldn't mind coming across them in a warmer sea 🙂

    1. @Piotr: good thing I don't have the exclusive on whales around the world... 😀
      Now, I dream of being able to swim with them !!!!

    1. @Curieuse Voyageuse: exceptional, for sure!!! 🙂 Delighted to have shared this moment with you via my Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs!

  6. I'm surprised that after all these trips, you haven't seen a whale in October 2012! The first one I saw was in Sydney during the October whale season. An exceptional memory, I was astonished to see this monster!

  7. Cool whales 🙂 always a great memory, for me it was 3 years ago on a beautiful October day too, just outside the port of Saint Gilles on Reunion Island, opposite the Roches Noires surf spot.
    It was so close to shore that surfers came running paddling on their boards, mingling with divers and as the day wasn't beautiful enough, suddenly a school of daiuphins appeared and slipped in among the surfers, divers and whale. 😮

    But why not take a trip to Reunion Island in September/October? I'm sure some of our mutual acquaintances will be happy to take you whale diving, and sometimes even with their calves. 8)

    1. @Ludovic/Wet&Sea: La Réunion ? Bonne idée, tiens, ça… Je note de poser des jours de congés en en septembre-octobre ! 😉

  8. Waaaah ... what luck, Corinne!
    I can just imagine the whale calf's massive body undulating and seeing that eye you describe pop out of the water to look at you... what a moment that must have been!

    1. @OlympiaOnBoard: thanks for the link! I too have been to Samana Bay, in the Dominican Republic, a long time ago, twice, but out of whale season, alas... What you saw was even more spectacular!!!! What emotion...

  9. A dream come true! I haven't had the chance to see any yet, it must be an exceptional moment! Thank you for this story and these photos...

  10. bonjour Corinne , I've lived in Maupiti for 14 years and, of course, I know Lionel because I dive with him regularly when he's not too busy ....At the moment, the whales are there, in Maupiti, and even yesterday, two of these mamiferes entered the la gon which mobilized a part of the Maupiti boats to guide them towards the exit because the lagoon is not very deep in certain places and they risked to be wounded on the corals, or worse, to run aground...The operation was a success, with Lionel's help (the video should be on the web soon). The whales are used to it, and for me it's the fourth time it's happened, and there are more and more whales around Maupiti, on average 10 to 15 with their calves, so if you ever come back to Maupiti, the whale season is from July to November, when they come to give birth in our waters ....It's magical to be able to get so close to them, and I never tire of it, that's for sure! There are also manta rays in the lagoon, which is also one of only two sites in Polynesia where you can get very close to manta rays... Maupiti is a real paradise!