I Went On My First Solo Overseas Trip & It’s The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done
Like most of us, travelling around the world has always been a dream of mine. Except I never had the courage to do so by myself. I always admired friends who would travel to the most amazing places, and return with so much independence and awareness of this beautiful earth.
After developing a passion for photography over the past few years, I was scrolling through one of my favourite photographer’s website, Craig Parry, to discover that he was hosting workshops in Tonga.
This couldn't be more ideal: to experience a new country, a new culture, meet new people, fulfil my childhood dream of swimming with whales and get to learn some neat tricks with photography.
// INCOMING // Will be posting little teasers of the encounters I got to experience while in Tonga just like this one here with JoJo, our beloved Juvenile humpback whale coming in for a hug. This little guy (but really big.. obvs.. being a whale and all) was super playful with all of us and made sure everyone got a photo of his good side 💁🏼Missing this little (but really big) cutie so much!
(Plus it was nice to break off from the standard "Eurosummer" posts everyone sees on Facebook this time of year.)
It took exactly one day to book. Normally I would go through a long state of procrastination which involved weighing up finances and fretting over leaving my comfort zone, which would eventually put a stop to the idea altogether.
But at 24, I knew this time was different.
First day in Tongatapu and it has already taken my breath away. After a six-hour flight delay from the domestic airport to Vava'u, I was treated to a tour by a lovely taxi driver along the east coast of the island.
I went on to get a taste of Tonga’s history by visiting Ana Hulu Cave, Captain Cooks Landing, Ha’amonga ‘a Maui (The Pacfic’s Stonehedge) and ancient Royal Tombs. The whole island was covered in lush palm trees, pigs and dogs.
My tour mates were primarily all from Byron Bay/Cabarita along with others from South Africa, France and one from America who soon turned out to be my long lost whale-loving twin!
We were pinching ourselves at the thought that we were right here, in Tonga, within hours of being face-to-face with Humpback Whales.
On the first day of the workshop we set out to sea and within less than an hour spotted our first Humpback Whale! Only five people including the whale guide could be in the water at once and it was finally my turn to hop in the big blue.
During my first swim I remember constantly thinking that I just couldn’t believe where I was, and what I was doing. I couldn’t believe that I had finally taken the plunge to get out of my comfort zone, fulfilling my dream swimming with these majestic creatures.
And then, something incredible happened.
I see below me another Humpback Whale coming out of nowhere, charging through the water, right underneath me. With only a few seconds to decide to get out of his way, I decided left… only to look behind me and see a 40 tonne whale in the air within a metre from me. What an absolute rush!
We stopped at a variety of exotic islands for lunch and explored hidden caves within the archipelago. Tonga truly is the definition of paradise.
The energy from everyone was constantly electric. No day was ever the same. And to be greeted with gorgeous sunsets each night made Vava'u even more breathtaking.
Our last night in Vava'u would be something I would definitely cherish forever.
Being among such amazing people with the same passion for photography and love for whales was truly inspiring. The "Papao Pals", as we called ourselves, surprised me with a cake to celebrate my 25th birthday. What a way to end my first overseas adventure.
Before I returned home, my newfound friend Oli gave me a tour around the capital to see the King and Queen’s Palace, more Royal Tombs and the city’s nightlife. She graciously taught me a lot about the Tongan culture, the importance of family and the love for their land.
Tonga has granted me the greatest experience I will remember forever, and I promise to return.
Ofa atu Tonga. Until next time!
- Amy Mercer @amymercer.photos
This Is The Cheapest Time To Travel To All Your Dream Holiday Destinations...
This Is The Cheapest Time To Travel To All Your Dream Holiday Destinations