Swimming with whales in Tonga Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

Tonga: The Swimming with Whales Experience

Swimming with humpback whales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

A dream that comes true in Tonga

If you dream about close encounters with whales The Kingdom of Tonga should be your prime destination

Tonga is an Polynesian archipelago of 176 South Sea islands: palm-fringed beaches, gin-clear waters, super friendly people, great fresh seafood and thousands of humpback whales that after a long journey from the icy krill-laden depths of Antarctica, make their playground in the warm waters surrounding Vava’u Islands in Tonga to court, mate and give birth on regular basis, from July to October every year.

Humpback whale getting closer © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

Can you swim with a whale?

Yes, you can in Tonga with an experienced skipper and a trained guide. It is important you know that your are not allowed go swimming with whales by yourself according to the national law of the Kingdom of Tonga, but you need go with a licensed skipper and guide, they are responsible of follow sustainable practices to do not intrude too heavily on the whales, respect the highest safety standards and comply with national guidelines.

Humpback whale face-to-face © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

Where can you swim with whales?

In Vavau', one of the three main island groups of Tonga.

A Humpback whale is right underneath us and coming up fast © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

When can you swim with whales in Tonga?

From July to October, when humpback whales leave their feeding grounds in Antarctica and make their way North to the tropical waters of Tonga to mate and give birth. They like the shallow protected waters between the islands to nurse and the deeper waters for mating.

Seeking ‘eye-to-eye’ experience with the giant humpback whales © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

How is a typical day of swimming with whales in Tonga?

You will spend your day on a boat keeping your eyes on the horizon looking for blows of air and breaches.

When you finally enter in the water is super important do it quietly, whales do not like the noise coming from surface and this could cause them to disappear, but no worries your guide will give you all the tricks for a memorable experience.

The humpback whale scanned us with a glance © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

What you can expect to see swimming with whales in Tonga?

  • Curious calves and mothers with one or more escorts
  • Male whales singing
  • Female whales teaching their calves
Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga was an absolutely mesmerizing experience © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia
Photographing Humpback Whales in Tonga © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia
Swimming with Humpback Whales in Tonga is a Once in The Lifetime Experience © Photo Paolo Colombo for Cruising Indonesia

Why choose Tonga?

Tonga is one of the only two places in the world you can swim with humpback whales. And the most interesting: you are allowed to photograph the Humpback Whales! Besides, the national regulations state clearly that only 4 people and a licensed guide can be in the water with the whales at any one time. Scuba diving with the whales is not allowed, only snorkelling. Although this, closer encounters are the norm.

It was Tonga were we seeking ‘eye-to-eye’ experiences with the giant humpback whales and we got the Once in The Lifetime Experience, immortalised forever on the images of our friend Paolo Colombo, skipper, uw photographer and dive instructor, in his epic voyage around the world.


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