The Best Whale Swimming Tours in Tonga
Seeing majestic humpback whales in their natural environment is a life-changing moment for many visiting Tonga. Tonga is one of the very few countries in the world where it is legal to swim with humpback whales following strict whale interaction laws. Below are just some of the whale swim tours in Tonga that are certified to share this incredible experience with you.
What are Whale Swimming Tours Like in Tonga?
It’s important to note that whale swimming tours in Tonga follow a similar albeit loose structure: spending time searching for whales in the morning, hopefully swimming with whales, and then heading to an island or a snorkelling spot for lunch. If a morning whale swim is unsuccessful, then lunch may be had on the boat while searching some more, or the afternoon might be spent searching for whales or just watching from the boat if, for instance, a calf is too young to approach or whales are breaching. In short, these are tours with wild animals so no two tours are the same and a successful swim is never a guarantee. That’s why it’s often advised to book at least a couple of whale swims in Tonga to maximise your chances for a good swim. For more information and advice, take a look at The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
With all of that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of our favourite whale swimming tours in Tonga!
1. Blue Water Retreat (‘Eua)
Offering one of ‘Eua‘s most iconic accommodations, Blue Water Retreat also offers both full-day whale swimming tours and multi-day ‘Eua whale swim holidays with accommodation and all meals provided. Whale swimming is from one of Blue Water Retreat’s three 10 ft custom-made charter boats designed with whale swimming and diving in mind with ladders making it easy to get in and out of the water. All of the snorkelling gear is provided. A healthy albeit light lunch is also provided in a reusable lunch box (no, the same can’t be said for other whale tours across Tonga).
Onboard are a licensed and usually very passionate professional whale swimming guide/marine biologist, as well as an experienced skipper who has been boating on ‘Eua’s waters for years. The team have a very respectable approach to the whales; they go through some house rules and legal regulations and have a practice swim with swimmers before interacting with the whales.
2. Deep Blue Diving (Tongatapu)
100% Tongan owned and operated and with over 30 years of knowledge of Tongan waters, Deep Blue Diving is well worth considering for your whale swimming experience! Unlike any other whale watching tours in Tonga, they offer five-hour trips, rather than the usual seven, with both morning and afternoon tours. Morning is the best time to go; departing at 7 am to experience calmer seas. Another advantage is that if your morning tour is cancelled due to Tonga’s ever-changing weather, you can always reschedule for the afternoon trip!
Deep Blue also offers two boats, the most commonly used is their larger 15 m (49 ft) boat. The boat carries up to 25 passengers (not that you often share a tour with that many) with a crew-to-guest ratio of 2:1. Their larger boat means that they also cater to the elderly and disabled for whale watching, while often being a more comfortable option for those more prone to seasickness – it also has an onboard toilet! The boat travels at a calm and unhurried pace, taking a slower approach than smaller boats. Lunch is a homemade cooked meal in reusable containers. For more whale tours from the main island, check out the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Tongatapu & Nuku’alofa.
3. Vaka & Moana Co. (Vava’u)
Enjoy an educational and inspiring day out on the water with Aufono Havea, the only female captain in Tonga whose been operating Vaka & Moana Co., sometimes called Vaka i Moana, since 1993. Vaka & Moana operates the small and comfortable Koko Belle (and soon a traditional-style canoe/vaka) with all your essential whale swimming gear included, as well as lunch packed in reusable containers. Perhaps the only downside for independent travellers is that Vaka & Moana Co. only accept group bookings. Tours depart from Fangafoa Marina (near Mango Cafe), Neiafu, ‘Utu Vava’u.
For more tours departing from Vava’u, head to the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Vava’u.
4. Diana Beach Resort (Ha’apai)
The only Tongan company offering whale swimming in Ha’apai, Diana Beach Resort is not just a gorgeous wee resort on a sandy corner of Uoleva Island but they also offer a unique whale swimming experience. Your host, Finau and her husband, Noa, aim to help you make a connection with the whales, rather than being stuck behind your camera (don’t worry, you can still take photos).
The trips are approached with the utmost respect and knowledge about the whales’ behaviour in Ha’apai, which Finau has learned from her family, as well as through working for foreign whale swimming tours over the years. What’s more, Diana Beach Resort has just one boat, ensuring boat numbers for whale swimming stay low in Ha’apai. It’s also worth mentioning that they have one of the largest whale boats in Ha’apai, not to mention, one of the most affordable whale swimming tours in Tonga!
Discover more of the island group’s whale tours in the 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai.
