Tonga: Swimming with Humpback Whales

In the Remote Tropical Ha’apai Islands

Trip Level

This trip is rated a Level 3 (Moderate) according to our trip grading system.

Average Day
• 5-6 hours boating
• 1-2 hours snorkeling
• Occasional kayaking and biking

How Tough is This Trip?
You need to be comfortable snorkeling in the open ocean, potentially with moderate waves and current. While the typical whale encounter is not an athletic event, it can be a challenge at times for those who are not adequately prepared. Depending on whether the whale is stationary or on the move, you may have to swim a significant distance.


The climate in Tonga is very pleasant, slightly cooler and less humid than Fiji and Samoa. The winter months (June to September) tend to be the best months for travel, with temperatures ranging from the high 70s to the low 80s. Each day may vary from quite sunny to rainy in a matter of hours. Do note that it can feel cold when we're on the boat. Mosquitoes aren’t as persistent in the winter months but we recommend bringing repellent, especially for the evenings.


Our nights out in the islands are spent at Sandy Beach Resort, a simple yet well located Tongan-style beach resort in fales (bungalows) that lend an authentic, laid-back experience of this island paradise. The 12 bungalows feature comfortable beds, en suite bathrooms, and private verandas with chairs and table.


Breakfast is served at the resort, and includes fruit and eggs made to order. Lunch is picnic style, either on the boat or on a beach, and typically includes sandwiches. Dinner is also at the resort, and consists of Tongan specialties typically consisting of seafood and vegetables.


Since we are out on the water for 6 hours a day (generally 9am-3pm), all trip members should be comfortable in small boats. You will be required to climb the ladder to get back into the boat after swimming with the whales which requires some coordination and upper body strength. Our whale boats are comfortable, have shade, are staffed by a certified captain and two whale swim guides, and meet all the requirements for relevant safety equipment.


While we are typically not far from shore, we will be swimming in the open ocean and conditions can vary throughout the day. The seas are generally calm with low to moderate currents, but unexpected squalls or high winds can create rough ocean conditions at any time. Our boat will always be nearby and if you or our leaders ever fear conditions are getting dangerous, we can always end a swim early.


As the primary activity on this trip is snorkeling, we strongly recommend bringing your own snorkeling equipment to ensure a proper fit. However, the resort provides unlimited access to their equipment (mask, snorkel, and fins) if you prefer. The deeper water in the region can create upwelling zones of cooler water, so we recommend a 2-3mm wetsuit if you get cold easily, or at least a lycra skin for sun and stinger protection. If you are a certified scuba diver and would like to do an optional scuba dive, you will need to bring your certification card (though you will miss a whale swim).

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.