In Tonga’s Remote Tropical Isles


This journey grants you one of the great thrills of the natural world. The Ha’apai Islands are one of the few places on Earth where one can swim close to humpback whales, and we’ll have exhilarating encounters with them, including seeing their spyhopping, breaching, and mother-calf interactions. In addition to our whale adventures, we’ll paddle sea kayaks, snorkel above extensive coral reefs, and meet the Ha’apai islanders, who welcome us with time-honored hospitality. Trip Leader Jon Imhoof is an expert in Polynesian cultures and he’ll share insights into the renowned skills of early Polynesian navigators who used the stars as their compass. Our Tongan-style lodge is set right on a white-sand beach.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-8
Tongatapu / Foa Island / Whale Watching / Snorkeling / Kayaking

A flight from Tongatapu, Tonga’s capital, brings us to Foa Island in the Ha’apai Islands, an outer archipelago of Tonga that sees few visitors. This palm-fringed island, with its long, sandy beach and crystal-clear waters, is the setting for our encounters with humpback whales. We’ve chosen the best time of year for this adventure, when the whales are more relaxed as their calves have grown larger. Many migrating whales are drawn to the sheltered Ha’apai waters, which means we seldom have to travel far before sighting the first whales of the day. We set out by boat each morning in search of these magical creatures, and when we find them, we slip into the water, and have the thrill of swimming alongside them. We’ll stop at times to listen for the haunting sounds of whale song, perhaps hearing male humpbacks’ elaborate “ballads,” whose stanzas evolve over generations. Our in-water encounters range from swim-bys, where the whales simply swim past us as we snorkel (sometimes changing course to get a closer look at us) to extended courtship displays. In our free time, there are opportunities for snorkeling, kayaking, or biking around the island. Our kayaking adventures include the channel between Nukunamu and Ha’ano Islands, and we’ll beach our kayaks to snorkel among brilliant Moorish idol, butterflyfish, wrasse, and clown fish. We also watch for the elegant stingrays, sea turtles, and even shark that inhabit these reefs. Depart on Day 8.

 View Lodging



Swim with humpback whales—the experience of a lifetime!
Sea kayak and snorkel, optional biking
Enjoy your beachfront fale (bungalow) set in a tropical garden, with sunset views from your lanai
Stargaze in clear skies under the Milky Way
Learn about the skills of early Polynesian navigators


Length: 8 days
Cost From: $5895  
Arrive: Tongatapu, Tonga
Depart: Tongatapu, Tonga
Lodging: 7 nights Tongan-style beach resort
Meals: All meals included (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Snorkeling, Wildlife & Natural History, Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Whale Watching
Trip Level:

Whale watching, swimming, snorkeling, sea kayaking, beachcombing