Having been inspired to explore a career in nature photography by his father’s travels in Antarctica, Australian professional photographer Darren Jew now pursues his passion for capturing and sharing the wonder of the natural world.After graduating from the Queensland College of Art, he first worked in commercial photography, before taking up a position as photographer with the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, where he worked for 8 years.He moved on from that part of his career in 1994 and since then has had the opportunity to photograph extensively across Australia and in Africa, Alaska, Patagonia and Antarctica and has introduced many people to the world’s great wildlife and landscape destinations first hand, through small group photography tours, predominantly to Africa and Antarctica and the Pacific. Darren hosted his first whale swimming photo tour in 2001 and since then has gained a reputation for not only his own whale photography, but his enthusiasm for sharing the whale encounters with other photographers. Darren is 5-time Australian Professional Science, Wildlife and Wild Places Photographer of the Year; is a Canon Master; holds an Associate Diploma in Applied Photography; has been a SCUBA diver since age 14. In recent years his work has been featured in major exhibitions at the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney; at the Wilderness Gallery in Tasmania; and he features in Episode 1 of the National Geographic Channel series “Tales by Light”.
Jasmine Carey has worked as assistant and safety diver to Darren Jew since 2014. Jasmine plays an integral role in the year round management of both the Whales Underwater operation as well as Foto Frenzy events. Jasmine first visited Tonga and swam with whales in 2014 and in 2016 returned to host Whales Underwater’s second boat and she co-leads our swim-with-orcas program above the Arctic Circle in Norway each northern Winter. Jasmine is a trained Rescue Diver and has a background in exercise physiology. An accomplished diver, group leader, underwater photographer and tutor, Jasmine’s enthusiasm is infectious. You can get to know a little of her and her work through her images on Instagram where you’ll find a she has a growing following under the user name @pxlexplorer .
Jasmine’s work was featured in the 2017 Oztek Photo Exhibition in Sydney, Australia; she was producer on Australian Geographic’s Day in the Life of the Great Barrier Reef time-lapse project in 2017; and she was keynote speaker on the 2018 “Underwater Tour” an Australia-wide speaking tour promoting ocean inspiration, adventure and discovery. Through 2018 and 2019 her work featured in commercial publications, books, magazines and in exhibitions. including the Loud and Luminous project, a major show celebrating the work of 100 of Australia’s finest women photographers.
Our Whales Underwater tours in Tonga are operated by our local subsidiary Finslap (Tonga) Pty Ltd, a locally registered in-bound tour company. Finslap (Tonga) engage local operators to deliver all the facets that make up the unmatched Whales Underwater experience.
Finslap (Tonga)’s Local Area Manager
Finslap (Tonga)’s woman on the ground, Tima takes care of business in country for Whales Underwater. With training in journalism, Tima has a wealth of local knowledge and is experienced in managing both administrative function and operational matters. She lives on the main island of Tongatapu with her son Mariner.
Finslap (Tonga)’s Vava’u Data Assistant
Api has worked alongside us since the 2017 season, when she worked in the housekeeping team. In 2018 she assisted with meal preparation and service, and in 2019 when we needed a multi-skilled and capable assistant, we couldn’t go past Api!. Api’s role is centred around the Whales Underwater data project, where she assists with on-water whale behaviour and swim data collection and the collation of the data back at HQ with Jasmine. She also assists with the day-to-day operational needs. Api not only loves being with our guests around HQ but also out on the water, where she is a great whale spotter, and where she helps with snorkelling activities. Api hopes to complete the Whale Guiding course in 2020.
Finslap (Tonga) engages Dolphin Pacific Diving to deliver our days on the water. As a Whale Watching Operator licensed by the Tongan Government, the Dolphin Pacific team operate and staff the vessels that we charter for the whale watch season.
Dolphin Pacific / Owner
Originally from England Al has been living in Tonga for over 10 years.Prior to moving south he was a Firefighter in the UK for 10 years and often finds himself using his skills in Tonga for one reason or another.He has spent 12 seasons working around the whales both as a guide and as a skipper. Responsible for organising the logistics of numerous film shoots, he also helped capture the images for the BBC’s Heatrun sequence and the recently aired 60 Minutes feature on Tonga’s whales.Working with many wildlife photographers, he has a understanding of photographers needs and the knowledge of whale behaviour, which is essential in capturing great images.
Whale Swimming Skipper
Native to Vava’u, Ali has over 15 years’ experience working around the islands and the whales, both as a qualified Humpback whale guide, Dive Master and as a skipper. Over the years, he has worked on numerous television productions, where his skill in understanding whale behaviour and movement patterns have allowed film makers to capture footage that would have otherwise remained unseen. Ali was part of the team responsible for capturing the stunning heat-run sequence in the successful BBC series ‘Life’ and has recently featured in the 3D IMAX documentary ‘Humpback Whales’, released in 2015.
As a qualified Padi Dive Master he has helped develop the local diving industry and has worked with PADI on video production of their courses.Having worked with Darren Jew for close to 10 years he knows what it takes to put photographers in the best position.
He lives in Vava’u with his wife Mele and their two children.
The Whales Underwater team is spread right across the world, delivering fabulous in-water whale encounters to our guest both in the warm tropical breeding grounds, and the more frigid Arctic feeding grounds.
Whale Swimming Skipper and Guide
Norbi Bus & Krisztina Balotay
Zodiac skipper Norbi, who has years of commercial experience in northern waters, and has been an orca watch skipper for 7 years. Naturalist Krisztina Balotay has studied orcas in Canada and has been working for 6 years as an orca swim guide. A great boat team, Norbi and Krisztina helped shape our program in 2016 and have been on the water with Whales Underwater groups since our first tour season in 2017.