In the vast expanse of Tahiti's blue embrace, behold the awe-inspiring tale of a man named Mitch. A saga of encountering the ocean's grandest behemoth - the Humpback whale.
Mitch Fuller's adventurous streak and his insane physical capability first hit the public sonar when, in 2021, he was one of the contestants on the gruelling channel 7 television show SAS Australia: Who Dares Wins. The military-style reality tv competition, which uses physical challenges and psychological tests similar to those of the real SAS selection process, saw Mitch and his fellow contestants sky-diving, abseiling, undergoing combat courses; generally being thrown into extreme situations and testing the limits of their physical and mental endurance.
The Bondi Beach-based fitness trainer, who goes surfing at any opportunity, recently decided to combine his love of the ocean and his interest in travelling by heading on a trip of a lifetime - to go free diving with Humpback whales off Tahiti’s coastline. Happily for us, his Kerrin gear was light enough to hitch a ride in his backpack.
Best time of year for whales in Tahiti is from August to November
“I am an avid traveller and I enjoy throwing myself into the unknown. I love to surf, skydive, free dive and do anything that goes fast or involves a cliff jump. I love the thrill of the culture shock, the adrenaline hit of extreme challenges and pitting myself against nature’s elements, whether that be throwing myself into the ocean to swim cage-free with the sharks in Hawaii; free diving with the whales in Tahiti; or jumping from a plane at 15,000ft with just a parachute backpack to save me. It takes a fair bit of planning to find that internal rush, but I’m always chasing that feeling.”
Mitch says Tahiti’s allure was in its visual feast of steep lush green mountains that transition into white sandy beaches and on to bright, crystal blue water full with thriving coral and marine life. “Tahiti is so far removed from western civilisation that its natural beauty is wonderfully overwhelming from the moment you arrive,” he says. “There are no skyscrapers, bars or restaurants to swallow the land. Instead, the houses are built amongst the natural landscape, where fruit trees grow everywhere you look, and the luscious green mountains, which are often draped in rolling clouds, overlook the communities living at their base. The bright clear blue beaches move into deep blue ocean, where life underwater is brimming with whales, sharks, rays, dolphins and all varieties of fish,” Mitch says.
According to Mitch, surfing in Tahiti is second to none. “You get world class breaks there and if you stick close to the locals who know the waves so well, you can find the balance of both the danger and the fun in the swell. The locals would take me out on a boat past the reef that circles the island, to the shoulder of the break where I got to experience first hand Tahiti’s steep and quick waves that can suddenly become hollow from the dry reef.”
Mitch says he chose to go to Tahiti for its untouched wildness and the insane surfing, but above-all, he wanted to go free-diving with the Humpback whales. “Swimming in just my boardies, goggles and fins, in the middle of the vast ocean, and placing myself alongside one of the biggest creatures on Earth, just to be in its presence, left me with opposing feelings of serenity and exhilaration,” he says. “I came away from that experience feeling both humble and mighty.”
“I remember diving into the ocean and there was just darkness all below me. There was nothing in sight, but I could hear the whale singing - the sounds were vibrating through my whole body. It was the most eerie feeling. Minutes went by, and the beautiful sounds just got louder and louder. Then, from below, a spaceship-like shadow appeared and rushed to the surface. The Humpack breached and then dived back into the water. I was treading water at this point and I remember feeling as if time had frozen: where the past and future do not exist - I just felt present with this awesome creature. I swam underwater and had a magic moment where the whale made eye contact with me and swam alongside, twisting, turning and dancing around me. And then, just as commandingly as it had arrived, it was gone, heading off to find its pack, leaving me and the two other divers I was with, screaming excitedly and yahooing to each other over what we had just witnessed.”
Kerrin gear journeyed here
Want to recreate Mitch’s thrill-seeking Tahiti adventure? Here are his top tips:
Mitch flew from Sydney to Auckland and then on to Tahiti’s capital Papeete. From Papeete he took a ferry to another French Polynesian island, Moorea. He recommends booking accommodation through sites such as airbnb and staying at homes or lodges hosted by locals. “When you stay through homes and lodges, they bring you in like family, invite you for dinner and give you loads of island insights,” he says. The best time of year to swim with the whales is from August to November, and Mitch’s biggest tip is to book day trips before arriving at your destination. “Moorea, it is such a small island so it can’t cater for heaps of tourists, so whale tours and surf tours all book out quickly,” he says.
As for our small part in Mitch’s epic journey, the Kerrin team is pretty thrilled to see our boardies floating in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean! You can follow Mitch’s adventures on instagram at @_mitchfuller to see where he’s going to get his next adrenalin fix.
And it's great to see that Escape magazine agrees with our essentials packing list for what to pack for your next South Pacific beach holiday.
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SIZE CONVERSION CHART Use these measurements to convert between standard sizes