Moments of Bliss
The Eye of the Whale
I was on a whale watching boat out of Neiafu, the capital of Tonga’s Vava’u Group of islands. Our guide spotted a mother humpback whale with her calf, and she ordered the boat to approach them slowly. Then at the spot where we had last seen them, four of us on the tour, along with our guide, took to the water with our snorkeling gear. My face down, I did not see anything right away. Suddenly, I saw something right below me—big and white. Then I realized that what I was seeing was the mother on her back, letting the calf drink her milk. In the next moment, the calf began to surface very close to me, just a few arm lengths away. It came up and looked at me with a large black eye as large as a dinner plate. I was mesmerized. It was truly a moment of bliss.
I felt intimately connected to this animal, in a very friendly way.
I had a very strong urge to touch it (against the rules of engagement
in the whale watchers guide). So I swam a few feet towards it and reached
out with my arm. That was too close for comfort for the calf. It rolled
on its back and paddled away from me with a few powerful strokes of
its large flippers. In doing this, one of the calf’s flippers
hit me on the right shoulder, which felt like being slapped with a big
piece of wood. The magical spell was broken and I became concerned that
the mother would surface, throwing me up in the air. However, she was
gracious enough to forgive my intrusion into her calf’s private
sphere. The moment of bliss in which I felt deeply connected to this
large fellow living creature was gone. What was left: a scolding from
the guide. I felt like a little schoolboy being reprimanded by the principal.
But she was right, it was dangerous to do what I did. By the way, one
week later, on the same whale watching tour, another guide was attacked
and his hip bitten into by a tiger shark. He was fortunate that the
surgeons were able to save his leg.
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