10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com
10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga

10 Tips for a BETTER Whale Swim in Tonga

© TongaPocketGuide.com

Advice for Having the Best Whale Swim in Tonga

Swimming with humpback whales is a life-changing experience and one of the main reasons many of us travel to the islands of Tonga. However, whales are wild animals whose behaviour can’t be controlled while whale swimming tours also want to keep disturbance to a minimum. For these reasons, a successful whale swim in Tonga is never a guarantee. To minimise the risk of leaving Tonga with a whale-sized hole in your heart, we have a few tips for a better whale swim in Tonga. Check out our whale tour-enhancing tips!

Plus, for more essential whale swimming advice, don’t miss The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.

1. Tonga’s Island Groups Have Slightly Different Whale Seasons

First things first, if you want to swim with whales in Tonga, you need to visit at the right time. In general, the whale season in Tonga is between July and October, but the season is slightly shorter in the island groups of Ha’apai and Vava’u whose season is from mid-July to mid-October. ‘Eua, on the other hand, has a season that often extends into November. So check out the whale season for each island group in our guide, When is the Whale Season in Tonga?

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

2. Book Multiple Whale Tours

An important thing to know about whale swimming tours is that having an awesome swim with a whale is never a guarantee. No two tours are the same, so we recommend booking at least two whale swimming tours during your visit to Tonga to increase your chances of a successful swim with whales. While it is pricey, you might just think it’s worth it – it’s not every day that you’re in a country where it’s possible to swim with whales! Some operators offer multi-day packages which are cheaper than booking tours individually. Speaking of tours, take a look at some of our top picks in the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Tonga.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

3. Try to Swim with Whales Later in the Season

If you’re looking for the prime time to swim with whales, then consider doing a whale tour later in the whale season – say September and October. This is when calves are often old enough to be inquisitive with swimmers, as well as when whale mothers (cows) are more relaxed to have swimmers nearby, often resulting in an incredibly fun whale swimming experience! This is a tip we picked up from one of Tonga’s whale guides, whom we interviewed in the 10 Photos That Will Make You Want to Swim with Whales in Tonga Now.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

4. Choose the Right Island Group to Swim with Whales for You

Contrary to popular belief that you can only swim with whales in the island group of Vava’u, you can, in fact, swim with whales in Tongatapu, ‘Eua and Ha’apai too! What’s more, it could be argued that Vava’u isn’t even the best island group for swimming with whales… So before you pay for that extra plane ticket to get there, consider all of your options first. To make things easier for you, we have a whole guide complete with pros-and-cons lists on The Best Place to Swim with Whales in Tonga.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

5. Take Seasickness Tablets (or Your Preferred Remedy)

Whale swimming almost always involves being in a small boat on the open water. Even if you don’t usually get seasick, bobbing around in these small boats when a swell comes in can take you by surprise, so we strongly recommend taking a seasickness pill (or your preferred remedy) an hour before getting on the boat. Then take some extras with you in your day pack in case you get the gippies during your trip.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

6. Take a Warm Layer for After Your Swim

Tonga might be a tropical paradise with warm temperatures all year round, but after getting out of the water and having the wind blasting on your skin as the boat travels to the next whale can get pretty chilly. After all, the whale season is technically in “winter” where temperatures might be 19-29°C (66-84°F) but it will feel colder with a breeze and wet skin. So don’t just pack your shorts and T-shirt, put a warmer layer in your day pack, just in case!

For more advice about the weather, check out Tonga Weather by Month: What is the Weather Like in Tonga?, as well as what to pack in The Complete Packing List for Tonga.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

7. You Need to Be a Confident Swimmer

Whale swimming involves swimming in the open water with the possibility of swells. Although you are provided with a wetsuit and fins for more buoyant and efficient swimming, this activity is best suited to those who are confident swimmers.

For those who are not so confident in the water, we recommend the professional team at Blue Water Retreat on ‘Eua whose guides are very capable of providing amazing in-water whale encounters for weaker swimmers. They get to know guests and their swimming abilities before the tour to ensure additional aid and flotation devices if needed. Of course, this is assessed on a case-by-case basis.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga© Pixabay

8. Follow the Instructions Given by Your Whale Guide

In Tonga, there are whale swimming laws that operators must abide by in order to make whale swimming a sustainable activity. First, you can only swim with whales with licensed whale tours, and second, you need to follow the instructions given to you by your whale swimming guide. Rules are put in place to keep both you and the whale safe. Find out more about the rules you can expect to follow on whale swimming tours in our guide, Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga?

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

9. Leave a Free Day Before and After Your Tour to Allow for Cancellations

The weather affects transport and water-based tours in Tonga. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to be flexible with your dates for whale swimming in case of cancellations. If your whale swimming tour is in an island group other than Tongatapu, leave a day or two free before your whale tour to allow for flight or ferry cancellations (which, yes, does happen often). For any whale swimming tour in Tonga, leave a day or two free after your intended whale tour date just in case the whale tour gets cancelled due to the weather.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga© TongaPocketGuide.com

10. Have an Open Mind

Last of all, approach your whale swimming tour in Tonga with an open mind. Whale swimming operators can’t promise a great whale swim, as you can’t force a whale to swim with you (and it would be unethical to chase the same whale around all day to force a swim). It’s best to see swimming with whales as a privilege – not something we are entitled to. That way, with the expectation that you might not get to swim with whales, it kind of makes it all the more amazing when you achieve it. If you don’t succeed, then, hell, you probably had an awesome day out on the water, likely visiting some islands and seeing whales from the boat anyway. For more details on what whale swimming tours entail, take a look at The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.

10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

More Tips for a Better Whale Swim in Tonga

That’s it for our tips for a better whale swim in Tonga. For more blowhole babble, check out the following guides:

Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.


Laura (Lola) S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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