5. Tanoa Expeditions (Tongatapu)
For a full-day adventure with whales in Tongatapu, join a whale swimming experience with Tanoa Expeditions. Whale watching tours with Tanoa Expeditions last the full seven hours per Tonga’s whale watching laws. With that, you’re day out on the water can be very flexible; swimming with whales in the morning if the whales are keen then enjoying lunch on a remote islet with fantastic snorkelling among the coral. Otherwise, you have all day to immerse in the best whale encounters if your group prefers. Better yet, the boat is comfortable enough to enjoy the latter, offering an inside sheltered section if things get a bit breezy, while there’s also a marine toilet on board.
Tanoa Expeditions features a few extra welcome touches, such as towels and sunscreen on board, while their all-local crew consists of a skipper, deckhand and a whale swimming guide. They have a very respectful approach to the whales, while also ensuring guests have a safe and fun time. Learn more about the hotel that Tanoa Expeditions operates from in the 25 Best Hotels in Tonga.
6. Kitesurf Tonga (Ha’apai)
A husband and wife team, Kitesurf Tonga‘s whale watching tour is personally run by your hosts at the resort on Uoleva Island, Glen and Karen. Glen’s background is in marine biology and conservation, which he brings to skippering for an ethical and harmonious approach to swimming with whales. They also run just one whale-watching boat, which is a high-quality vessel and very comfortable for a full day out on the water. Karen will be your guide for in-water interactions with the whales, ensuring a safe and vivid experience (if the whales allow, of course).
Learn more about staying at Kitesurf Tonga in the 10 Best Eco-Resorts in Tonga.
7. Treasure Island Eco Resort (Vava’u)
Guests staying at Treasure Island Eco Resort are lucky enough to be right in the heart of whale territory in Vava’u, saving on lengthy boat trips to get to the best spot. Departing from their resort on the remote ‘Euaiki Island, the Tofua’a Moana is an 11 m (37 ft) traditionally-inspired vaka with plenty of room to enjoy throughout your day out on the water. Treasure Island is all about combining your whale swimming experience with a full holiday package, staying in one of the private island’s thatched beach fales (bungalows) and dining on delectable meals. Even from the resort, guests often see whales breaching from shore!
Learn more about this resort in the 10 Best Luxury Resorts in Tonga.
8. Sea Change Eco Retreat (Ha’apai)
The whale swimming operation out of the eco-resort, Sea Change Eco Retreat on Uoleva Island is a long-established operator in the islands of Ha’apai. You’ll spend a full day out on the water watching and swimming with humpback whales, with also a chance to snorkel at outer reefs. Lunch and refreshments are provided throughout the experience to keep your energy levels up, while all the snorkelling gear is included, such as a wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins. Sea Change also offers fishing charters and snorkelling tours in the two months leading up to the whale season, should you want to get an early start in paradise.
Learn more about Sea Change Eco Retreat in The Top 25 Resorts in Tonga.
9. Ha’apai Beach Resort (Ha’apai)
Offering whale swimming tours from the main wharf in Pangai on Lifuka Island, Ha’apai Beach Resort is one of the more accessible whale swimming experiences for travellers staying at one of Ha’apai’s guesthouses or, of course, the Ha’apai Beach Resort!
The tour departs in the morning, where you’ll be briefed on safety information, whale behaviour and rules regarding how you swim with the whales. Then it’s a morning of watching these majestic creatures and hopefully swimming if the whales allow. For lunch, the boat anchors at an outer reef for excellent snorkelling or stops by a secluded beach. The rest of the afternoon is spent either snorkelling or looking for more whales, depending on the vibe of the group, before heading back to shore at around 2:30 pm.
Inclusions are all snorkelling gear, a homemade lunch, tea, coffee and refreshments and licensed skippers and whale swimming guides.
10. Kiko’s Swim with Whales Tours (‘Eua)
Get the real local experience, as well as local knowledge of the whales’ behaviour, with Kiko’s Swim with Whale Tours. Kiko is a local fisherman who started operating whale swimming and watching tours from his small fishing boat more than 15 years ago. The boat has been upgraded to a vessel that’s low to the water and shaded from the sun, providing a comfortable whale-watching experience. Onboard is also a passionate whale swimming guide, typically an expat volunteering for the season, who will guide the experience in the water and ensure a safe and respectable swim with the whales.
Wetsuits and fins are provided, but Kiko only has a few masks and snorkels, so those with any of their own gear are best to bring them along. Accommodation transfers are also included in the rate, as is breakfast and lunch.
Kiko’s also hosts one of the largest guesthouses/backpackers on ‘Eua, complete with a small restaurant; ‘Alakoka Tahi Moana Guest House (more commonly known as Kiko’s). Learn more about it in the 20 Best Guesthouses in Tonga.
More About Whale Swim Tours in Tonga
That’s it for our list of the best whale swim tours in Tonga. For more about whale swimming tours in Tonga, take a look at more of our amazing literature:
- The Best Place to Swim with Whales in Tonga
- Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga?
- How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.