Our 2nd Honeymoon in Paradise – Whale & Dolphin Watching in Moorea

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Michael Poole Moorea
Daraius & Emily on the Boat
Daraius:  Dr. Michael Poole is an American-born biologist who has spent the last 25 years in Moorea studying spinner dolphins and whales.  He also runs the Dolphin & Whale Watching Expeditions, which is an eco-tour to observe and to learn about the lives of wild, free-ranging dolphins and whales.  Proceeds from the tour also help fund his research on dolphins and whales.

I learned about the tour in the Moon guide to Tahiti.  The book suggested that Dr. Poole’s tour is the most environmentally sound tour (since he literally wrote the rules on what’s permissible or not with dolphins in Moorea) and is often not listed as an option in the activity list of hotels because Dr. Poole likely doesn’t pay a commission to the hotels.

I emailed Dr. Poole at dwwe@mail.pf to ask about a tour on Sunday.  He quickly replied that there wasn’t a tour on Sunday, but there would be one on Monday.

The tour costs 8,000 XPF (~$87) per person which is collected in cash on the boat.  Our tour didn’t include time for snorkeling or diving, but that could be possible depending on the weather etc.

Emily:  After breakfast, we were picked up from the hotel at 8:00 am in a shared van (included in the cost) to get to Dr. Poole’s boat.  We stopped along the way to pick up guests from other hotels and after a 15 minute ride we arrived at the pier.   There were around 12 couples on the boat, along with a driver, Dr. Michael Poole, and his assistant.
Michael Poole Moorea
Emily by our Boat
Emily Jablon:  It was a sunny day on the island, but on the boat it was a bit overcast and windy, so be sure to bring a windbreaker or another warm jacket.  A hat is also good, preferable one that you can tie – Dr. Poole’s hat blew off the boat and had to be rescued!  Binoculars to see the dolphins and whales up close could help as well. Daraius:  I didn’t have a sweater and the breeze felt great!

Dr. Poole explained the rules in both English and French.  The boat would not go in front of the dolphins and whales and trap them.  We would only go behind the animals.

His care for the animals was very evident and not surprising since French Polynesia’s government accepted his long-standing proposition to create a whale and dolphin sanctuary within all of the territory’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which is half the size of the USA.

He had a very nice system to ensure that everyone was able to take a picture.  If you were seated on the left side and saw an animal, you would sit down and take pictures while the right side of the boat would stand up and take pictures and vice versa.

Emily Jablon:  For the first part of the tour, we went to see some dolphins.
Michael Poole Moorea
View of Moorea from our Boat

We saw the dolphins’ fins as they swam in the water, but it was hard to see much else.  The area is home to ~160 dolphins, and Dr. Poole claims to have identified each and every one of them by their fins.

Michael Poole Moorea
Dolphin Roster!

The dolphin population has been steady in Moorea for many, many years.

The area is also home to the famous spinner dolphins that come out of the water and spin like a top.  It’s possible to see this on a tour, but we did not see any dolphins spin on our tour.

Michael Poole Moorea
Jumping out of the Water

After a while, we went to find the whales.  We saw four different whales on our outing.  There was a huge male whale that weighed more than 5 African elephants, a female that was nursing, a baby whale, and a young adult whale.

We saw them breathing through their blowholes.

Michael Poole Moorea
Breathing Through Blowholes

We saw them drift on their backs.

Michael Poole Moorea
Passing By

And occasionally we caught a glimpse of their tails.

Michael Poole Moorea
Diving In

Dr. Poole was very knowledgeable about both mammals, and we never tired of hearing his stories and his answers to the many questions asked by everyone on the boat.  He really made an effort to speak to all of his guests in English or French and learn where they traveled from.

The highlight of our trip was when one came right next to our boat.  We could see and hear it swoosh by and could have reached out to touch it!  See bottom left in the picture below for approximate distance from our boat!

Michael Poole Moorea
Swimming by our Boat

The tour lasted about 3.5 hours and we were back in our hotel at around 12:30.  It was a great way to spend a morning in Moorea!

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