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 only countries in the world where you can swim with these majestic creatures in their natural element. Experience the life-changing activity for yourself with one of the whales 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 both you and the whales. The whale swimming operators listed below all have certified whale tour skippers to ensure an ethical experience with the whales. Learn more about whale swimming in Tonga in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga. Plus, learn more about visiting Ha’apai in The Complete Guide to Ha’apai.
1. Ha’apai Whale and Sail
Operating out of the Sea Change Eco Retreat on Uoleva Island, Ha’apai Whale and Sail are a long-established whale swimming 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. The tour is also available to non-guests of the resort, which can be booked through the Mariner’s Cafe or the Tourist Information Centre in Pangai, but resort guests do get a small discount. Ha’apai Whale and Sail also island excursions and snorkelling tours throughout the year. Learn more about Sea Change Eco Retreat in the 10 Best Resorts in Ha’apai.
2. 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. Alternatively, do a holiday package from The Lolofutu Beach Barn, which is an off-the-grid eco-stay with whale swimming days trips from the MV Tropic Bird. Learn more about the experience in the 7 Best Luxury Accommodation in Ha’apai.
3. Matafonua Lodge & 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.
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 2.30pm. Inclusions are all snorkelling gear, a homemade lunch, tea, coffee and refreshments and licensed skippers and whale swimming guides.
5. Serenity Beaches Resort
Located on the tranquil Uoleva Island, Serenity Beaches Resort offers beach fales (bungalows) on the edge of a 10km-long (6-mile) beach, as well as their own whale swimming tours. Serenity Beaches Resort has two 9m (30ft) 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, island massages, snorkelling trips and swimming with manta rays.