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Last updated: 23 June, 2023

Humpback whales are among the ocean’s most impressive creatures – growing up to 16m (52ft) in length, they are famed for acrobatic displays of breaching and slapping the water with their 5m-long fins, and for their extraordinarily complex songs, which can last up to 20 minutes.

Every year, from July to October, 40-tonne humpback whales migrate to the warm Tongan waters from Antarctica to breed, before heading back in November.

Whale watching is therefore excellent, but it’s one of the few places in the world you can snorkel with them too (visibility is excellent) – and surely none better than these azure-blue, warm tropical waters. It’s a humbling and unforgettable experience.

Logistics

Price from: £220
Minimum age: 13
Age suitable: 13+
When: All year around
Duration: 3-4 hours

Getting there & doing it

Full-day tours for groups of up to 8 depart from Vava’u, Ha’apai, ‘Eua, and Tongatapu islands. Some operators provide hotel pick-ups. Lunch onboard, and snorkelling equipment, is provided each day. On encountering the whales, you hop in the water with your guide, four people at a time. All tours are snorkelling-based, so no need to have your dive certification. Not suitable for children under 14.

Dolphin Pacific Diving offer diving and whale watching day trips on their three boats out of Neiafu town on Vava’u. Swimming With Gentle Giants offer special 7-9 day packages that include accommodation on Vava’u. Their daily tours are led by marine biologists.

When to do it

Whales appear in Tonga between July and November to calve and mate.

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