Rae Gill – Founder/Tour Director/Co-ordinator
Rae grew up in New Zealand, where most weekends and holidays were spent near or in the ocean and 25 years of her adult life was spent living, working and experiencing many countries and cultures around the world – all of which prepared her what she does now. Rae operates her ‘swim with whales’ eco-tour business from her laptop, whether she is at her home in Kerikeri NZ with her daughter Pou and her scruffy mutt Georgie, travelling somewhere in the world during the whale season in Tonga and Tahiti. Her role is General Manager, marketing, sales & Customer Service. Her enthusiasm and passion for the humpback whales and the environment is definitely catchy and her willingness to share her understanding of the local Tongan culture and its people is refreshing which certainly adds to her guests experience of the beautiful islands of Tonga.
Rae’s son Geoff, his wife ShauLing and her grandchildren, Nicole (16) & Patrick (12) live in Taiwan and operate the wholesale agency for Bauer, (Inline and Ice Hockey Equipment) for Taiwan and parts of Asia and their retail store, SkatePro Asia in Taipei and Beijing, China. Both Nicole and Patrick play top-grade ice & roller hockey.
Pou, Rae’s adopted Tongan daughter, is studying Marine Sciences at University of Waikato’s Windermere Campus at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga in 2016 and to qualify as a Marine Biologist in 2019. Pou has loved the ocean since she could barely walk and she was swimming with the humpbacks for the first time in 2006 (age 10). It was no surprise when she announced she wanted to be a Marine Scientist!
Lynda has been part of our Team since 2004. She works from her home -office and looks after our guests bookings, accommodation and makes sure everyones holidays runs as smoothly as possible . So once you have booked – just email Lynda email@example.com with questions and information about extra accommodations, flights, transfers etc. Lynda grew up in Dallas, Texas and immigrated to NZ 25+ years ago. She lives on the beautiful island of Waiheke, (35 min by ferry from Auckland city) among the vineyards, olive groves and surrounded by magnificent beaches. Her lovely daughter Jesse, is our neoprene vest model!
The Tonga Team 2016:
Annah was a long time member of the WhaleSwim team and is back with us again after six long years away. (We have missed her!) She is ecstatic about being back with her beloved whales and being able to share her deep love of all things ocean and Pacific with you. Years of working and wearing many hats with large cultural events and lots of travelling experience have given her great tour leading skills and snorkelling, diving, sea life and helping people to have wonderful adventures with the whales are her passions. Annah’s role will be on ‘Blue Sky’ with the guests each day – right where she wants to be and she will be happy to share extensive knowledge of humpback whales and all varieties of marine life with you at any time during your time with us. She is a Qualified WhaleSwim Guide and will be sharing your in-the-water experiences with you! Annah resides in Russell in the beautiful Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand – with her ocean-loving partner Craig Miller – an avid motorbike rider and sparky (electrician) extraordinaire.
Craig will be managing the logistics on the ground and will be joining us on the whaleswim boat too!
Claire is joining us in 2016 season as Tour Leader and Whaleswim Guide on our 7-night tours, Encounters with Gentle Giants.
Claire hails from Adelaide in Australia and has spent her working life being involved in many different projects and aid organisations and is a great organiser. She has a great way with people and her sense of humour will endear you to her.
She is married to Pouli Tongia, our skipper/Guide on ‘Blue Sky’ and spends her year between Australia and Vava’u.
WhaleSwim Adventures are proud to be working alongside two of Tonga’s finest skippers and 3 of the best WhaleSwim Guides in the whale watching industry. Their passion for the humpback whales (and all marine life!) has created a special ‘sensitivity’, especially around Mum’s and calves. Their uncanny awareness of the whales behaviour towards our boats and having humans in the water with them, enables us to maximise our in-the-water time with the whales each day. Consequently, they have earned the label – ‘Whale-whisperer’
Skipper 2016: Noa Pulini (Tonga)
Noa has worked in the whaleswim and dive industry for 9 years as both a whale-watching boat skipper and as an in-the-water Guide. Noa is a qualified PADI Dive Master. His dedication to making sure each whale encounter is a gentle invitation to the humpbacks to safely interact with us . . . a skill not many skippers have. This allows our guests to experience the best in-the-water encounters with the whales possible.
Noa’s happiness and his sense of humour makes each day an exciting and fun experience. His love of the whales is obvious by the constant smile on his face! Noa is a very highly respected skipper within the industry and there are no finer to work with. Noa is married to Tapaita and they have a beautiful baby daughter, Ana-Marie – they are both the twinkle in Noa’s eyes!
WhaleSwim Guide: Nisi Tongia
Nisi is an enthusiastic and passionate Whaleswim Guide and is definitely a ‘natural’ in the water. He grew up at Hinakaeua Beach, diving for lobster and always out on his Dad’s fishing boat – he has a love of the ocean and has earned the title of ‘Whale Whisperer’! He has excellent English and a great sense of humour. His love of the ocean and the whales is obvious!
Skipper & WhaleSwim Guide: Pouli Tongia
Pouli and his wife Claire, reside in Vava’u during the whale season and in Adelaide, Australia the rest of the year. Pouli graduated in NZ and has worked as a high school teacher and teaching at the University of the South Pacific Campus in Vava’u. After his first swim with humpback whales, he knew this was his passion and what he wants to do every season! His passion for humpback whales, the ocean, his extensive knowledge of Tonga’s cultural history and his sense of humour, will certainly entertain you during your days on the water. We love having him as part of our team in 2016!
Andy Pollard – Skipper/ new licenced whale-watching owner/operator of ‘Blue Sky’.
Andy and his partner Karen, have moved to Vava’u from Australia, after visiting Vava’u most seasons for the past 20 years. They love Vava’u and have now made it their home. Andy has been around boats and lovingly restored boats for most of his life in Australia.
The Tahiti Team 2016:
Magenta joins us in Moorea, Tahiti as Tour Leader for ‘Magical Humpbacks in Tahiti’ tours.
Magenta worked with us in Vava’u Tonga in 2012 & 2013 as Tour Leader and our underwater photographer and her love for the ocean whales and dolphins and has led her travel the ocean through the South Pacific!
She lives in Auckland New Zealand with her wonderful partner, Rossco Guthrie and her twins Naia & Indie (15 months old in September 2016), when she is not swimming with dolphins and whales. Magenta will be shooting video of the humpbacks and the marine environment.
Each whale season WhaleSwim Adventures sponsors Marine Sciences student’s from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga NZ to spend 3 – 4 weeks on our boats in Vava’u. They collect data about the whales and the whale watching industry to write a final paper for their degree. Each student has a different project. Some are tourism focused and others more scientific. We love having these refreshing young marine-life lover’s involved with us every year! Kelly Ratana & Chloe Autridge (2011 students)