Carl Roessler writes of The Humpback whales of Tonga.

The rapture of these sublime encountersMost divers have become accustomed over the years to diving holidays in which they can dive as often as they wish.

There is, however, another entire class of adventures which searches out reclusive, large animals in their remote lairs. The humpback whales of Tonga, like the great white sharks or the whale sharks of the Ningaloo, are not simply there to be filmed whenever we wish.

To experience the rapture of these sublime encounters, we must go to the remote islands where they gather for breeding and training their young, and patiently search them out .

After returning from a recent adventure in Tonga, I can tell you that encountering these placid giants in Tonga's crystal-clear water is a remarkable experience. We cruises for some hours each day throughout Tonga's widely-scattered islands, looking for the tell-tale signs of a whale mother whale with her calf. Often, these clusters of whales are tucked up against the shore in shallow water either to avoid predators or to keep the baby whales in comfortable depths.

During these search cruises, the comfort level of the dive vessel is important, and in this regard the 100-foot Princess II was superb. Our guide, Jim Watt, the whale maven from Hawaii, has a well-developed sense of how to find and approach whales; Princess II's eagle-eyed crew were magnificent "spotters" the combination covered Tonga's Va'vau and Ha'apai islands like a visual blanket. A grace unknown

Each time we located a mother/calf combination (sometimes accompanied by a large male escort), four divers at a time would be inserted cautiously into the water to silently snorkel toward the whales.

Those moments were cosmic I can tell you this from personal experience: when your timing coincides with a tolerant group of whales you will see images you will never forget, tableaus which replay themselves unbidden when you lie abed in the darkness.

For those of you who wish to get clear-water photos of the serene, humpbacks, Princess II's August / September season in Tonga's friendly islands is a world-class opportunity. Don't miss this one!!

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