Tonga: Swimming with Humpback Whales

In the Remote Tropical Ha’apai Islands


Each year, humpback whales migrate more than 3,000 miles from their feeding grounds in Antarctica to the Kingdom of Tonga to court, mate, and give birth in the warm waters. This journey brings you one of the great thrills of the natural world: the chance to swim and snorkel close to these majestic creatures, and see their spyhopping, breaching, and mother-calf interactions. 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 1-8
Tongatapu / Foa Island / Whale Watching / Snorkeling / Kayaking

A flight from Tongatapu, Tonga’s capital, brings us to Foa Island, set in an outer archipelago of Tonga that sees few visitors. We’re off on our search for humpback whales! Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you are allowed to be in the water with these gentle giants. We follow the highest standards for interactions with the whales. From the moment of our first sighting, our aim is to let the whales take charge of the encounter. We approach them slowly to avoid disturbing them so we can quietly observe their behavior. We slip into the water for the thrill of swimming alongside them, stopping 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 extended 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. We also watch for the elegant stingrays and sea turtles that inhabit these reefs. Our lodge, set on a private beach, has spacious bungalows and a relaxed ambiance, with a beach bar and restaurant that serves locally caught seafood. After dinner, we can stargaze under the clear skies and bright 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