Imagine you are submerged in the deep cerulean waters with only the sound of your breath coming through your snorkel. Suddenly, 8 metres below you two massive dark shapes make their way slowly into sight. It’s a mother humpback whale and her calf. They majestically dance through the sea getting closer to you. As the baby weaves through the currents, you come almost eye-to-eye with one another and the exhilarating experience of being so up close and personal with these ancient creatures is almost otherworldly. 

Those that have lived this unique wildlife encounter express words are simply unable to express the overwhelming emotion of the experience. Phrases often cited by those that have had this immersive adventure is life changing, one of the highlights of their lives. Whale swimming adventures are like no other expedition you will experience.

This is truly one for the bucket list, it will transform your respect for creatures of the sea and the underwater world they inhabit.  You may be fortunate enough to spot a ‘heat run’ where several enormous males chase a female in a mating ritual. They breach, splash their tails to gain attention and call to one another in whale song. Our tour operators are always aware of the whale’s needs, they are allowed to remain the stars of their own show with strict limitations on boat and swimmer numbers per day and per season. 

What? 

Humpback whales travel approximately 5000 kilometers per year and have the longest migratory trips of any mammal on Earth.  They range from 12-16 metres in length as adults, and can weigh 50 tonnes. They require warm water in which to gestate and give birth, hence the sultry waters of the South Pacific are their optimum breeding environment. Males are renowned for their lengthy and complex songs which can be heard underwater for hundreds of kilometres. Each pod has their own unique set of ballads and rituals. Whales are naturally curious and playful creatures and give off signs to the knowing eye indicating a desire to frolic. Our experienced tour operators are mindful to only engage whales that indicate an interest in play. Only when it’s safe are swimmers allowed in the water to interact with them. These beautiful giants were almost hunted into extinction in the late part of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, a ban on whaling was issued in 1965. With protections in place the whale population has made a slow recovery. 

Where

Oceania Expeditions offers guests the opportunity to swim with these magnificent creatures in Tonga and Tahiti, island nations located in the southern corner of the South Pacific.  

Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga comprises over 169 islands of which only 35 are inhabited. It is also known as the Friendly Islands. 

These islands provide a genuine and authentic experience of life in the Pacific. With minimal luxury resorts, the majority of accommodations are boutique styled guesthouses and Bed and Breakfast properties.  A rich cultural heritage of over 1000 years can be experienced with village tours, dance, music and art. 

Dive the crystal-clear waters and swim with the abundance of fish life, canoe the lagoons or try your hand at deep sea fishing, kite boarding or stand up paddle…. But remember to take some island time to relax and recharge. Tonga has deliberately not followed the trappings of its tourist hotspot neighbours Fiji and Cook Islands, instead opting for an intimacy, authenticity and charm that makes visitors immediately like part of the family. Relationships are key in Tonga, and we have the connections to ensure your visit is truly unforgettable.

Tahiti

When Europeans first encountered the Polynesian people and the islands of Tahiti they truly felt they had discovered heaven on Earth. A secluded, lush tropical paradise awaits you beyond your wildest imaginings. This destination lives up to everything you dreamed it would be and more.  Our whale swimming tours operate in Moorea, part of the archipelago of the Society Island group. 

Moorea rises magically out of the ocean like a cathedral. High, sharp, inspiring green spires, crowned by clouds. Poetic threads of waterfalls tumble down fern-softened cliffs. Peaceful meadows flanked by pinnacles of emerald green will renew your belief in the majesty of nature, and Moorea’s bright blue lagoon will bring to life the South Seas idyll of your dreams. Pastel-painted houses, surrounded by gardens of hibiscus circle the island in a necklace of happy, simple villages that will elevate your senses and remind you of the good things in life. “La vie heureuse”, as they say in Tahiti, a happy life. One of the most memorable locations in The Islands of Tahiti, Moorea’s beauty is unforgettable. 

Source: Tahiti Tourisme. Tahiti offers some of the most luxury accommodations that can be found anywhere in the South Pacific. 

When

Whales Swim season is between the months of July to October in Tonga and July to November in Tahiti. August to October is the peak of the season. 

The Tongan Government has placed restrictions on tourist numbers to swim with the whales and our sustainable eco-friendly tour operators are bound by these limitations. In Tahiti, swimming with whales is relatively a new experience on offer and the focus is upon ecological sustainability of the pristine marine environment. Both destinations ensure boat numbers are limited to ensure whales are not overwhelmed and you feel part of an exclusive and very special experience. 

Because of the limitation around numbers and the short duration of the season both our Tongan and Tahitian tours can book out well in advance. If you decide this once in a lifetime opportunity is something you would like to experience please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your dates. As we are dealing with natural variables (whales and weather), book at least three days or more on the water to ensure an optimum likelihood of encounters.  

Compiled by Oceania Expeditions with thanks to the Tahiti Tourisme and The Royal Kingdom of Tonga Tourist Office. Images thanks to Reef Resort and Tahiti Tourisme.

south pacific travel specialist

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