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Swimming with humpback whales

Swimming with humpback whales

Having paused their Pacific cruise in Mo’orea, Josh Shankle and Rachel Moore find wonderment swimming with humpback whales

“Slip into the water, don’t jump. Try not to splash, and follow me,” our guide Torea hurriedly told us as the panga-style boat slowed to a stop, only 100m away from a sleeping giant.

“Stay together, stay close to me. Ready? Let’s go!” As the boat clicked into neutral, Torea was already in the water and swimming away, urging us all to follow quickly. Lowering myself into the water, I barely had time to take in the vast blue void of the open ocean below me. By the time I took my first breath, he was already 10m away, kicking toward where he’d last seen the whale spout.

From the boat, the distance we had to swim didn’t look far, but once in the water fighting the wind chop and current, I realised the 100m swim was going to take more effort than I’d realised. I’m unsure of how far we really swam or how long it took in the end, as the excitement and adrenaline rush distorted details. Once we reached the spot Torea believed the whale to have last been, we slowed our pace and searched the endless blue below us. He kept reminding us to stay together and stay close, which in the…

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