Our Team

Our small, but dedicated whale-passionate Team is:

Rae_2013Rae Gill
- Founder/Tour Director/Co-ordinator

Rae grew up in New Zealand, where most weekends and holidays were spent near or in the ocean and 25 years of her adult life was spent living, working and experiencing many countries  and cultures around the world – all of which prepared her what she does now!

Rae operates her ‘swim with whales’ eco-tour business from her laptop, whether she is at her home in Kerikeri NZ with her daughter Pou and two scruffy mutts Georgie & Elmo, elmo_georgietravelling somewhere in the world or in her home in the village of Toula in Vava’u, during the whale season.
Her role is General Manager, marketing, sales & logistics, when she is not in swimming with humpback whales in Tonga.

In Vava’u, Rae joins the groups on the whaleswim boat with the guests most days PLUS managing logistics on the ground.

Her enthusiasm and passion for the humpback whales and the environment is definitely catchy and her willingness to share her understanding of the local Tongan culture and its people is refreshing which certainly adds to her guests experience of the beautiful islands of Tonga.

geoff_patricknic_xiaolingRae’s son Geoff, his wife Xiao Ling and her grandchildren, Nicole (13) & Patrick (10) live in Taiwan and operate the wholesale agency for Bauer, (Inline and Ice Hockey Equipment) for Taiwan and parts of Asia and their retail store,  SkatePro Asia in Taipei. Geoff also manages the Taipei Tigers hockey teams and has both advisory & coaching role in their international hockey tournaments.


Pou, Rae’s adopted Tongan daughter, lives with her in Kerikeri, attends Kerikeri High School with the intention of studying Marine Sciences at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga in 2015 and to qualify as a Marine Biologist in 2018.
Pou has loved the ocean since she could barely walk and she was swimming with the humpbacks for the first time in 2006 (age 10). It was no surprise when she announced she wanted to be a Marine Scientist!


lynda 2014Lynda Johnson
- Booking Support & Admin Manager

Lynda has been part of our Team since 2004. She works from her home -office and looks after our guests bookings, accommodation and makes sure everyones holidays runs as smoothly as possible .
So once you have booked – just email Lynda lynda@whaleswim.com with questions and information about extra accommodations, flights, transfers etc.
Lynda grew up in Dallas, Texas and immigrated to NZ 25+ years ago. She lives on the beautiful island of Waiheke, (35 min by ferry from Auckland city) among the vineyards, olive groves and surrounded by magnificent beaches. Her  lovely daughter Jesse, is our neoprene vest model!

Darren JewDarren Jew
- ‘Canon Master’ Professional Wildlife Photographer,
 Photography Advisor & Guide

Winner of 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012 & 2013 Canon/AIPP Australian Science, Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year.
Having been inspired to explore a career in nature photography by his father’s travels in Antarctica, Darren now pursues a passion for capturing and sharing the wonder of the natural world.
After graduating from the Queensland College of Art, he first worked in commercial photography, before taking up a position as photographer with the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service, where he worked for 8 years.
He moved on from that part of his career in 1994 and his work is now published widely in books, magazines and paper products. He has had the opportunity to photograph extensively across Australia and in Africa, Alaska, Patagonia, Tonga and Antarctica and have introduced many people to the world’s great wildlife and landscape destinations first hand, through small group photography tours, predominantly to Africa and Antarctica.
Darren was part of the Team in the early days as guide for our photography groups in Vava’u during 2001 and 2002 seasons then his focus turned to family and other destinations and photo-opportunities around the world. However in 2008 we were very happy that he was able to join our WhaleSwim Team again and he has worked with us ever since!!
His passion for the whales and his dedication to his guests during their time with him, is more than appreciated, as we have many guests returning to learn more from him every year! He’s now humpback whale-addicted like the rest of the team!

