In Tonga’s Remote Tropical Isles


In Tonga’s enchanting Ha’apai Islands, we’ll don masks and snorkels, slip into the water, and swim with humpback whales! They migrate here each summer, and Tonga is one of the few places in the world where one can swim close to these magnificent creatures—it’s one of the greatest thrills the natural world has to offer. With luck, our heart-pounding experiences will include watching spyhopping, breaching, and mother-calf interactions. Of the 62 islands in the Ha’apai group, 45 are uninhabited and the rest are lightly populated, so we’ll have a real “South Seas” feeling as we explore. We’ll also paddle sea kayaks, snorkel vibrant reefs, and meet the Ha’apai islanders, who welcome us with time-honored hospitality. Our overnights are in a traditional Tongan-style lodge set on a white-sand beach.

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1
Tongatapu / Snorkeling / Kayaking

A morning flight from Tongatapu, Tonga’s capital, brings us to Foa Island in the remote Ha’apai Islands. We settle in and enjoy the long, sandy beach right out the front door of our lodge. The lodge’s restaurant includes meals with delicious, locally caught seafood. Tonight, we can stargaze under the bright Milky Way and learn how early Polynesians used the stars to navigate.

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Days 2-8
Whale Watching / Snorkeling / Kayaking

We’re off on our search for the whales. Each year, humpback whales make a 2,800-mile migratory journey across the great Southern Ocean, along the coast of New Zealand, and into the wide expanse of the South Pacific Ocean, finally arriving in the sheltered waters of the kingdom of Tonga. From June through October, the whales court, mate, and bear their young here. We’ve chosen the best time of year (September) to see this activity, during the latter part of the season, when the whales are more relaxed, the calves are larger, more independent, and tend to be curious, rewarding us with amazing encounters. We set out by boat each morning in search of them, and we seldom have to travel far before sighting the first whales of the day. We approach them slowly to avoid disturbing them, and observe their behavior. Then, slipping into the water, we swim alongside them! We also stop at times to listen for the ethereal sounds of whale song. Male humpbacks sing elaborate “ballads” whose stanzas evolve over generations. One of our days, we take a break from whale watching and paddle our kayaks to Nukunamu, “The King’s Island,” where we snorkel the channel between Nukunamu and Ha’ano Islands, looking for colorful reef fish. With luck, we might even catch a glimpse of the elegant stingrays and sea turtles that inhabit these reefs. Back at our lodge each afternoon, we can snorkel, kayak, or enjoy a bike ride around the island. On the Sunday that we are here, we have the option to attend a church service and listen to the renowned harmonies of Tongan singing. Depart on Day 8.

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Swim with humpback whales—the experience of a lifetime!
Sea kayak in a remote, untouched South Pacific paradise
Optional paddle boarding
Option to attend a Sunday church service in a village and hear Tongan singing
Enjoy your spacious beachfront cabana set in a tropical garden, with sunrise views from your lanai
Stargaze under the clear skies and bright Milky Way


Length: 8 days
Cost From: $5195  
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:

Sea kayaking (no previous experience necessary), whale watching, swimming, beachcombing