tonga humpback rolling

globe th CopyA classic example of South Pacific islands ringed with shimmering white sand beaches, the Kingdom of Tonga is a nation of 176 islands, located about a third of the distance between New Zealand & Hawaii ... with Fiji to the northwest & Somoa to the northeast.  Its culture has developed over at least 3000 years & Tonga always been a sovereign nation - its present monarchy being 1000 years old, the only remaining South Pacific Kingdom.  These colorful coral atolls are also home to active volcanoes and pristine rainforests.

Tantalizing Tonga

Humpback Whale Tail

Tonga diving  ...  the essentials

  • swim with magnificent humpback whales from July to November
  • dive pinnacles, walls, drop-offs
  • explore intriguing caves, tunnels and archways
  • view lovely & colorful soft corals & immense fans

Tonga Destination Page Vertical Insert

Pure enchantment

The main reason divers choose Tonga as a destination is the exceptional opportunity to swim with humpback whales.

The Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whales do their heavy feeding in Antarctica, then move north for the southern hemisphere’s winter / spring period  (July to November) …  into the waters of Tonga where they mate and birth their calves.


Strict protections

Luckily for everyone, the government in Tonga recognized quite a number of year ago the advantage of tourism over whaling …. but they also had a desire to protect the whales from tourists …. so put into place strict rules governing access to the whale territory. 

First of all, these are swimming/snorkeling encounters only.   Scuba is strictly prohibited.  A maximum of 4 swimmers are allowed with a guide at any one time …. the encounters are time-limited …. and whales must be given breaks between groups of swimmers.   Restrictions are particularly strong when mothers and calves are involved.

If this all sounds a bit structured, never fear. 

These are encounters of a lifetime …. and the structure helps to ensure that the whales won’t object to the human presence, making your time in the water pure enchantment. 


Will I see more than whales ?

Tonga Humpbacks Mother Calf KissingSwim with the Humpbacks
Swimming with gigantic humpbacks is a thrill difficult to describe. The sheer immensity of these animals generates excitement & the fact that they allow us into their world to observe their rituals is mind-boggling. They breach, they roll, they slap, they dive ...  they watch us with as much curiosity as we watch them.

You’ll be able to observe the mothers and calves; at times, the calves cavort like children; at times the mother is nursing; at times the calves are learning whale behavior.  Fascinating.

You’ll see the courting rituals, as the adults ready themselves for the mating process.  And, you’ll hear the whales singing … a beautiful, haunting sound that you’ll not forget, even many years after your voyage to this other-worldly environment.

Most of the land-based swim-with-whale programs operate in the Vava’u islands due to the mountainous terrain in this group of islands which gives protection to whales and boats alike if the weather turns!

Please do keep in mind your whale experience relies on Nature.  There are absolutely no guarantees that you will swim eye-to-eye with a whale the first day you jump into the water.  Responsible operators recommend a minimum of 3 days … and many recommend a full week for the best opportunities which are dependent not only on the whales and their migratory path but also on weather and currents. 

Trips on the lovely Nai’a are always at least 9 nights, meaning you have ample opportunity for a life-changing experience.

Purple Nudis 190Tonga diving
Tonga has two primary dive areas .... the northern area of Vava'u and the southern Ha'apai. In terms of accommodation and things to do when you're not diving, Vava'u is more developed where Ha'apai is very much off the beaten path.

With year-round warm water, great visibility & very little current, diving in Tonga always offers a pleasant experience. You'll find pinnacles, walls, drop-offs .... intriguing caves, tunnels and archways set amidst lovely & colorful soft corals, huge hard corals and enormous sea fans & sea whips. One arch, said to be the largest in the Pacific, at 15 meters tall and 20 meters wide, was created during the last ice age. A nice variety of reef fish, tuna, snappers, turtles, big humphead maori wrasse and white-tip reef sharks are common. Silver tips, black tips, eagle rays and manta rays are occasionally seen ... and for macro photographers there are many varieties of nudibranchs, cowries, harlequin and ghost pipefish shrimps & lobsters. Night dives tend to offer up additional interesting critters.

There's even a good wreck dive. The Clan McWilliam, which burned and sank in 1927, is now home to corals and reef fish and is waiting to be explored in warm, clear waters.