Our Team

Our small, but dedicated whale-passionate Team is: 2010 Rae

Rae 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 Taranaki, NZ with her scruffy mutt Georgie, or travelling somewhere in the world and during the whale season in Tonga and Tahiti. Her role is General Manager, Marketing, Sales & Customer Service. 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 and Tahiti.


Rae’s son Geoff, his wife ShauLing and her grandchildren, Nicole (16) & Patrick (12) 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 and Beijing, China. Both Nicole and Patrick play top-grade ice & roller hockey.


Pou, Rae’s adopted Tongan daughter, is studying Marine Sciences at University of Waikato’s Windermere Campus at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga in 2017 and aims to qualify as a Marine Biologist in 2019. 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!

The Tahiti Team 2017: 

Magenta_2016_185Magenta Hyde – Tour Leader, Tahiti – WhaleSwim Guide & Under-water photographer

Magenta joins us in Moorea, Tahiti as Tour Leader for ‘Magical Humpbacks in Tahiti’ tours.

Magenta worked with us in Vava’u Tonga in 2012 & 2013 as Tour Leader and our underwater photographer and her love for the ocean whales and dolphins and has led her travel the ocean through the South Pacific!

magenta_family_crop_185She lives in Auckland New Zealand  with her wonderful partner, Rossco Guthrie and their twins Naia & Indy, when she is not  swimming with dolphins and whales. Magenta will be shooting video of the humpbacks and the marine environment. Photo prints at  www.magentahydephotography.com 


The Tonga Team 2017: 

annah_nisi_pouli_2016-copyAnnah Evington – Tour Manager & WhaleSwim Guide Extra-ordinaire!

Annah was a long time member of the WhaleSwim team and joined us again in 2015 after six long years away. (We missed her!) She is ecstatic about being back with her beloved whales and being able to share her deep love of all things ocean and Pacific with you. Years of working and wearing many hats with large cultural events and lots of travelling experience have given her great tour leading skills and snorkelling, diving, sea life and helping people to have wonderful adventures with the whales are her passions.


Annah’s role manages the tours in Tonga and she is your tour leader and a guide on one of our ‘WhaleSwim’ vessels with guests each day – right where she wants to be! She will be happy to share extensive knowledge of humpback whales and all varieties of marine life with you at any time during your time with us. She is a Qualified WhaleSwim Guide and will be sharing your in-the-water experiences with you! Annah resides in Russell in the beautiful Bay of Islands in northern New Zealand – with her ocean-loving partner Craig Miller – an avid motorbike rider and  sparky (electrician) extraordinaire.

claire_1_185Claire Hodgson – Tour Leader & WhaleSwim Guide for ‘Encounters with Gentle Giants’ tours

Claire is joining us again for the 2017 season as Tour Leader and Whaleswim Guide on our 7-night tours, Encounters with Gentle Giants.

Claire hails from Adelaide in Australia and has spent her working life being involved in many different projects and aid organisations and is a great organiser. She has a wonderul way with people and her sense of humour will endear you to her.

Claire lives in Adelaide  outside of the whale season and in Vava’u during the whale season.

She is married to Pouli Tongia, who has worked with us as our skipper.

Our Boat Crews In Vava’u, Tonga 

WhaleSwim Adventures are proud to be working alongside  Tonga’s finest skippers and some of the best 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. 


Meet our ‘Press Play’ Skipper 2017: Noa Pulini (Tonga)

Noa has worked in the whaleswim and dive industry for 9 years as both a whale-watching boat skipper and as an in-the-water Guide. Noa is a qualified PADI Dive Master. His dedication to making sure each whale encounter is a gentle invitation to the humpbacks to safely interact with us . . .  a great skill for our skippers to have.  Noa has earned the label ‘Whale-whisperer’ and this mean our guests may experience the best in-the-water encounters with the whales possible.

Noa’s happiness and his sense of humour makes each day an exciting and fun experience.  His love of the whales is obvious by the constant smile on his face! He is a highly respected skipper within the industry and there are no finer to work with. Noa is married to Tapaita and they have a beautiful  little daughter, Ana-Marie – they are both the twinkle in Noa’s eyes!

Marine Sciences Student Program Chloe_students2011

Each whale season WhaleSwim Adventures sponsors Marine Sciences student’s from the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in Tauranga NZ to spend 2-3 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)