For advice of camera equipment email Darren on darren@darrenjew.com
Check out his website at www.darrenjew.com


Jennifer Prerau
– Marine Naturalist and Tour Group Leader

Jennifer is qualified and experienced Australian Marine Biologist with over 18 years experience in the Tourism, Conservation and Adventure Cruise Industries.
Jen is deeply passionate about travel and the marine environment, and has extensive experience leading wildlife adventure and wilderness trips in the Canadian Arctic and sub-Arctic, Alaska, Antarctica, Australia’s GBR and Coral Sea, USA, South America, the Galapagos Islands and throughout the South Pacific.
She is a whale and dolphin specialist by training, and has worked with numerous species of marine mammals including humpback, beluga, orca, minke and pilot whales; bottlenose dolphins; various seal and sea lion species and the adorable sea otters to name a few.
Jen_camera_2004She has worked for IFAW on their global whales campaign and even collaborated with Greenpeace conducting a short-term study of whale populations in the South Pacific aboard the Rainbow Warrior II.
Jen’s personal and professional experiences have allowed her to extensively travel the world where she has been extremely fortunate to set foot on all 7 Continents and has visited over 80 Countries and Territories to date and endeavours to add many more in her lifetime.
Her patience and passion for what she does endears all who travel with her.
Jen is ecstatic to return for her 4th time to The Kingdom of Tonga to represent WhaleSwim Jen_prerau_SUpaddleAdventures in 2014!
When Jen’s not swimming with whales she enjoys travelling, photography, travelling, photography, stand-up boarding, kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, bike riding, camping, hiking, rock & ice-climbing, running on beaches, BBQ’s with family & friends and anything outdoors.
Looking forward to sharing your experiences with the whales this year, Malo!

You can contact Jen on jen@whaleswim.com for enquiries regarding our GoPro cameras!

Our Whale Whisperers!

WhaleSwim Adventures are proud to be working alongside two of Tonga’s finest skippers and WhaleSwim Guides in the whale watching industry.
Their passion for the humpback whales (and all marine life!) has created a special ‘sensitivity’, especially around Mum’s and calves. Their uncanny awareness of the whales behaviour towards our boats and having humans in the water with them, enables us to maximise our in-the-water time with the whales each day. Consequently, they have earned the label – ‘Whale-whisperer’.

MV ‘Blue Sky’

Noa1Skipper: Noa Pulini

Noa has worked in the whaleswim and dive industry for 9 years as both a skipper and as a WhaleSwim Guide.

His dedication to making sure our guests experience the best in-the-water encounters with the whales each and his sense of humour makes each day an exciting and fun experience.
Noa is a very highly respected skipper within the industry and there are no finer to work with.
He is married with a beautiful 6 month old baby daughter, Anne-Marie, who is the twinkle in Noa’s eyes!
Our past-guests still ask after him and many have contact with him via social media!

Sali_1WhaleSwim Guide: Sali Tua

Sali has worked as a Whaleswim Guide for 2 seasons now and is definitely a ‘natural’ and has earned the title of ‘Whale Whisperer’!

Sali is a humanitarian and outside of the humpback whale season, he volunteers for projects with organisations such as Red Cross. Sali has strong ties to his family and his faith.

MV ‘Dreamcatcher’

ali2Skipper: Ali Takau
Ali has over 12 years experience working in the waters of Vava’u, as both in-the-water Humpback whale guide and as skipper.
Over the years, he has worked on numerous television productions, where his skill in understanding whale behaviour and movement patterns have allowed film makers to capture footage that would have otherwise remained unseen. Ali, was hugely responsible for the male  heat-run sequence in the successful BBC’s ‘Life’ program.
Ali is soon to be featured in a new 3D IMAX  documentary surrounding the Tongan humpback whales, due for release in 2015. Ali is a qualified PADI dive masters and between them have been responsible for finding some of the best dive sites in Vava’u.

Noa, Ali  & Sali all have strong, family roots in Vava’u and call the islands home.

Marine Sciences Student Program

Chloe_students2011Each whale season WhaleSwim Adventures sponsors Marine Sciences student’s from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga NZ to spend 3 – 4 weeks on our boats in Vava’u. They collect data about the whales and the whale watching industry to write a final paper for their degree.
Each student has a different project. Some are tourism focused and others more scientific. We love having these refreshing young marine-life lover’s involved with us every year!

Kelly Ratana & Chloe Autridge (2011 students)