NUKU HIVA MELONHEADED WHALE
2015 TRIP REPORT
a nutshell, we nailed it! Not only did we get to swim with
huge pods of melonheaded whales (they are actually big
dolphins) but the diving was beyond everyone's expectations!
The melonheaded whales live along an exposed stretch of
coastline so we had to wait for perfect conditions before we
could venture out to play with them. Fortunately a window of
opportunity opened each week so both our groups got to swim
with them during the time we were there.
The melonheads were shy but also extremely curious about us
and they immediately started spy-hopping to get a better
look at us.
Then we slipped into the water while our captain motored
past in the dive boat leading the cetaceans right past where
we were floating. It was a fantastic chance to watch a
species that rarely comes in contact with humans.
The last time I came to Nuku HIva I was shooting a story for
Diver Magazine about the best spots to dive in French
Polynesia. I was allotted only two days to dive at this
remote island so I really didn't develop an appreciation for
the high caliber of diving here.
This time, I quickly learned that Nuku Hiva is not just
about encounters with melonheaded whales. The big animal
diving around Nuku Hiva is world class!
Virtually everywhere we dove we encountered sharks. Even in
the marina there were blacktip sharks milling around,
waiting for scraps to fall from the fishing boats. At one
point I jumped in to get some snaps but the visibility made
it a sketchy shoot.
the edge of the bay where we stayed, we dove at a spot named
The Sentinel. It was barely a mile from the village but it
was a great spot to dive with scalloped hammerheads. I have
never seen hammers so close to civilization. I have also
never managed to get so physically close to scalloped
hammerheads but these ones actually seemed interested in us
and made very close approaches.
regularly saw scalloped hammerheads at a number of sites
around the island. They were in small groups rather than the
huge schools you see at destinations like Cocos Island or
the Galapagos but the closeness of the encounters made up
for the smaller numbers and once we saw a school of around
forty hammers which was pretty good for Nuku Hiva.
most sites we would see grey reef sharks, whitetips, both
kinds of blacktips and the odd silvertip. At one site named
Tikapo (a current swept pinnacle far from shore) we
encountered about a dozen silvertips, lots of other species
and a squadron of eagle rays. The pinnacle was also swarming
you could pull your eyes away from the megafauna swimming
by, it was easy to find octopuses and other secretive reef
Some dive sites were literally crawling with morays. I
counted more than ten species at a site named Tetemanu
including the rare and beautiful dragon moray pictured here.
Last but far from least, we constantly ran into mantas.
Sometimes they were at the surface and we would slide in
next to them during our surface intervals. And sometimes we
would encounter them on our dives. At one site I counted
more than 20 mantas!
could go on and on about the quality of the encounters at
Nuku Hiva but you really need to see it for yourself. Big
Fish Expeditions will be back there in the next year or two.
Keep an eye on the