Swim with Humpback whales in Tonga

Get in the water with the gentlest of all giants

THE TOUR IN BRIEF

The main focus of the tour is snorkelling and free diving with Humpback whales in Vava'u (Kingdom of Tonga), their world-famous breeding ground in the Southern Hemisphere.

Tonga is one of a few countries in the world where it is permitted to enter the water with large cetaceans, which makes it a not-to-miss destination for whale lovers. You will enjoy very close encounters with mother and calf Humpback whales in their natural environment, while being guided by professionals who will strive to make this the time of your life, while keeping in mind that animals come first and should not be harassed or stressed.
The result will be an absolutely natural, unforgettable experience.

In order to maximise the time you spend in the water with the whales, provide you with the very best experience, photo opportunities and service, every tour is limited to a maximum of 4 guests.

Along with swimming with the whales, you will also enjoy superb snorkelling around coral reefs and in stunning caves.

The tour includes 8 days on the water, lunch on board, Photography/Research advice, daily snorkelling on reefs and in caves, transfers to/from the airport in Vava'u.
Accommodation is not included, but we can surely help you with it.

Wildlife

CETACEANS
(whales, dolphins, porpoises)

OTHER MARINE LIFE

  • All kinds of coral reef fish and invertebrates

THE HUMPBACK WHALE

The Humpback whale is one of the most commonly seen by Whale Watchers, in both hemispheres of the planet. The following distinctive features makes it generally very easy to positevely identify a Humpback whale.

  • Very long, knobby flippers (pectoral fins), which can be as long as 1/3 the total body length.
  • Numerous knobs around the snout
  • Individual in the Southern Hemisphere, such as in Tonga, are characterised by a white belly.
  • Blue to almost black back

The Humpback whale is a baleen whale and belongs to the group of whales generally called Rorquals (from a Norwegian word meaning "furrow whales"), more precisely defined as the species belonging to the family Balaenopteridae, which have pleats (e.g. grooves) on their throats.
The accordion-like pleats are highly extensible, and let the whale engulf a very large amount of water, which is then filtered by the comb-like baleen plates. While water is expelled through the baleen, food is retained in the whale's mouth and finally swallowed.

The Humpback whale is by far the most acrobatic of large cetaceans. They frequently breach, lob-tail, flipper-slap and spyhop. All these behaviours really make the joy of Whale Watchers, along with the Humpback whale's tendency to be often inquisitive and approach non-harassing boats.

The name "Humpback" is self-explanatory: this whale is characterised by a strongly arched back, mostly noticeable when the animal is just about to leave the surface. The dorsal fin can be low and stubby, or quite high and with a more defined "fin-like" shape, depending on the individual.

The Humpback whale is widespread in the Earth's oceans, but its seasonal distribution is precisely defined. Indeed, the Humpbacks prefer to spend their winters in warm, calm waters, where they mate, breed and suckle their calves. This is exactly what happens in Tonga!
They do not feed during the winter, but only in the summer when they reach their feeding grounds by following distinct migration patterns to the high latitudes of the Arctic (in the Northern Hemisphere) and Antarctica (in the Southern Hemisphere). It is in fact in the cold and rich waters of the extreme North and South of the planet that Humpback whales regain weight by eating amazingly large amounts of krill (a small crustacean) and schooling fish.

Female Humpbacks calve every 2 or 3 years. Births occur in winter in places like Tonga, far away from the high latitude harsh conditions which would be too strenuous for the babies. Mum and calf pairs are often accompanied by "Escort" males, who patiently (not really, actually!) wait for the female to become again receptive. You will meet plenty of them in Vava'u!

Mating time is the time of the year when the wonderful Humpback whale's songs can be heard. Only the males sing, and they can perform for hours, sometimes entire days, while staying head down underwater, motionless.
Their songs are so powerful that can be heard from miles and miles. The Humpbacks seem to use rhymes to make it easier to remember their complex tunes, which are shared by all males in a certain area. Songs then change with time, and all whales start to sing the new tune.

The Humpback whale is a slow swimmer, and partly because of that it was heavily hunted during whaling time. While some populations seem to have recovered quite well, its conservation status is still defined as Vulnerable.

This tour is no longer available and we are currently in the process of setting up new or extra tour dates.
Please contact us and let us know you are interested in this destination, so that we can assign a high priority to your request once a new tour is launched.

How to get there

Your origin Nuku'alofa (TBU), Tonga Vava'u (VAV), Tonga

In brief, you first have to get an international flight to Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa (on Tongatapu, the main island) and then get a domestic flight from Tongatapu to Vava'u.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS
Air New Zealand is a common choice to get to Tongatapu via Auckland.
As an alternative, you can fly with other airlines to either Auckland (New Zealand) or Sydney (Australia) and then get a connection to Tongatapu.

DOMESTIC FLIGHTS
You can book online your domestic flights from Tongatapu to Vava'u with Real Tonga, currently the only domestic airline operating in Tonga.

Once you arrive in Vava'u, we will take care of airport transfers to your accommodation.

This tour is no longer available and we are currently in the process of setting up new or extra tour dates.
Please contact us and let us know you are interested in this destination, so that we can assign a high priority to your request once a new tour is launched.