Meet the Humpback whale with Poema du Prel.

Poema du Prel is one of our favorite Ocean Ambassador. As much as she is loves being on an island, she’s equally happy in the ocean. Indeed this local vahine brown and raised in Moorea spends a lot of time in the ocean since it provides her and her family food, playground, adventures, discoveries, revenues, health and much more. Here she’s sharing with us her passion for whales, her experience as a whale photographer and guide.

« This whale I called ‘ Barnicle’, this one was magic, she/he was dancing with us, it came so close that I took my camera off several times just to watch her… I could see her rostrum hairs! I didn’t even know they had hairs! »
Last year those encounters changed my understanding of whale approach and today I like to call them « Te Nuu a Hiva » the guardians of the ocean, of our people, of the Pacific Ocean, guardians of our history »

During her spearfishing or diving session, Poema would hear them, these majestic creatures who sing underwater and who can actually be heard also outside the water, from the boat; their sound is that powerful! She always wondered what would they be saying through their song. Last year she learned about them a lot and could observe and swim with them during whale watching tours with Moorea Blue Water and owner Pater Alexandre along with her friend Kelsey. Patea is an old friend and one the most experienced captain/guide/photographer/videographer on Moorea, he taught to approach the whale in a respectful way for both parties, whale and human.

Whales can display different types of behavior categorized as either singer, sleepers, mother&calf, mother&calf’s & escort, or group of juveniles, heat runners. Our mermaid encountered many situations in which whales clearly decided to stay or leave because of their capacity to disappear in an unnoticed move when they don’t feel like staying.

« I had magic moments with whales and dolphins, or whale, pilot whales and oceanic white tip sharks! Multi spices encounters are truly magic. Calf can also be very playful and curious and they often come really close and I feel like they have less distance notion than older ones. At a certain point we have to swim backwards cause it comes too close and sometimes calves make a sound which means it is in a stressful situation and the mom comes right away and take it.
White wings (its flippers had most white) was a very playful whale, it came right on our face, going around different groups of swimmers and around boats as well, that was very special ! It was my first encounter with a playful whale.
Being in a heat run was also crazy, surrounded by 6-8 whales, bending their body and blowing bubbles to impress the female, intense and magic »

« Regulations over prohibitions »

In French Polynesia, we are lucky to still be allowed to go in the water with whales, but abusive behaviors from non professional watchers unaware of their surrounding or rules, speeding up to be on the whale could change the rules. Professional whale watchers need to do captain class or snorkeling guide class and pass several security inspections to be able to take paid costumers on whale tours. And often we see all the blame put on professionnel whale watchers, although I’ve seen most unrespectful behaviors from non professional boat whale watcher. It’s a balance and we need more public education about the ocean and living creatures.

Yet our ambassador firmly believes that this experience can be wisely conducted if regulations are respected. Rules are set by Diren and Whale watching is prohibited in the pass or bay as they are protected area for the whales. After spotting the blow, the tail or sign of whale, the boat can move towards the whale and must slow down to 5 knots 300 meters before the whale, and distance between boat and whales can’t be less than 100m. The priority for Poema whale watching tours isn’t to put people in the ocean, but to observe and understand the whale and it’s behavior and the surrounding. And if everything comes together, then she chooses to enter the ocean. She usually goes before the guests to spot the whale then takes only the good swimmers out because the group usually swim non-stop for at least 200 meters. The distance between the whale and swimmers is regulated to 30m. But if the whale is curious then we are lucky and it comes towards the swimmers and even the boats.

Her ideal tour would be almost noiseless. She thinks the most intrusive thing for whale is the noise from boats. They easily slip away from swimmers but with more difficulty from boats and their noise. Sound spreads faster underwater. Sailing canoe would the best option in her opinion ! (Don’t steal her idea : ) ) Also she prefers small groups of swimmers as more respectful for the animal and the guide, 4 people + crew or less in the water is a good number.
She also thinks that non motorized/non professional « vessels» (canoe, kayaks, paddle) should be aloud to go see the whales in the lagoon as this is how our elders were connecting their child and grandchild to our ocean guardians also known as taura (family protector) for many Tahitian families. A slower and silent approach of the ocean and it’s guardians is her dream…

Her recommendation for potential whale watchers especially for those who want to swim with whales:
Practice swimming, get used to your gear, fins, snorkel and mask, you don’t want your mask to fog and ruin your moment with whales.
Get ready for the unknown, because the open ocean can bring up fears and it’s full of surprise. Also practice patience and be ready for sea sickness.

« We don’t see bottom ? People don’t even think about it anymore when they see whales, that’s the beauty of it too, to take them out in open ocean draws their awareness. I saw people changed after spending time in the ocean, they were first afraid of it thinking of sharks and then the fear turns into love and I believe that when you love something you cherish it and want to preserve and protect it.
Sharing my love for the ocean and swimming in Te Moana a Hiva connects us with Mother Ocean and will help preserve and protect Mother Nature, we belong to Mother Nature, we are one with Her and we need to adapt to her ».

Our ocean lover or nature lover is advocating for all the living beings, join her in her oceanic adventures with the guardians of the history of our planet.

« Most of all, to be reconnected with nature, we need to go back to it, to let go on our fears and let nature submerges us, it is humbling and brings respect. Papa Mape use to say «Love the land and it will love you back, love the ocean and it will love you back »… some are more comfortable in water and some are summit hunters… I invite you to join me on my Tahitian Pirates Adventures and swim with our greatest ocean guardians, whales, turtles, sharks who have been on earth millions of years… meeting them in their element is something you will never forget… sea you soon 💙🏴‍☠️»