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Dive Review of Nai'a in
Tonga/Ha'apai

Nai'a, Aug, 2009,

by Gina Sanfilippo, CA, USA (Sr. Reviewer Sr. Reviewer 7 reports with 1 Helpful vote). Report 5034.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Sea of Cortez, Caribbean, Fiji, Mergui, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Monterey
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather windy, cloudy Seas choppy
Water Temp 73 to Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 40 to 60 Feet

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales > 2
Corals 1 stars Tropical Fish 2 stars
Small Critters 1 stars Large Fish 1 stars
Large Pelagics 5 stars

Underwater Photography 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Subject Matter 5 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments The Nai'a has a dedicated room for photographers, with ample workspace, dry space, and electrical plugs. Staff are experienced with photography equipment, i.e. they know how to handle cameras as you exit and enter the boat without damaging anything.

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 5 stars Food 5 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity 5 stars
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments We went on a 10-day trip to swim with humpback whales in Tonga, and it was an incredible experience! All of our time was spent in the Ha-apai Island group in Central Tonga, a 6-8 hour overnight cruise from Nukua'lofa, where you board the boat. The crossing can be rough, so be prepared. We saw whales from the boat every day, and had in-water encounters every day but one, including one amazing two hour-long encounter with a pair of adults.

When whales are spotted they are observed to see if they might be amenable to "play." If so, guests don snorkel gear and get into the skiffs which drop you off to swim with the whales. Encounters are solely up to the animals--if they don't want to swim with you they won't. If the staff sees whales that continue to swim away they are left alone and not chased incessantly.

On days where we didn't spend much time in the water we were usually offered the option of a scuba dive. Diving here is not very good as there is little coral, not many fish, and no large fish. Many people on the boat did not dive at all and thought they should have just left their BCDs & regs at home. Several afternoons we were also given the option to wander on one of the islands near where we were moored.

Other notes: Bring a wide-angle lens for underwater, but don't forget your telephoto for topside breaches and other displays! This trip takes place in winter, and even in the semi-tropics things can get chilly. Bring a 5-7mm wetsuit or semi-drysuit, and a hood. Bring pants and a wind- & waterproof jacket for the deck. Although this is billed as a "dive trip," all whale encounters are done on snorkel only and would therefore be appropriate for non-divers.

The Nai'a lives up to its reputation as a top-quality dive boat with an excellent, friendly staff, spacious accommodations, and good food.
They've spoiled me, and no longer will I be content to just see whales from the surface ;)

--
The nights immediately before and after the cruise we spent at the Waterfront Lodge in Nukua'lofa. It is directly across the street from the harbour where you board the Nai'a. Accommodations are simple, but clean and safe. There is a good restaurant in the hotel, and it's a 15 minute walk to other restaurants in town.
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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