Swimming with whales, Tonga

The Kingdom of Tonga in the South Seas is one of the few countries where you can not only watch whales from a boat, but also swim with them due to the pleasant water temperature. Between June and October, humpback whales come from Antarctica to the warm calm waters around Tonga to mate and raise their calves.

Besides cultural sights in Tonga such as the cultural centre or the royal palace in the capital Nuku'alofa, the small South Sea kingdom of Tonga has a very special attraction in store. Tonga is one of the few countries in the world that offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with whales in the wild. Whales can often be observed - but there is hardly anywhere where the sea in which they move is also suitable for humans to swim. This is the case on Tonga.


Humpback whales in the South Seas

Humpback whales in particular have been migrating through the crystal-clear waters off Tonga every year during the summer months for centuries. They migrate from their summer quarters in Antarctica to their winter breeding grounds in the South Seas. Here the water is warmer and calm enough for them to raise their calves.

On their journey north from Antarctica, they pass by the main island of Tongataup, the uninhabited island of 'Eua, as well as Ha'apai and Vava'u. Dive centres and small harbours for observation boats have been set up on all these islands to accompany the whales on their journey.

The best time to meet whales

The first of the gigantic marine mammals arrive in June. They go in search of mates and mate in the deep blue waters of the Pacific. The calves are born between July and September. At first glance, they already appear relatively large when they slowly emerge from the water - until their mother surfaces next to them. The size and respectability of these gentle giants has so far captivated every observer. It also happens time and again that the whales shoot out of the water right next to the boat and let themselves fall back again with a loud splash.

In October, most young whales are big enough to return to the nutrient-rich areas of the Antarctic. By November, the spectacle of the humpback whales on Tonga is as good as over again. In some years, the calves themselves return to reproduce.

Diving and snorkelling with the humpback whales is safe

As already mentioned, the gigantic animals can be observed not only from a boat, but also under water. Since humpback whales have no teeth, but filter krill and plankton from the water with their baleen, the whales are completely harmless to humans. The only risk is being hit by a fin.

To experience the whales in their natural environment, you don't even have to have a diving licence. Diving goggles and a snorkel are all you need to see the mighty giants gliding through the deep blue water. Those who plunge their ears into the water will also witness the unique whale song - an absolutely unforgettable experience!

Tip: Mothers and calves are best seen around Vava'u, while the 25m-deep Crystal Cave on 'Eua with its fantastic reef and colourful fish (sadly no longer so numerous due to overfishing) is a spectacular experience even without whale sightings. Sunlight falls through a hole in the roof of the cave, creating fantastic light shows underwater.

Related links:


Website of the diving centre on 'Eua, Deep Blue Diving
Website of the dive centre on Vava'u