Swimming with Whales in Ha’apai
Each year between July and October, humpback whales take an amazing journey from the waters of Antarctica to the warm and safe waters of Ha’apai to mate and calve. Tonga is one of the few countries in the world where you can swim with these majestic creatures in their natural element. Experience the life-changing activity yourself with one of the whale swim tours in Ha’apai.
Ha’apai is an island group covering a huge area and including 62 islands. Out of this vast region, there are only a handful of whale operators with small boats, promising an uncrowded swimming experience for you and the whales. What’s more, the surrounding lagoons make Ha’apai’s waters much more sheltered than elsewhere in Tonga, allowing for a more comfortable whale swimming experience – see The Best Place to Swim with Whales in Tonga for more reasons to whale swim in Ha’apai.
The whale swimming operators listed below have certified whale tour skippers to ensure a more ethical experience with the whales. Learn more about whale swimming in Tonga in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
1. Diana Beach Resort
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 and offer the most affordable whale swim in Ha’apai.
2. Kitesurf Tonga
Another 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 5 Best Eco-Resorts in Ha’apai.
3. Sea Change Eco Retreat
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 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai.
4. Ha’apai Beach Resort
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 the island’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.
5. Matafonua Lodge and Sandy Beach Resort
Matafonua Lodge and its sister resort Sandy Beach Resort on Foa Island run whale swimming tours with pick-ups from both resorts. The resorts run small-boat whale swimming and watching tours with certified skippers. They take safety very seriously with all the necessary safety equipment on board, as well as an eco-friendly approach to the whales following guidelines set by the Tongan government. The full-day experience includes a picnic lunch, which is enjoyed on board or on a beach depending on how successful the whale swim has been and what guests prefer. Bottled water, tea and coffee are also provided.
6. Serenity Beaches Resort
Located on the tranquil Uoleva Island, Serenity Beaches Resort offers beach fales (bungalows) on the edge of a 10 km-long (6 mi) beach, as well as their own whale swimming tours. Serenity Beaches Resort has three 9 m (30 ft) boats for their guided tours with certified skippers to watch and swim with the whales. Whales can also be enjoyed even from the resort’s beach. The resort also offers yoga classes, massages, snorkelling trips and swimming with manta rays.
7. Whale Discoveries
Whale Discoveries offers an all-inclusive whale swimming holiday in the islands of Ha’apai. One option is their Wildlife Live-Aboard experience onboard the sailing catamaran, the S.Y. Wildlife, departing from Tongatapu. You’ll sail around the Ha’apai islands on an eight-day cruise, swimming with whales, staying in one of the yacht’s roomy double cabins and enjoying meals prepared onboard. Learn more about the experience in the 5 Best Luxury Accommodations in Ha’apai, as well as in The 5 Best Liveaboards & Boat Stays in Tonga.
More About the Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai
That’s it for our guide to the best whale swim tours in Ha’apai. Ready to hit the islands? Start planning with these guides:
- 5 Ways to Get to (& Around) Ha’apai
- Where to Stay in Ha’apai: The Best Accommodations
- The Food Guide to Ha’apai: Places to Eat & Food Tours
Finally, if there’s anything we’ve missed, you’re likely to find it in The Complete Travel Guide to Ha’apai.