Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do you guarantee seeing whales?
A: As we are working with whales in their natural habitat we can never guarantee seeing whales. It would be quite unusual to not see a whale at all during mid-July to late October.
Q: Do you guarantee being able to swim with the whales?
A: On any given day we will never guarantee swimming with a whale. We are at the mercy of the whales themselves and other influencing factors such as weather and sea conditions. We will never harass a whale to get a swim and we will abide by the Laws of the Kingdom of Tonga in permitted interactions.
We do have very experienced Crew that are well versed in working with the whales and identifying those that may want to interact with us.
It is very important to understand that we recommend that people spend a minimum of 4 days on the water to get the interaction they are hoping to get.
Every day is different and presents new and exciting forms of whale behaviour, above and below the water. The more days on the water the chance of witnessing all the different behaviours.
Q: What is the average snorkelling time that I could expect to have every day with the whales??
A: We cannot predict this at all. The whales are in the wild and it all depends on them. During the past 8 seasons, we had only 5 days over 96 days on the water (2 boats) that we didn’t swim with whales.
The time in the water can vary from 30 seconds to 10 minutes for each group of 4 swimmers. Some whales stay around for 1 – 1.5 hours, others from 2 or 3 minutes or anything in between. The time restriction with one or a group of whales is 1.5 hours per vessel and if a mother and calf, then a 1.5 hour break must be given to that mother and calf between each vessel, to allow time for nurturing, feeding and sleeping. WhaleSwim Adventures supports this restriction 100%.
Q: Can we scuba dive with the whales?
A: We ONLY snorkel with whales in Tonga, scuba diving with whales is not permitted under the law in Tonga.
Our groups stay close together and in the water our guide will be leading the encounter, in the best interests of the whales–and with your safety in mind.
Most of your encounters will be on the surface of the water. On occasion your guide may allow you to leave the surface, but only under their strict direction.
Your guide and skipper are the authority both on and in the water and you will be expected to respect the decisions they make, and their directions, at all times.
Q: How long is the day on the water with the whales?
A: The boat will depart the jetty in Neiafu at approx 8.00 am to pick you up and have 7 hours on the water before we are due back in Neiafu.
Q: When is the best time during the season to see whales?
A: The largest humpback population of humpback whales gather around the Vava’u Islands in Tonga. A much smaller percentage of the population are around the main island of Tongatapu/’Eua and the Ha’apai Islands.
The humpback whales start arriving around the Vava’u islands late June- early July are there are plenty among the islands by mid-July. Late September, some males and adult females as well as mother’s with calves born early in the season, start to move south to their feeding ground leaving some adult males and mothers with calves born mid to late in the season, still around the islands until late October and even into November. There have been 1 or 2 mother and calf pairs around Vava’u into December some years.
These animal are in the wild, we cannot predict which whales will be curious and friendly and what days they will be in and around the islands – some days there are more than others – it is totally unpredictable.
Q: What month during the whale season is the best weather?
A: Over the past 8 seasons the weather has changed considerably.
July – October is winter/spring in the southern hemisphere, this is the ‘dry’ season – however during the past 3 years, we have experienced rain and wind for different periods during the 3 entire month season.
Some days the sea can be calm and others rough and sometimes big swells. Because Vava’u has many islands spread around and, there are sheltered areas for us to look for whales, however the whales don’t always co-operate! So be prepared to be on the water on windy/rainy days.
Its the luck of the draw.
Q: Can I use a drone on the whaleswim boat? |
A: We do not allow the use of drones on our standard tours for a number of reasons:
- They can present privacy issues for other guests.
- They can present safety concerns. There is not a huge amount of deck space
- onboard to work with and launching and landing the equipment out on the ocean could be dangerous for others.
- Keeping the drone equipment safe from damage could also be challenging in the confined area.
- They can effect the quality of our whale experiences. We need to be very mobile for some of our encounters. If the whales are moving we also need to move quickly and it can be awkward and distracting for our crew and our other guests if we have to make the time for safely launching and landing a drone.
You would be able to get great aerial footage of your island adventure from land though if you wish to bring your equipment and, if really wanting to take ocean and whale footage you might want to look into chartering a boat for your own use for an extra day.
