Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are mammals and belong to the family Balaenopteridae, the Great Whales. The Latin genus "megaptera" translates literally as "big winged" and refers to the Humpbacks' very elongate pectoral fins which can be up to one third of the body length. The common name "Humpback" comes from the fact that they arch their back steeply as they dive and was given to them by the early whalers who decimated the population. Whaling has been banned in the Kingdom of Tonga by royal decree since 1978. Global conservation efforts have seen the Humpback Whale downgraded in the IUCN redlist of endangered species from vulnerable to least concern, but the Oceania subpopulation, which includes the Tonga Humpbacks, is still listed as endangered and more work needs to be done to ensure their survival.
Humpbacks are well known for their complex songs, awe inspiring aerial displays and extensive repetoire of interesting surface behaviour. Adults weigh over 40 tons and measure up to 15 meters in length, while new-born calves already boast an impressive two tons at a length of three to five meters. The patterns on the underside of the tail flukes are unique to each whale and can be used to identify individual animals. Despite their enormous size they are sublimely graceful and amazing to watch.
Whether it's from the boat or in the water, every second you are fortunate enough to witness the majesty of these giants is truely amazing and something you'll never forget.