How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism
How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga

How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga

(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Increase Your Chances for an Amazing 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 to get the best whale swimming experience in Tonga. Check out our whale tour-enhancing tips!

And for more whale swimming advice, check out The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.

Quick Tips for Whale Swimming in Tonga

  • Follow the instructions of your whale guide and skipper, whose job is to keep you and the whales safe
  • Take a warm layer to wear on the boat after your swim
  • Take seasickness pills before your trip
  • Allow one or two days to be free both before and after the date of your whale swim in case your tour is rescheduled due to weather conditions
  • Note that no whale swimming takes place on a Sunday.

See more tips in the 10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga.

How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Go to Tonga in the Right Season

This might seem all too obvious for some, but just in case you didn’t know, the whale season in Tonga is between June and October. Not only that, but the whale season is slightly different depending on which island group you visit.

The Whale Season for Each Island Group in Tonga

  • The whale season in Tongatapu: mid-June to end of October
  • The whale season in ‘Eua: early June to early November
  • The whale season in Ha’apai: mid-July to mid-October
  • The whale season in Vava’u: mid-July to mid-October

The Best Month for Swimming with Whales

To narrow things down further, it’s often agreed that the best month for whale swimming in any of the island group in Tonga in September. This is when calves are a little older and more inquisitive about swimmers, while mothers are typically more relaxed when swimmers are around, making them less likely to swim away. That’s not to say that the other months of the whale season are a dud. Each day brings entirely different whale swimming experiences.

For more information on when to swim with whales, take a look at When is the Whale Season in Tonga?

How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga(c)

Book onto Multiple Whale Tours

Ok, so whale swimming does cost you a small fortune, but we believe it is worth it to pay extra for multiple whale swims. Many of us are not only in Tonga once, but are unlikely to visit another country where you can swim with whales again…

Because no two whale tours are the same, with some tours having amazing encounters while others see nothing at all, it’s best to book at least two whale swims during your time in Tonga. If your first tour is a flop, then at least you’ll have another chance to swim with whales on another tour. And believe us, if you have an amazing whale swim during your first tour, then you’ll definitely want to experience it again anyway! It’s a win-win!

Many of Tonga’s whale operators offer discounted tour packages if you book multiple whale swimming tours. So make sure to inquire when planning your whale swim.

Speaking of tours, take a look at some of our top picks in the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Tonga.

How to Get the Best Whale Swimming Experience in Tonga(c)

Abide by the Whale Swimming Rules

Whale swimming in Tonga is only legal as the Government only allows licensed operators following a certain set of rules and regulations to swim with whales. This way, disturbing the whales is minimal while keeping swimmers safe too – see Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga? for more information on that.

At the beginning of any whale swimming tour in Tonga, you will be given a full briefing on how to interact with the whales. Not following these rules may force the tour operator to stop the whale swim and/or force the whales to swim away ruining the experience for your group. In short, abide by the rules given in the briefing so that you and your group have the best possible swim.

Whale Swimming Rules

Some rules when it comes to whale swimming in Tonga include:

  • Boats can go as close as 10m (33ft) to the whale to drop swimmers off, then 50m (164ft) from the whale and swimmers
  • Swimmers can only go as close as 5m (16ft) to the whale
  • Only four swimmers can enter the water with a whale at one time (not including guides)
  • Enter the water quietly
  • You can only swim with a whale for up to 90 minutes (less for mothers and calves) then the whale must be left alone for 90 minutes.


Laura 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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