Whale Watching Guide Stranded on a Tongan Island for Over a Year Featured in New Matador Network Documentary

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 8, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Leading travel publisher Matador Network recently released Water & Solitude: The Story of a Tongan Whale Guide, a documentary short that tells the story of Henry Pott, a whale watching guide from Vava’u, Tonga, who spent a year and a half in near isolation at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During COVID I had to do everything on my own,” Henry says in the documentary. “I couldn’t go to town to get food or anything. I did a lot of spearfishing. I was just trying to survive.”

Available through Matador Network’s website, YouTube and various distribution partners, the documentary features Henry telling his story against a backdrop of idyllic vistas and scenes from his life on the island, swimming with humpback whales, spearfishing and preparing a meal over an open fire on the beach. The documentary also explores the relationship between Henry and the water that provides him with sustenance and his family with their livelihood.

“We’re lucky Henry shared his story with us,” says Matador Network CEO Ross Borden. “The kind of isolation he experienced early in the pandemic is hard to imagine. His ability to survive on this beautiful island is a testament to both his strength as a survivalist and the harmony he’s developed growing up among the wild and unspoiled nature of Tonga.”

The origins of the film come from before the pandemic when Borden and Matador creative director Scott Sporleder traveled to Tonga to film a documentary on the sustainability of the whale watching industry there. It was while shooting that film, Faka’apa’apa, that they met the Pott family and learned of their whale watching business. They kept in touch with the family and, after the pandemic, returned with filmmaker Davis Huber. That is when they first heard Henry’s story.

“Henry is one of three brothers, but the other brothers were in Australia during COVID,” says Sporleder. “His mother is from a nearby village and he was able to build a dugout canoe to go see her, but essentially he was living out there by himself.”

The documentary was filmed over the course of a week, on the island and underwater as Henry engaged in the same activities he once did in isolation. 

“I think there is a message of conservation and caring and protecting the places that you love,” Huber says. “Henry relied solely on his environment that entire time.”

Henry’s isolation ended in 2022, but it wasn’t until 2023, following the devastating underwater eruption of the nearby Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha’apai volcano, that Tonga reopened its borders and again allowed whale watching tours. Whale watching is a critical industry in the Vava’u islands, a breeding ground for humpback whales migrating from Antarctica. According to the International Whaling Commission, few of the country’s whale watching vessels are Tongan owned.

“Taking people out, every day is a different day,” Henry says in the documentary. “For me, that’s my favorite thing to do. I don’t know what kind of job can be better than that.”

Watch Water & Solitude: The Story of a Tongan Whale Guide here.

About Matador Network
Matador Network is the world’s No. 1 media brand for modern adventurers and creator of the personal AI travel assistant GuideGeek. With more than 16 million followers across social media, Matador has become a leading travel brand through its production of article features, city guides, creator-first content and original videos. Matador is the top-ranking travel brand on TikTok and its videos are viewed more than 140 million times per month. It has content distribution deals with American Airlines, Hearst Media and Gas Station TV, and works with brands like Ford, REI, Samsung, YETI, Southwest Airlines, Visit California and Microsoft. matadornetwork.com

Media Contact:
Jason Simms


SOURCE Matador Network