Tonga humpback calf surface shutterstock 549495370 Copy opt

pen ink well goldA note from Dom  ...  Tantalizing Tonga  

Whales are the name of the game in Tonga ... adult humpbacks & their frisky, frolicking, adorable calves.   Everyone with a whale fascination should offer themselves this gift of wonder.  In fact, this destination has LONG been on my bucket list and finally, in 2018, I'll be there for 10 days of swimming with these magnificent, intelligent ocean giants.                                                                                                                             read more

The humpback whales come from Antarctica, spending a few months in Tonga for mating or giving birth to their calves, with prime time for viewing being in August and September.  I'm a long-time fan of the liveaboard trips on the stunningly beautiful SY Nai'a which have been running for years.   Word of warning, though .... these trips are so popular that they book up in an absolute flash each year. 

Nai'a offers very few trips and has many, many repeat guests who grab the spaces before they're even anounced!  

It was in the fall of 2014 that I was lucky enough to get the only remaining full-boat charter for 2018!   

But happily there are a couple of resorts in Tonga which offer lovely diving and swim-with-whales trips.  We'd be happy to make arrangements for you.  But, also, if you check our Photo Expeditions page, you'll often find trips with one of our favorite photographers who will wow you with photo expertise and knowledge of the whales.

When you're ready to hear more, I'm an email away and will respond to your request with any additional details that you wish.      Cheers, Dom

Tonga ..... awe-inspiring humpback whales ... in a paradise realm

Tonga blowholes shutterstock 363841607 opt

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.

Tonga diving  ...  in brief

  • 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.