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

My first whale

  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

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In Polynesia, there are not only lagoons, coconut palms and yukuleles. There's 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 archipelago of the Society, near the island of Maupiti, ocean side, of course.

It was during a diving trip, with the adorable Lionel Clin, monitor of Maupiti Nautique [EDIT: the Maupiti diving center is now known as Maupiti Diving and it is held by Yannick and Nelly]. It's the only structure on the island to do scuba diving (well, "structure" is a big word, let's say that Lionel's house is the 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 wet, we prepare to return to the island when Lionel spots the gray 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 just made pictures underwater.

I do not have time to wipe the dome, on which the drops still trickle. With the weight of the box, the swell and the drops of water, the photos will be rotten, but too bad.

We're scanning the waves, when all of a sudden, just off to port, there's this funny noise: "Pfffff... sprit..." At barely 2 meters from the hull of the boat, a whale comes out!

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 very close - we realize it well on one of the poor pictures that I managed to take, since there is even in the frame, in the left corner, the blond hair of Emmanuelle ...

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

We have just enough time to catch a glimpse of his curious little eye, a brief moment, and there he goes! He probes under the boat, disappears, and comes out the other side, to starboard! He stays a little on the surface, distancing himself this time, then disappears underwater again.


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

We hesitate for a moment to get into the water, in palms-mask-snorkel only, to try to see the whales again, but the waves and the current dissuade us.

We come back, excited, amazed ... Not coming back from our luck.

The breath of the whale

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

But never before, I had met whales.

So it's got to be something to see the huge, grey, dripping back of a big beast coming out of the water, close to the boat, going, "Pffff... " Even before being impressed by the show, by the size of the animal, I am touched, upset, by its breath.

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

Short. I met my first whale in Maupiti, Polynesia. And I still do not recover.


Trip to Polynesia - October 2012

  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

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    1. @ Jérémy Janin: yes, it's really magic !!! To say it is one thing, to live it is another ... We were still in the right season. They can be very numerous in the area.

    1. @Manta: yes, it's beautiful, amazing, moving ... You can not imagine how happy I am to have had the chance to live such a moment !!!

      If I have to return to Polynesia one day, I will first learn about the whale season to put the odds on my side and have the opportunity to relive that ... (sigh)

  1. 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 am thinking of sending you an email quickly, we are planning a trip to Thailand and I may need your lights for the dives


    1. @Julien: lagoon side !!! Wahoo ... And you've even heard the famous whale song ... Fantastic !!! It must have been really amazing ... I'll have to go back, I want to live that too !!!

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

  2. I saw a lot but still dead ... They had come to agonize 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 neither dead nor alive before this day of October 2012. I hope to see others, and alive!

  3. It reminds me of my "sperm whale" stay in Mauritius. I was lucky to swim in the middle of a whalebone and it's an amazing experience.
    Too bad you could not swim with.

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

      For my part, it was already a sacred first, this meeting! Going into the water, given the sea conditions that day, would have been a bit risky. But I hope to have the chance to see whales again, and to be able to swim close to them one day ...

    1. @Laurence: meeting absolutely brilliant, yes !!! I have only one desire, relive that, but by swimming with the whales, the next time ...

  4. But... but... how is that possible, I saw a whale before you 🙂
    Well, ok, not at all so close ...

    For me, it was in northern Iceland... but I wouldn't mind running into 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. @CuriousTraveler: exceptional, for sure!!! 🙂 Glad to have shared this moment with you via my Little Bubbles of Elsewhere!

  5. Amazed to see that after all these trips, you did not see a whale in October 2012! The first I saw was in Sydney during the season in October. An exceptional memory, I was amazed to see this monster!

  6. Cool whales 🙂 always a great memory, for me it was 3 years ago a beautiful day of October too, at the exit of the port of Saint Gilles in Reunion, in front of the surf spot of Roches Noires.
    It was so close to shore that surfers were running in paddling their boards, mingling with the divers and as the day was not beautiful enough, suddenly a school of daiuphins appeared and slipped in among the surfers, divers and the whale. 😮

    But go on a tour on the island of Reunion in September / October, I am sure that common knowledge will be happy to take you dive with whales and sometimes their calf. 8)

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

  7. Waaaah ... what luck, Corinne!
    I imagine the body despite the massive calf waving and see this eye that you describe coming out of the water to look at you ... what time it had to be!

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

  8. The dream! I did not have the chance to see more, it must be an exceptional moment! Thank you for this story and these photos ...

  9. hello Corinne, I live in Maupiti for 14 years and, of course Lionel knows because I dive regully with him quad he is not too busy ... At this moment, the whales are there, in Maupiti, and that even Yesterday, two of these mammals entered the La Gon which mobilized some of the Maupiti boats to guide them to the exit because the lagoon is shallow in some places and they might injure the corals, or worse, to fail ... Operation carried out for good and with the participation of Lionel (the video should be on the web soon) The whales are customary of the fact and it is, for me, the fourth time that it arrives and there is more in more whales around Maupiti, on average 10 to 15 with their young, so if you come back one day in Maupiti, whale season is from July to November, when they come to give birth in our waters ... .That's magic to be able to approach them in this way and I do not get tired , 'is on ! there is also mantas rays in the lagoon, there is also one of the only two sites in polynesia where we can approach very close mantas rays ... A true paradise this Maupiti!