Q: Do I need seasick tablets?
A: If you have the slightest hint that you may suffer from sea sickness then you must bring some tablets with you. There is a local pharmacy that sells them, but stocks cannot be guaranteed. It is a very long and awful day if you do get sick. We would recommend taking the tablets just in case, even if you have never been sick before. Obviously not all days we are in rough water, but as it is the winter in the Tropics during our whale watch season and we have the Trade winds to deal with, it can sometimes be quite rocky out there.
Q: Do I have to be a good swimmer?
A: You need to be confident to look after yourself in the water and be able to confidently use a mask snorkel and fins. We recommend that you get fit before you join the tour as being fit will improve the quality of your encounter with the whales.
Q: What kind of whale-swim boats do you operate?
A: Blue Sky is privately chartered and our preferred vessel for our tours. She is a very comfortable 32′ catamaran, 10 metres long and 3 metres wide and has easy access to and from the water. She has a large spacious cabin with an enclosed electric marine toilet. There is plenty of seating both inside and out for shelter from the sun and rain. There is a fly-deck that seats 6 people – great for spotting whales! For the sun-lovers, there is space for 4 guests on the bow area. Blue Sky is equipped with 2 x 350 inboards – she is fast and easy to manoeuvre gently around the whales.
For our Photography Enthusiast’s Tours:
Our preferred vessel is Dream Catcher. She’s 7 metres long, and offers our skipper great visibility around the whales. She’s powerful and manoeuvrable and allows us excellent access in to and out of the water. She’s marine toilet-equipped, has a spot for a nap up in the bow if you need it, and a small cabin area with some shelter from the sun or rain. Occasionally through the season Dream Catcher will require servicing, and we will have the use of an alternate vessel.
Q: How many people on the boat?
A: There will be a maximum of 8 guests on Blue Sky plus staff and crew (surveyed for 18) and on our Photography tours 6 guests and Darren, therefore 3 guests and Darren in the water at one time. This number works perfectly and everyone gets a similar time in the water with the whales over the 6 or 8 days with the whales.
Q: How many staff will be on the boat?
A: There will be a minimum of 3 staff on the boat. Our qualified Skipper and qualified guide and Jen, our Marine Biologist/Tour Group Manager each day and some days, Rae Gill (owner of WhaleSwim Adventures) will be aboard also. Our skipper, Patelo (Lo) & our Guide are local Tongan crew, making the experience for you more authentic. Please note the crew can occasionally be quite shy as is the Tongan nature but will love to interact if you ask them about their culture, island home and heritage.
Q: Are the boats safe?
A: The boat all meet local survey standards, have life jackets and are equipped with GPS, Flares, radio and fire extinguishers. All carry an electronic location beacon. We are never working too far off shore or away from other boats.
Q: Can my children join a Whaleswim tour?
A: As we are aboard our whaleswim vessel for 6+ hours and in a small space, we only allow children over the age of 18 years. The safety of younger children can be at risk especially in rough seas. We recommend that you book with a day-trip operation in Vava’u and book the days that suit you and also accommodation that caters for children.
We recommend the licensed whale-watching operator/vessel, Ashlee G. They are a good operator and they cater for children. They may also assist you in booking your accommodation. Contact Caryl Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Can WhaleSwim Adventures book my International or Domestic airfares?
A: We are a tour company only and do not have a license to book airfares, you can book with your travel agent or online at each international airlines website. The three international airline servicing Tonga are Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Fiji Airways.
As a service to our guests, we have travel information from most countries, including recommended flights and airlines, on our Flight Information page.
Click Here to go to Flight Information
Q: I would like to apply for a job as guide, researcher or volunteer with your tours to swim with the whales.
A: We are NOT a Tongan company, we are a small inbound eco-tour business based outside of Tonga – we do not and cannot employ people in Tonga.
To work in Tonga, you need a work permit applied to Gov by a locally owned whaleswim operator who want to employ you. These work permits are rarely granted due to their policy of employing locals wherever possible and their Guides must have qualified at the Guide Training in Tonga at the cost of $500 for a 2 weeks course.