Our Story

A lifetime rich in travel experiences, exploring and playing on and in the sea.

 

Whale Discoveries is a business run by the Sheen family (with help from some very special friends who share their ideals, passions and love of the natural world).

“We have over 20 years of experience with charters and tourism on the ocean. We have a quest for adventure - to walk, swim and sail the path un-ventured. We move lightly, leaving only goodwill and taking only great memories.“

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Introducing The Sheen family:

Dave (Dad) is Australian-born and got his first foamy surfboard at 6 and was surfing competently by the age of 9. At 19 a great love for wavesailing (windsurfing) developed and he excelled at the sport, going on to join the world pro-tour. Dave claimed 3 Australian national titles and lived many years in the windsurfing paradise of Maui, Hawaii, while he competed. Nowadays splitting time between surfing, kitesurfing windsurfing, sup foiling, standup paddle boarding, free diving and catamaran sailing he is a true ocean-man. He is an amazing skipper with a raw knowledge of the elements and is a modern day seafarer with over 250,000 sea miles at the helm. From skippering and owning a multitude of different vessels he has gained a broad knowledge of boat performance and navigation, not to mention how to problem solve and fix things in the remote wilds under all circumstances.

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Tris (Mum) was born in Nigeria and travelled the world from day one with her artistic parents. Her early life was spent driving and living in Kombi (camper) vans through Europe, including a stint living in the snow in Wales. Her parents eventually settled in the countryside of SW Western Australia, where she grew up in true Aussie outdoors style. This upbringing has instilled in her a love of travelling and the natural environment, as well as expressing herself creatively. Tris studied fine arts at university and went on to be a successful artist in her home region. All creatures great and small reside in Tris' heart. Since relocating to Tonga, the family have adopted 5 Tongan ponies, several rescued dogs and a flock of friendly ‘special chickens’ as she calls them. Tris was introduced to snorkelling at a very young age and has loved all things ocean ever since. It was inevitable she would fall in love with whales and has been swimming and interacting with a variety of marine mega fauna for 32 years. She is a true whale addict and loves analysing their behaviour.

Tris and Dave made two magical children, Kai and Dior. The family travelled and sailed the world together sharing challenges and elations, new discoveries and adventures. When they fell in love with Tonga and established Whale Discoveries in 2010, Kai was 9 and Dior, 7 and within a few years the two kids had become, not only global travellers, but certified scuba and free divers as well. They could dive, sail, climb coconut trees and had, generally speaking, mastered their universe. Home schooling and distance education meant the Sheens could live on and in the ocean constantly. They established a family home on Nomuka Island which later became the Lolofutu Beach Barn accommodation that remains in a more developed form today.

The catamaran Wildlife was bought specifically for the purpose of whale swimming in Tonga. The whole family was involved in operating the live-aboard sailing charters, between them covering all the tasks involved with fulltime living, working and playing on the sea.

However, this isn’t a fairy tale, it’s reality and, in 2017, the family were cruelly struck by a tragic accident that took away their rock of a son, brother, friend and co-worker.

The loss has left the Sheens changed forever. But through their work, their involvement in nature & wild frontiers and their experiences with the majestic whales, they continue to embrace life - living it with passion, resilience and an unflinching dedication to one another. The Sheen family exemplify the concept that life’s best mentors and guides are those that have explored and adventured, loved and embraced, and experienced both triumph & adversity to the extent that this family has.

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Surrounded by people they cherish and tight family bonds, Dave, Tris and Dior are taking on life with big hearts, true passion and a desire to share and inspire. With their dedication to nurture and care for the environment, this is a family and a business like no other. Join them to experience a taste of it for yourself.

“We are so lucky to engage with this blue planet for such a short and precious time - don’t wait, live!”

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