Whale watching is one of the best outdoor activities you can do when you visit Bora Bora. My last time doing this, I was able to get some beautiful sights of these creatures that roam the South Pacific Ocean.
Humpback whales are the most common whale species that you can find near French Polynesia. In a truly spectacular sight, a whale and her calf sought refuge in the lagoon of Bora Bora last week just inside Teavanui Pass in around 15m (50 feet) of water.
Needless to say, they became the focal point of people’s attention with boats of every shape, size and sort arriving along with zodiacs, jet-skis, stand-up paddle-boards, and indeed anything that could float!
The photo below captures the power and beauty of the humpback’s tail or fluke as it’s also referred to. A fully grown female’s fluke can reach up to 5.5m in width!
Best Time To See Whales in Bora Bora
If you want to go whale watching, the best time to see whales in Bora Bora is during the humpback whale season between the months of July and October. Humpback whales navigate through the clear, warm waters of Bora Bora each year during this time.
The greatest number of sightings tends to fall in and around September and whales are often seen during the running of the annual Maraamu Surf-Ski Race. There are wonderful stories of whales breaching right alongside surf skis being swept along in the powerful southerly swell that develops at this time of the year.
They’re here to give birth and to breed. For reference, a humpback calf can be up to 4.5 meters at birth and weigh almost 1000kg (2200 pounds)! Mothers will calf every 2-3 years upon reaching maturity (6-10 years) with a gestation of 12 months on each occasion.
Interestingly the world’s population of humpbacks live in quite distinct isolated populations. There are 7 such stocks in the southern hemisphere, so families of whales return each year. The bigger eaters in the family will consume up to 1,500 kg/day of krill and other small fish.
Bora Bora and the surrounding French Polynesia islands are good places for whale watching and seeing other marine life like reef sharks and such. The Bora Bora whales swim close to shore and it delivers a certain intimacy to the encounter.
Whale Watching Tours In Bora Bora
Visitors to Bora Bora wishing to see the whales are fortunate to have the services of many ocean operators whose qualified staff specializes in whale watching tours.
You can book a great option here. This whale watching tour takes you into the South Pacific Ocean with knowledgeable guides and equipment that allows you to hear the whales talking to one another and the songs they sing. You can even get to swim with them if the ocean conditions are right.
It’s well worth taking a private tour with the experts as they can answer your every question and give explanations for much of the whale’s behavior.
Whales jumping out of and crashing their massive bodies back into the waters may well be just having fun but may also, for example, be males looking to mate coercing certain females or warning off other rival males.
They could also be whales of both sexes driving off potentially dangerous sharks and an outing with experts can be immensely rewarding.
Bora Bora Bora whales would not normally enter a pass unless they were seeking protection from potential predators. One explanation for the whales seeking refuge in Bora Bora’s lagoon is the fact that not far off the actual pass there is a deep hole prized by tuna.
At this time of the year, the area attracts tiger sharks looking to feed and tiger sharks represent a danger for calves. This is a very interesting point for the many visitors who take the dive with the lemon sharks off Teavanui Point.
Throwing burley to attract the lemon sharks may one day be met with unexpected consequences! Strict rules have been in place since 2002 requiring that observers stay at a distance of at least 100m from a whale & her calf.
This of course assumes that the animals are in the open sea and greater care is required should they enter a pass. Those breaking the law face heavy penalties with up to 3 months imprisonment, fines up to 980,000xpf and even seizure of their boats.
The whales sheltering in Teavanui Pass met with a group of enthusiasts wanting to get as close as they could, to dive and swim with the whales. At one stage a large yacht literally collided with the mother seeing mother and calf actually separated for several hours.
Be aware that when first born a calf lacks the muscular agility and body fat to readily reach the surface to breathe. The mothers actually swim while sleeping transporting their calf in their slipstream for several weeks until such life-skills are developed. A mother will nurse her calf for up to a full year.
If you are on a diving or snorkeling tour off Teavanui Pass during the whaling season, keep your ears open as one can often hear the sounds of whales communicating as they swim past.
Humpbacks are known to be great chatters! Scientists have discovered that (male) humpbacks actually sing quite complex songs. In days gone by whales could communicate a couple of thousand kilometers apart, but with noise pollution, this has now been reduced to a couple of hundred kilometers.
I have also dived with humpback whales, the biggest of which can approach 20m & weigh over 40 tonnes. It’s the females who are the biggest off Tahiti & Maupiti. Although a humpback can swim at almost 30kph in short bursts, they generally cruise at around 5-15kph, non-stop, averaging around 1000km/month.
Looking underwater and seeing these massive creatures in the distance coming towards you without deviating and swimming straight past you with just a gentle glance is one of life’s great rewards.
And remember that humpback whales can live for up to 50 years. Some of the guys swimming past may just merit your respect on the basis of age!