Swimming with Whales in Vava’u
Each South Pacific winter, between mid-July and mid-October, Humpback whales make an amazing migration to the sheltered waters of Vava’u in order to mate and calve. With that, Vava’u and Tonga are among some of the only islands you can swim with these majestic creatures in their natural element, making for a life-changing yet humbling experience. Whale swimming is one of the most popular activities in the islands of Vava’u, with more than 15 whale swimming tours to choose from! We’ve whittled things down to our top recommendations in this list of the best whale swim tours in Vava’u!
Note that whale swimming tours are structured in a very similar way in Vava’u, following guidelines for whale swimming set by the Tongan Government to ensure sustainable practices. In this list, we compare the slight differences between the whale swimming operators. Note that all wetsuits and snorkelling gear are provided as a standard on tours. Find out more of what to expect in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
1. Beluga Diving
Taking visitors on a wealth of adventures in Vava’u, part of the Beluga Diving offering is swimming with humpback whales. Join them on their whale swim tour for a day swimming with whales with lunch, refreshments and a certified whale guide and skipper on their sturdy boat, Gladiator. What’s more, the whale swim operator offers more activities, including camping trips on uninhabited islands, PADI scuba diving, as well as accommodation in the Flying Annie Moa Bed & Breakfast, where whale swim and accommodation packages are available. Whale swim tours are approximately TOP$690.
2. Dolphin Pacific Diving
A long-established whale swimming operator, Dolphin Pacific Diving have 12 years of experience with the whales in Vava’u. You’ll be kitted up with all the gear for a great swim, as well as provided with lunch to keep the energy levels up. The boat was host to the BBC’s “Life” wildlife documentary, so going with a tour with such expertise is likely to put you in good odds for a spectacular whale swim. The small-group tour of only eight passengers per boat makes for a more intimate experience with the whales. Whale swim tours are approximately TOP$515.
3. Endangered Encounters
Join Endangered Encounters in their purpose-built whale swimming boat, Proteus. The large boat is 4x10m (13x33ft) for a small group comes with a full bathroom on board and a decent ladder for the frequent getting in and out of the water experience on a whale swimming tour. The team have been operating in Vava’u since 2006, giving them plenty of experience with the whales and their behaviours. Endangered Encounters also offers snorkelling reef and cave tours outside of the whale season.
4. Melinda Sea Adventures/South Pacific Sea Adventures
For something a little different, how about whale swimming from a 16m (53ft) classic yacht or a 13m (44ft) sailing catamaran? South Pacific Seas Adventures, also known as Melinda Sea Adventures, offers day sails with the whales, as well as multi-day package holidays. Set sail across the Vava’u, with a motor engine for backup, for a more tranquil boating experience with the whales. The day tours take only up to eight guests onboard, while private charters may have more guests on board if you choose. Prices start from approximately TOP$1,270. Learn more about their sailing tours in The Best Sailing Tours of Vava’u.
5. Whale Song Tonga
Departing from Neiafu, Whale Song Tonga will take you out to see and swim with the whales on the MV Ashlee G or the MV Kalo. The former has an enclosed saloon should the weather turn on you as it tends to in Vava’u, while upstairs you have a large stable deck with seating for watching the whales and getting steady shots for photography. Part of the experience also includes heading to deserted islands for lunch, sometimes with a barbecue on the beach!
6. The Tonga Beach House
Your accommodation and whale swimming experience is sorted when you stay at The Tonga Beach House. The accommodation/whale swim operators offer a number of multi-day packages with at least two swims ensuring that you get the opportunity to experience the best swim possible. It also means that the team take a more relaxed approach with the whales knowing that you have more time to see them. With only four people at a maximum on the boat, you can be reassured that you aren’t just a number in a vast tour group! Learn more about the accommodation in the 10 Best Resorts in Vava’u.
7. Treasure Island Resort
Guests staying at Treasure Island Resort are lucky enough to be right in the heart of whale territory, saving on lengthy boat trips to get to the best spot. Departing from their resort on the remote Eueiki Island, the Tofua’a Moana boat is an 11m (37ft) vessel with plenty of room to enjoy throughout your day out on the water. Combine your whale swimming experience with a yoga session, and, of course, accommodation in one of the island’s thatched beach fales (bungalows). Even from the resort, guest often see whales breaching from shore! Learn more about this resort in the 8 Best Luxury Accommodation in Vava’u.
8. Kiwi Magic Tonga
Operating in Tonga for more than 24 years, Kiwi Magic Tonga offers spectacular small-group whale tours with Keith, the owner and certified whale watching skipper. The company is named after their 10m (34ft) boat called Kiwi Magic, which is plenty of room considering only four guests are allowed per whale swimming tour.
9. Tongan Expeditions Dive & Whale Swim
Dabbling in an array of underwater adventures, Tongan Expeditions Dive & Whale Swim offers scuba diving and whale swimming in the islands of Vava’u. The team pride itself on taking things at a relaxed pace to ensure a more peaceful experience for both passengers and the whales. Trips include snorkelling equipment, a 3mm shorty wetsuit and lunch. A maximum of eight passengers is on the boat at one time with prices starting from TOP$560. Private whale swimming charters are also available starting from around TOP$4,150. Learn more about their scuba diving tours in the 5 Best Scuba Diving Tours in Vava’u.
10. Vaka Vave Charters
Offering pick-ups from most resorts in Vava’u, Vaka Vave Charters is a good go-to for whale swimming in Tonga. They operate a fast modern 10m (34ft) vessel, getting you out to the whales fast and comfortably. Everything is included, from the snorkelling gear and wetsuits to lunch and snacks. Your experienced and certified guide and skipper will show you the ropes of ethical whale swimming, and hopefully, with time permitting, you’ll get a chance to stop at a snorkelling hotspot and visit Swallows’ Cave.