Whale Watching Destinations in Tonga
Tonga is made up of 170 islands split into five island groups, but where can you see whales? Well, luckily, just about anywhere if it’s the right season. Whales migrate to Tonga’s waters between June and October (sometimes November) each year to mate and calve. They can been seen in the waters in all of the island groups, so we’ll give you a rundown of what each island group has to offer when it comes to whale swimming (except for The Niuas, since these extremely remote island have no whale swimming operators). Check out where to see whales in Tonga in the guide below!
Quick Tips for Swimming with Whales
- Follow the instructions of your whale guide and skipper, whose job is to keep you and the whales safe
- Take seasickness pills before your trip
- Bring a warm layer to wear when you get out of the water
- Know that a successful whale swim is not a guarantee, considering they are wild animals
- Come to Tonga at the right season! Whales are only in Tonga between June and October in Tongatapu and ‘Eua or July and October in Vava’u and Ha’apai.
For more tips, take a look at the 10 Tips for Swimming with Whales in Tonga.
Number of Licensed Operators: 7
Tongatapu is located in the south of Tonga and is the main arrival island for most travellers. This not only makes it a convenient island to do a whale swimming tour from, but it is home to some of the most ethically friendly operators concerning the whales’ wellbeing.
Despite other island groups having better reputations for whale swimming in Tonga, Tongatapu still has successful whale swims almost daily. The water in Tongatapu’s northern lagoon is shallow enough in many places to see whales resting on the seabed. Plus, there are small outer islands visited on most tours, which provides a picture-perfect lunch stop.
Note that all whale swimming tours in Tongatapu depart from Faua Wharf in Nuku’alofa.
Whales can also be seen from shore from various lookouts and beaches around the island.
Check out some of the whale operators in the area in the 8 Best Whale Swim Tours on Tongatapu. (Note that the eighth operator had their license revoked but is still worth mentioning for your information).
Number of Licensed Operators: 4
While ‘Eua only has four licensed operators, don’t let that put you off. It means that there tends to be less competition for a more ethical approach to finding and swimming with whales. Plus, it’s only a small island with a handful of accommodations, so it’s usually not a problem to find a spot on one of the whale tours as mentioned in The Best Whale Tours in ‘Eua.
‘Eua has the longest whale season out of all of the islands in Tonga, where whales are seen from June to as late as November. The one downside to swimming with whales in ‘Eua is that the water tends to be rougher than in other island groups, which is not ideal for those who are prone to seasickness.
Also worth mentioning is that ‘Eua is one of the best islands to watch whales from shore.
Whale tours in ‘Eua depart from Ohonua. Accommodations and operators can organise transport if needed.
Number of Licensed Operators: 10
Ha’apai gets raving reviews for its whale swimming due to the small number of tour operators sharing a vast area of ocean. Waters in the Ha’apai group are typically sheltered thanks to the scattering of islands, as well as often being clearer than other island groups. Of course, the weather and swell can change conditions.
The operators in Ha’apai have a good reputation for taking an ethical approach to their whale tours, while elements of the island group, such as uninhabited islands and reefs ideal for snorkelling, add other fun additions to visit during tours.
Most of the operators in Ha’apai operate out of their resorts but often offer pick-ups at nearby resorts and islands.
Whales can also be spotted from shore, particular from the accommodation on Uoleva Island.
Check out some of the operators in our 5 Best Whale Swim Tours in Ha’apai.
Number of Licensed Operators: 20
By far the most popular destination for whale swimming, Vava’u has earned itself a reputation for being a whale swimming mecca over the years. While there’s plenty of choices when it comes to tours, some operators have been reported to not completely follow regulations and, as a result, cause too much disturbance to the whales. In short, be mindful of which operators you choose in Vava’u.
Whale swimming tours offer the opportunity to stop at various islands and snorkelling spots throughout the day depending on how successful your whale swim has been. Conditions are usually calm for whale swimming, thanks to the sheltering of these closely compact islands, but again, this is subject to the weather and swell.
Note that the whale swimming season is a little shorter than elsewhere, typically between July and mid-October. Operators depart from the Small Boat Marina in Neiafu or from resorts.
Whales can be spotted from shore from the various islands of Vava’u, as well as the northern lookouts of ‘Utu Vava’u.
Check out some of the operators in the area in the 10 Best Whale Swim Tours in Vava’u.