Swimming with Whales in Tonga - Tips and What to Experience
Swimming with Whales in Tonga - Tips and What to Experience

Swimming with Whales in Tonga - Tips and What to Experience


When Is the Best Time

Tonga is one of the very few places in the world where you are able to swim with humpback whales. The whales come to Tonga for two reasons; first, for mating and second, to give birth eleven months later.

Snorklers in neoprene watching humpbacks
The whales decide if they like to interact with you and come close like this one.

A large population of humpback whales gathers around Vava'u Islands in Tonga between July and October. These months are the best time for whale watching and the unique opportunity to swim with a humpback mother and her calf. These tours are guided to protect the humpbacks from too much disturbance.

Are Humpback Whale Sightings Guaranteed?

A mom and her calf
The sea is clear and you are able to watch the whales very well.

To be on the safe side, book your visit between mid-July and the end of September. The high number of whales in this area means there are plenty of opportunities to see and swim with them. It's also the 'dry season' with less precipitation, less wind, and usually a calmer sea. If you decide to go in October: Whales are starting to leave in late September. However, especially mothers and their calves are still around in October, which can lead to fascinating encounters.

How Long to Stay?

A mom and her calf in a bay

It's recommended to spend several days, even better, an entire week there, to maximize your chances of sightings and to swim with the whales. The whale-watching tours take place in the open water. Sightings can't be guaranteed, and the swell can be pretty high. Consider on Sundays; none is working.

Where to Stay on Vava'u Islands?

There are not plenty of accommodations in Tonga; Vava'u Islands available. The most excellent hotel is the Mystic Sands Hotel, with crystal clear water in front. You can get your pick up by boat for the whale watching trip from their jetty. Another option nearby is the Tongan Beach Resort, with a tasty restaurant.


Best Months to Visit


Related Topics

Location and Tips


The southern Humpback Whales are migrating from their feeding grounds in Antarctica in the southern winter to the islands of Tonga for breeding and giving birth to their young ones. Around Vava'u, you can look out for whales in the ocean; there are plenty around.

A mom and her older calf close

Additionally, Tonga is one of the few places in the world where it is allowed to swim with whales. This is a fabulous and affordable spot. You can watch a mother and her calf from a few meter distance in a protected lagoon. This means queuing by boat until your group is allowed to get to the lagoon.

A whale playing around the snorklers

This can take a while, but limiting the snorkelers around the mom and her calf is important. Or you swim with youngsters in the open ocean. Be prepared to swim in rough conditions; this means high waves can occur. 

Where to Spot Whales in Tonga

  1. Vava'u
  2. Ha’apai

Quick Notes What You May Experience

Humpbacks coming out of the water with their head
The sea can be choppy and it is harder in the water.
  • Safety first for the whales and you! The whales are given respect.
  • 4 people at one time are allowed in the ocean.
  • The time in the water is fixed and monitored.
  • Snorkelling with a mother and her calf is absolutely stellar. They behave quite calmly. Often calves are playful and curious, coming pretty close to the snorkelers.
  • If it's safe, you can even observe a head run; a female humpback with a couple of bulls in the back.
  • Males are more often aggressive during the mating season; showing their dominance.
  • Singing whales are calling out for a female humpback.
  • Be prepared for a several meters high surf.
  • It frequently gets windy and cold on board. Bring a windproof jacket.

What Is the Price for Swimming with Humpback Whales?

Juvenile humpbacks watching the snorklers

I want to give you an idea of what you have to expect roughly. It depends on the tour operator and the number of days you like to participate. The prices are in AUD. The price for one trip swimming with whales is around $ 325, and for 3+ days, it's $ 300. In comparison to other locations, it's a good offer. 

Where Can I Swim with Humpback Whales?

A breaching whale in front of a lighthouse
While one group was in the sea, the other watched breaching whales from the boat at Ningaloo Reef

There are a few places around the world. These are the top four:

  1. The Islands of Tonga
  2. Tahiti, Moorea, from July to October/November
  3. Dominican Republic - Silver Banks but on a cruise only; high priced. Tours from mid-January to mid-March
  4. Australia - Ningaloo Reef migrating whales from August to October

The Vava'u Islands have a few beaches in the south, but the beautiful ones are situated in the north. These beaches are difficult to reach, but it's easier by boat.


Reviewed by my friend and diver Leif

I've stayed there for 14 days, and I'd recommend a minimum stay of a week. You must remember that Sundays mean no business in Tonga; no diving, snorkelling, no flights - no activities! I've chosen Beluga diving, and I was fortunate; I spotted whales on each day I went out to snorkel  - in total, 8 days. Beluga offers a good service, and they got out with three boats connected by radio and shared their whale sightings. In addition, they have a small B&B on the hill; there are no five-star resorts in vava'u which is great.

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