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

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Nai'a: "No wonder the whale trips sell out 2 years in advance!", Jul, 2018,

by Lisa Jabusch and Steve Nieters, TN, US (Contributor Contributor 18 reports with 8 Helpful votes). Report 10386 has 1 Helpful vote.

No photos available at this time

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 N/A Shore Diving N/A
Snorkeling 5 stars
Value for $$ 5 stars
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 5 stars
Comments Snorkeling with humpbacks in the cool Tongan waters was as awesome as we were hoping. We were on the first charter this year, for 9 days, and there seemed to be plenty of surface action, as well as in-water experiences. The cruise directors, Vanessa and Chad, said there seemed to be a pattern last year, of more surface action, along with bull runs in the earlier charters, while there were more encounters with mommas and babies later in the season. This charter is not billed as a diving trip, as the main focus is the whales, but one or two dives were usually offered each day. (I only snorkeled this trip, while my husband did the night dives, and the one day dive.)

If you want details on the Nai'a or her staff, please see the numerous reviews filed under Fiji, where the majority of her diving trips occur.

The whale charters are organized much differently from the diving charters in Fiji. Breakfasts while in Tonga were at 0730, and then whale watching began in earnest, even though the staff were on lookout essentially from dawn to dusk. Once surface activity was seen, or spouts were spied, the Nai'a headed toward them, motoring between several islands. As we would approach the whales, we'd see if they were moving slowly, or staying mostly at the surface, possibly signifying willingness to interact with us. There were 16 guests aboard this charter, and we were divided into 2 groups of eight for each of the 2 Zodiac type skiffs. The drivers were simply fantastic at gauging where the whales were, and when was the best time to enter the water. A guide would enter, with 4 guests, and as long as the whales were not moving quickly off, we would switch out groups of 4 guests every few minutes, to allow everyone approximately equal snorkeling time with the gentle giants. There seemed to be better interactions in the morning, and when the whales moved off or dove deep, we'd head back to the Nai'a for lunch anywhere between noon and 2 pm. We'd continue watching and following whales in the afternoon, occasionally getting lucky and entering the water again, before Nai'a would settle into a calm anchorage near any one of several islands, by late afternoon. Depending on the time, there could be an afternoon dive, or more likely, a night dive (after dinner).

Helpful tips: If you're prone to motion sickness, bring along meds for the overnight passages to and from the main island of Tongatapu.
Even though you're snorkeling, bring along as many layers, or as much neoprene as you can - I was very comfortable in my 7 mm wetsuit, but others with "only" 5 mm said they were frequently cold, despite having layers or wearing hoods. Bring a dry bag with sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, and lip protection for the several hours you'll spend on the skiff each session. Bring your own water bottle to use aboard the Nai'a, as well as on the skiff (as they told us that the plastic bottles of Fiji Water are going away before the end of 2018). I was very glad I brought my DSLR (and long lens) for surface action shots, as well as small underwater camera (SeaLife) for both stills and video -- others had nice results underwater with GoPros and (naturally) with big DSLRs. Bring a laptop to review and edit photos and videos each afternoon and evening. Mornings and evenings are cool, so bring at least a jacket (if not long pants) for the cool breezes. A windbreaker was invaluable when up on the sundeck, both for sun protection, as well as a light layer when the winds really picked up.

This was an absolutely amazing experience, to be given the gift of interacting with these magnificent creatures. It was worth all the planning, costs and time involved to get there.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 251-500 dives
Where else diving Fiji, French Polynesia, Cozumel, Belize, Hawaii, Cayman Islands, other Caribbean locations, Great Barrier Reef, Solomon Islands, PNG
Closest Airport Tongatapu Getting There Nadi, Fiji to Tonga via Fiji Airways (90 min. flight)

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny, cloudy, dry Seas calm, choppy
Water Temp 75-76°F / 24-24°C Wetsuit Thickness 7
Water Visibility 20-75 Ft/ 6-23 M

Dive Policy

Dive own profile yes
Enforced diving restrictions [Unspecified]
Liveaboard? yes Nitrox Available? yes

What I Saw

Sharks None Mantas None
Dolphins Schools Whale Sharks None
Turtles None Whales > 2
Corals N/A Tropical Fish N/A
Small Critters N/A Large Fish N/A
Large Pelagics N/A

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

Subject Matter 4 stars Boat Facilities 5 stars
Overall rating for UWP's 5 stars Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]
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Report currently has 1 Helpful vote

Subscriber's Comments

By JohnnyQuest in , at Aug 08, 2018 17:53 EST  
Thanks for your report. We did this trip in 2005 and had a great experience too. I guess we should plan on returning. I'm curious why your very positive review with nearly all 5 star ratings (one 4 star) got an overall rating of only 3. Thanks.
By report author: Lisa Jabusch and Steve Nieters in TN, US at Aug 10, 2018 10:13 EST  
On the template for the review, the boxes are labelled as "overall diving for beginners" and "overall diving for experienced". I took that literally, as rating the DIVING, rather than the overall trip, not noticing on the final read through before submitting, that those ratings were lodged in the box labelled "Overall Rating". I'll see if I can edit it. Thanks for calling that to my attention.
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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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