"Earlier this year, I put my name forward to spend a week swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. That alone seems pretty incredible right? What I didn’t realise is that I actually was saying yes to a life altering experience. It wasn’t only a week of sharing the ocean with these gentle giants, it was a week spent with strong, inspirational women, who started off as strangers but soon became family.
I left for the trip not knowing what to expect. I was both nervous and excited. However, after meeting all the girls for the first time it didn’t take long for my nerves to completely disappear. Steph, the heart and soul behind OceanZen, is a firm believer in “Your vibe attracts your tribe.” This was definitely the case for all of us. While each and every one of us was different, we all emitted good vibes day in and day out and it drew us closer together. How could you have anything other than good vibes when you know that you’ll be dancing in the deep blue with humpback whales!?
There are not enough words to describe the emotions felt when swimming with wild humpback whales. I was overwhelmed and utterly astonished at the beauty and gracefulness of these animals. Each day was unlike the last. Some days were spent with calves frolicking and twirling around the surface while their mothers waited patiently for them down below, while other days were spent with males competing against each other to win over a female. I would feel my adrenalin peak to a whole new level, while at other times I would feel entirely at peace. I feel so blessed to have been able to witness a calf be completely besotted by their mother, both sharing a bond so strong that nothing would ever hinder it. Every swim told a unique story which ignited a fire deep within myself to work towards protecting the ocean and the animals it is home to, more than ever before.
Once you immerse yourself beneath the surface you will see that the ocean is full of magic. Who wouldn’t want to keep the magic alive and thriving? After spending a week with Steph of OceanZen and my newfound sisters, I left feeling incredibly motivated to make every effort possible to minimise my plastic footprint on this Earth. OceanZen is a strong advocate for sustainability, and is driven by the passion to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean. On my return home I went to my local organic market and purchased a basket full of plastic-free alternatives to everyday household items. While I’ve always been conscious of my plastic usage, it wasn’t until after listening to Steph speak so passionately about the ocean, that I made every effort to ensure I was working towards protecting it rather than endangering it.
On the plane home, I reflected on every aspect of the trip. I realised that I had left with so much more than I arrived with. I left enriched by the presence of such precious women who I already miss dearly. I left with a willingness to change my habits and strive for ocean conservation. I left with more open chapters in the story of my life, and I now consider myself far richer from the experience. I live by my own personal rule of saying yes to new opportunities without letting the constraints of money, time or travel impact my decisions. You only have one life, so what’s the use of letting those factors determine how well you live it? It may push you out of your comfort zone, but it may also be the best decision you’ve ever made and I can honestly say that this was the case when I said yes to the OceanZen Whale Retreat".
- Words by Annaleise