humpback, whale, Tonga, Joanna Lentini, underwater photography

Humpback mother and calf (Megaptera novaeangliae) | Kingdom of Tonga


Up until recently whales eluded me underwater.

I encountered the first of several species right around the time I started to wonder if it would ever happen. But it wasn’t easy. The ocean never is. That first in-water encounter was with a pod of killer whales in June in the southern Gulf of California. I was there because of a hurricane—Aletta to be exact.

Two days later a different system rolled in. That one they referred to as Bud.

In hindsight, Bud was another blessing.

Because of Bud I met a second species of whale. This time in the Revillagigedo Archipelago—30 hours by boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This large pod was of the false killer whale kind and the encounter equally grand.

Orca (Orcinus orca) | Gulf of California


But the humpback jaunt, was the trek of all treks. A journey to a far away kingdom known as Tonga. From New York the southwestern Pacific is far—mind-bogglingly far. But worth it? You bet. When the conditions are ripe, Tonga is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

The whales spend July through October there. Mothers raise their calves, males chase after females, calves try to tempt you away from mum’s glaring nugget of an eye.

It’s blissful. Really.

And then just as quickly as it begins it ends. They move south into frigid temperatures to sustain themselves. To Antarctica.


false killer whales, whales, revillagigedo, Mexico, Socorro, Joanna Lentini

False Killer Whales (Pseudorca crassidens) | Revillagigedo Archipelago