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bora bora to maupiti ~ humpback whales

Posted by on March 20, 2014

August 22, 2013

Similar to the atolls of the Tuamotus, entrance through Maupiti’s only pass must be timed correctly with respect to weather, swell, and tidal current. This long and narrow pass can be completely inaccessible at certain times of the year, especially if the swell is southerly. If any south or southwest swell is greater than 1.5 meters, then it’s not recommended to attempt entry into the Maupiti lagoon. Also, strong current against the wind can create sizeable waves which make it difficult to identify the pass entrance upon approach.

Many people depart from Bora Bora in the wee hours of the morning to make the 28-mile sail to Maupiti. This allows for an early morning arrival to Maupiti’s pass entrance when the winds generally tend to be less. This was our plan, as well, although overall wind had already decreased quite a bit from the Maramu winds, and the swell had lessened too. Therefore, we felt like we could afford a middle-of-the-morning arrival. We departed Bora Bora around 4 a.m.

full moon ahead of us

sunrise over Bora Bora as we sail away

As somewhat expected, there was very little wind, and we ended up motoring the entire distance. While s/v Sueño and s/v Flour Girl used their sails for as long as possible, Wil had decided it wasn’t worth bobbing on the ocean, and he was just ready to get us there.The night before our departure from Bora Bora, we had received word that a lot of humpback whales had made an appearance outside Maupiti’s reef. Several cruisers had seen them from the mountain top, and quickly returned to their boats to get their dinghies. They had all had up-close encounters with the whales. As we were approaching Maupiti, s/v Saliander radioed to let us know where we should sail if we wanted to increase our chances of seeing some whales. We forwarded every bit of information to s/v Sueño and s/v Flour Girl. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we started noticing whale spouts in the distance. Our excitement grew, and we couldn’t wait to get a closer look!

As we neared Maupiti’s eastern reef, we could see more and more whale spouts, and an occasional whale breach. However, the whales kept their distance. Sueño was approaching from a more southerly route, and they ended up finding a bunch of whales near the pass. We decided to ditch our efforts on the eastern side and head for the pass.

The moment we rounded the southeast corner of the reef, we became surrounded by pods of humpback whales coming and going. These massive whales were following schools of fish and seemed to be feeding. Many times, one or two whales would breach at a time with amazingly huge splashes. We turned off our engines, and for the next few hours we watched the whales.

We had heard about other cruisers being in their dinghies or in the water with the whales. We were hoping for our own ultimate in-water experience with a whale. However, we are also familiar with whale watching rules. It was necessary to be safe for ourselves, as well as considerate of the whales. Besides, between three kid boats and all of the first-time excitement, it was hard to get any whales too close to us anyway. It was still one of the most incredible experiences we’ve ever had!

dolphins swimming with the boat

whale seen below s/v Sueno swimmers

humpback whale surfacing

humpback whale

humpback whales near the Maupiti pass

humpback whales getting ready to dive

trying to get a closer look

too close for the zoom lens!

humpback whale surfaced next to the big boat

the identifying spout spray of a humpback whale

humpback whale spout

tail of a diving humpback whale

when the tail goes up, the humpback whale goes down

whale breaching in front of s/v Sueno

humpback whale breaching

pair of humpbacks breaching relative to a 44-foot sailboat

whales breached between boats

humpback cruising near s/v Sueno

whales breaching, whales & dolphins swimming together

a busy ocean

trying for an in-water glimpse

swimming with whale in distance

humpback whale cruising past s/v Flour Girl

Eventually, it was time to say good-bye to the humpbacks, and make our entry into the Maupiti lagoon. Being that it was such a calm day, and we were still on a natural high from the whale watching, the entry through the pass was completely non-eventful. We were ready to find our anchor spot, explore the rest of Maupiti, and hope to see more whales.

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