Up in the morning, bright sunshine and kids talking to cats wake me up. Maisie puts a lizard on my back and makes me jump. Marlon gives me his usual morning report of which cats are with us. Tea is made for me by Maisie, milky and weak, just how I don’t like it, but I appreciate the effort. Uli Uli the petite black mama cat runs past with a lizard in her mouth, the kids chase her to rescue it from her jaws. I cook up a pile of Canadian pancakes to be eaten with sugar and lime. Kian plays country tunes, puts on a dress and opens the tuck shop. Maisie does her funny dancing, grinning her piratical toothless grin and gyrating on her tip toes. We’re growing accustomed to our new surroundings and have continued some traditions from home – weekend pancakes and the opportunity to spend small amounts of pocket money on sweeties. It’s not quite the range on offer as our lovely sweet shop at home but an exciting highlight of the week all the same. It’s a good Saturday morning at jungle camp.
Hardcore sweet pushers
We are ready (and trying not to burst with anticipation) for our whale swim this morning. It’s been hard not too feel too jealous each time as guests return elated from encounters with singing males or curious calfs and mellow mums.We have been getting more and more desperate for our turn, having been out a couple of times with no success, and trying to avoid getting a cinderella complex..we clean and cook while guests swim with whales in the deep blue sea. We are going to leave the kids at home with big boy Jack in charge. So excited.
Now the evening after our swim and I feel as though I’m looking at the island with new open eyes. Maybe I needed something so utterly amazing and inspiring to truly wake me up to the beauty here, or maybe it’s just taken me this long to settle in and this whale treat is what I needed to confirm life is good. It was so much more moving and just so much more in every way than I expected. Utterly mesmerising and totally addictive, I want to be back in with them now. I am still saturated in that beguiling watery world and hope I’ll be there in my dreams tonight.
We chugged out of the blue lagoon on la Venuella, Boris our skipper, Karyn our guide, Sally the nervous guest, Carole the indomitable Auzzie, and Kian and I. We quickly spotted a mother and calf just round the back of the Hunga lagoon and we stayed to watch them for a while. They kept travelling and did not look like they felt like settling for us to join them, so Karyn suggested we snorkel instead at Hunga gap seeing as we were there. This was a good idea to take the edge off my growing anxiety that we were once again going to be unlucky with elusive whales. It was a gorgeous snorkel, fun diving down deep to join the fishes and following four beautiful spotted eagle rays wonderfully ‘flying’ in formation.
Back on the boat we continued to scan the horizon in all directions for any signs of whales – spray, fin, tail or breach. Finally Kian spotted what could be a large amount of spray in the distance, or could it be simply wave splash back on the rocks. Ever hopeful we continue forward and, to our great excitement soon realise we are looking at the spray of a large group of at least nine humpbacks. They are travelling, but not too fast or purposefully, so it seems promising. Who they were and what they were doing, I have no idea, being of mixed ages and sex, but they were unoffended by ourpresense perhaps even friendly.
Snorkels, masks, and fins on we drop into the water to join them. Karyn had said to Kian and I that we could go ahead from the group as she may have to be more cautious with Sally, so at the first drop off with pounding hearts we swim straight for them. It’s exhilarating swimming towards these huge beasts that are at first not visible then suddenly appear in the blue haze. We are small and ungainly in comparison to their huge floating hulks. Their sudden presence comes as a shock. One minute we’re clumsy little beings flailing around trying to find these huge needles in this vast ocean, the next thing there they are, magnificently enormous and all around us. The number was overwhelming. They were below us, beside us, criss-crossing and dancing balletic before us. Great bodies turning so gracefully with their long wing like fins. In watching them you inevitably find yourself trying to emulate their movements and so there I floated, arms hanging out, suspended in the big blue.
Occasionally we would dive down and be even closer and more part of their watery world, then have to surface frustrated at our small lungs. I’m not sure how long we were in the water there with them, it was, like all good experiences, totally timeless. We end up having 3 fantastic swims with this mellow gang of unlikely grace.
It seemed like they were beginning to move into deeper ocean, perhaps to move on, so on the 3rd drop in, we were a little further away. Kian and I had to race toward them for our final swim and we really didn’t want to miss it. I thought the main group was ahead and I was so intent on spotting the whale that I thought was pulling up the rear, that I missed this goliath gliding silently and purposefully toward me. Kian pulled me back just in time as he passed. He was so close I could have touched him, I saw every detail of every scrape, lump and barnacle and looked into his dark eye. What did I see there? Love? Compassion? Distain? Nothing at all? We hung there not breathing as this wonderful creature, so content and strong in his world, shared it with us. We are in their element. For just a moment we are connected, released from being a part of our clumsy species of killers, we meet as individuals and admirers entranced in the big blue.