Tonga is one of only three few places in the world where you can join humpback whales in their waters – just be respectful and keep your distance – and enjoy the unique pleasure of swimming with a pod of these gentle giants.
Whale watching in Tonga is one of the country's main attractions. The southern humpback whales migrate here from the Antarctic waters during the winter months (June to October), and it is here they come to mate, give birth, frolic and above all else, to rest before their great journey back south to their feeding grounds in Antartica. It is here in Tonga that you have the greatest opportunity to witness humpback whales up close.
The centre of the whale watching tourism industry is in Vava'u where the deep water bays and protected channels make the ideal resting place. Neiafu Harbour is the main gateway for sightseeing trips and the town is a buzz with whale news from the whales first arrival in late June, to their last departure in October. There are about fifteen registered whale charters available in Vava'u with most being small boat operators carrying just a handful of passengers. Unlike the overly commercial regions of Hawaii, Australia and South Africa, the largest boat in Neiafu takes just 25 passengers. Tonga is just one of three countries in the world where is also possible to get into the water close to the humpback whales which you'll remember for the rest of your life. If this does not appeal to you for ethical reasons you should definitely go snorkelling in one of the bays to experience the enchanting whale songs that can be heard underwater for miles.
It's not just Vava'u that attracts whale watching. Further south, Ha'apai makes a really good alternative with even fewer boats (in fact just a couple) making the experience all the more spiritual. And if you believe man should not interact with these magnificent creatures through powered vessels, then consider heading to Fafa Island where you have a good chance of spotting the whales passing the nearby reef, or from Eua Island where you can watch the whales from the high vantage point of the islands' cliffs.
The following are our recommend accommodation for whale watching: