Tonga: Swimming with Humpback Whales

In the Remote Tropical Ha’apai Islands


Each year, humpback whales migrate 3,000 miles from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the remote Kingdom of Tonga to court, mate, and give birth in the warm waters. To swim and snorkel close to these majestic creatures, to see their spyhopping, breaching, and mother-calf interactions, is one of the great thrills of the natural world. In addition to our whale encounters, we paddle sea kayaks, snorkel over coral reefs, and enjoy presentations by our guides on whale behavior and Polynesian culture. Our Tongan-style lodge is set right on a white-sand beach.

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Tongatapu / Foa Island

A flight from Tongatapu, Tonga’s capital, brings us to Foa Island, set in an outer archipelago of Tonga that sees few visitors. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where people are allowed to be in the water with these gentle giants, and we follow the highest standards for our interactions with them.

Days 3-8
Whale Watching / Snorkeling / Kayaking

We’re off on our search for humpback whales! As we slip into the water to swim alongside the whales, we pause at times to listen for the haunting sounds of whale song, perhaps even hearing male humpbacks’ elaborate “ballads,” whose stanzas evolve over generations. Our in-water encounters range from swim-bys, where the whales swim past us as we snorkel, to witnessing courtship displays.

Afternoons are for snorkeling, kayaking, or biking around the island. 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 clownfish. Our lodge, set on a private beach, has spacious bungalows and a beach bar and cafe that serves locally caught seafood. After dinner, we can stargaze under the Milky Way and learn how early Polynesians used the stars to navigate. Depart on Day 8 via Tongatapu.



Swim with humpback whales—in one of very few places on the planet where this is possible!
Sea kayaking and snorkeling, optional paddleboarding
Enjoy your beachfront cabana set in a tropical garden, with sunrise 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: $7295  
Arrive: Tongatapu, Tonga
Depart: Tongatapu, Tonga
Lodging: 7 nights Tongan-style beach resort
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Snorkeling, Wildlife and Natural History, Cultural Adventures, Sea Kayaking, Whale Watching
Trip Level:

Swimming with whales, snorkeling, sea kayaking, beachcombing