Pod of humpback whales swim under surprised swimmers in Tonga

Humpback whales are among the most beautiful and awe inspiring creatures on earth. These lucky swimmers experienced a once in a lifetime thrill when they entered the water in Tonga to swim in the ocean. A pod of humpback whales came through, swimming directly at and under the whales. Humpbacks come to Tonga to breed and to bear their young. This is one of the few areas in the world where they are safe from large sharks and orcas. There are no predators for the whales in the waters around the 169 islands that make up the Kingdom of Tonga. The female humpbacks are followed by eligible males during mating season. They jostle and shove each other, trying to assert their dominance and claim breeding rights. The females aren't always receptive and these courtship rituals might occur over hundreds of miles of ocean. These swimmers found themselves right in the path of one of these events, known as a heat run. They were thrilled to see the whales passing directly beneath them. Intelligent and gentle, the whales had no interest in colliding with the clumsy humans in the water and they submerged long enough to pass under them without contact. Few people will ever come so close to such magnificent creatures in their own environment. For these swimmers to see 7 or 8 of them at once was simply unforgettable.

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