Swimming with Whales from Tongatapu
If you’ve found this list of the best whale swim tours on Tongatapu, then chances are you need no introduction as to how life-changing swimming with majestic humpback whales can be. You’ve heard about it, now you want to know how to make the dream reality! If you’re staying on Tonga’s main island, Tongatapu, then these are the whale operators to consider.
It’s important to note that whale swimming tours are very similar in terms of the loose structure of the tours, often spending the morning searching/swimming with whales and the afternoon heading to an uninhabited island for some snorkelling and lunch. Depending on how well your whale swim has gone, you’ll then have more time searching for whales or simply enjoy snorkelling for longer. The difference between the whale tours lies in the boats, philosophies, crew and added inclusions. So without further ado, here are some of our top recommendations of the best whale swim tours on Tongatapu!
1. Tuna Moana
A Tongan-owned and operated tour, Tuna Moana offer eco-friendly whale swim experiences. Join the “most compliant whale watching business in 2019” as awarded by the Ministry of Tourism of Tonga for your once-in-lifetime experience swimming with humpback whales. The boat is well-designed for optimum topside whale viewing, as well as easy getting in and out of the water. There are often three guides on the boat at a time with a maximum of eight guests onboard, ensuring optimal attention to safety. Other feel-good factors are knowing that it is a single-use plastic-free boat where your included packed lunch and water bottles are in reusable boxes and metal water bottles.
2. Deep Blue Diving
With over 30 years of knowledge of Tongan waters, Deep Blue Diving is well worth considering for your whale swimming experience. They offer two boats, the most commonly used is their larger 15m boat. The boat carries up to 25 passengers 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 also often being a more comfortable option for those more prone to seasickness. The boat travels at a calm and unhurried pace, taking a slower approach than smaller boat tours, which is said to feel less harassing for the whales and more comfortable for passengers. Other features of their tours include whale behaviour commentary, an onboard professional photographer and sometimes the opportunity to see rescued turtles released back to the wild. See more experiences from Nuku’alofa in the 10 Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
3. Emerald Whale Watching
Offering small-group tours from Nuku’alofa, Emerald Whale Watching or “Emerald Co.” provides tours on their yacht catering from four to 12 guests at a time. Jump on board “Reel-Life” with an experienced skipper and a certified whale swimming guide. Choose to swim or simply watch from the topside from the comfortable boat. Emerald Whale Watching also offer Tongatapu and Vava’u island tours, airport transfers and car rentals.
4. Blue Water Explorer
Also known as “Whale Dive Tonga”, Blue Water Explorer operates two whale swimming vessels catering to small groups of up to nine guests. As well as day trips, Blue Water Explorer offers three-day and five-day packages to maximise your chances of having the best possible whale swim. The team prides itself on educating guests on the whales you’ll (hopefully) be seeing throughout the tour.
5. Taufatahi Charters
Owned by some of the most experienced whale swimming guides in Tongatapu, Taufatahi Charters offers an ethical and eco-friendly approach to whale interactions. The team are dedicated to being a single-use plastic-free boat and hire local Tongan whale guides. They encourage multi-day packages for whale swimming across three or five days in order to achieve the best possible swims while you’re in one of the only countries in the world offering the experience. Their vessel is catered for up to 10 guests.
6. Whale Swim Safaris
For a luxurious multi-day adventure, set your sights on Whale Swim Safaris. They offer six-day whale safaris departing from Nuku’alofa, incorporating swimming with whales, scuba diving in coral-filled waters, snorkelling, indulging in Tongan cuisine and cruising around the islands of the Tongatapu group.
7. South Seas Charters
Jump on the 9m (30ft) catamaran of South Sea Charters for a cruise around the waters of Tongatapu looking out for humpback whales. Departing from Nuku’alofa on the boat “Moonshine”, South Seas Charters provide a comfortable vessel to watch whales from the boat. Whale swimming is also available. Alternatively, South Seas Charters offers a water taxi service, island-hopping tours and sports fishing charters. Learn more about fishing with them in The Best Fishing Charters on Tongatapu.
8. Whale Swim, Fish & Dive
[UPDATE] Due to a major safety incident this operator has seen its license revoked and is no longer operating. If you have booked a tour with this company, please consider one of the other options mentioned in this article.
Join the small-group whale watching and swimming experience with Whale Swim, Fish & Dive! The full-day excursion departs from Faua Wharf in Nuku’alofa, first taking guests to try out the provided gear in a snorkelling spot above vibrant corals before heading off to find the whales! Tours often have a skipper, a guide and sometimes a photographer on board capturing your life-changing moments with the Humpbacks. The tours also include tasty lunches provided by a local bakery. As the name suggests, the team also offer scuba diving and sports fishing. Learn more about scuba diving in Tonga with the Guide to Scuba Diving in Tonga.