Frequently Asked Questions
We understand, a big trip needs preparation! Here are the common questions we get asked regarding the tour in Aitutaki
When is the best time to swim with whales in Tahiti?
We get asked this question frequently. It’s a difficult answer, as the humpbacks (and other species of whales & dolphins) are in Aitutaki for the 3.5 months of the breeding season – early July to mid October – in numbers. We see and swim with humpbacks every day through the season – except when the weather is very rainy and windy and that happens only 3 or 4 days over the 3 month seasons. We only operate on dates that we absolutely know, through experience, the whales are around Aitutaki!
Why are you not operating day trips?
Our aim is to take you on the fullest and best whale-swimming experience possible – not fleeting glimpses. For this, you need to maximize your time on the water. We are not here to force any interaction but instead find you the right whales to have the best interaction with! Our years of experience allow us to know that immersing yourself in many different whale encounters over a week time is the best way to experience this very intimate & profound privilege. It can be absolutely life-changing for many.
AND . . know that once you have swum with them, once you have looked in the eye of a whale, you will want to do it again and again.
A good whale-watching skipper knows that the best way to get great encounters is to take the time to let the whales get used to the boat and for the swimmers to be an un-intrusive as possible. Our skipper, Onu is a local and operated his dive centre for over 20 years. Our guide, Tui is a Tongan, born and raised in New Zealand and is Onu’s son-in-law. You will be greeted with a big smile, that stay on his face all day! He has been taking people in the water with whales for several years now, he loves and has a very deep respect for the whales and the ocean.
It is harder for the 1/2-day trips as they have limited time and are under pressure to deliver the swims so the swims can be fleeting. We intend to be in the water having a relaxed and amazing encounter with the humpbacks for up for 1.5hrs.
How to arrive in Rarotonga & get to Aitutaki?
FLY TO THE COOK ISLANDS To join your WhaleSwim Adventure, you need to fly Internationally to RAROTONGA, on the main island of the Cook Island’s - the International Airport code RAR
Rarotonga International Airport is both an international and domestic airport. East to walk to an adjoining building to check in for your domestic flight.
International Airlines to Cook Islands:
Air New Zealand, Jetstar/Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines and Air Rarotonga from Tahiti.
We recommend you get enough local currency New Zealand Dollar (NZD) for your time with us on arrival. There is a money changer and an ATM’s in the airport and in the main town of Aitutaki.
Mobile SIM cards are available at the airport. Vodafone is the only network on the Cook Islands. We recommend that you get a ‘visitors SIM’ for your stay with us.
If you have time to wait for your domestic flight onto Aitutaki - we recommend the local bus the circles the island every 40 mins - ask at the Information Desk at the airport or any friendly local will help you. You can get on and off wherever you can - just tell the driver!
DOMESTIC FLIGHT TO AITUTAKI
A 50min flight with www.airrarotonga.com
There are several flight per day :
Monday to Saturday
Departing RAR : 5.00am, 8.00am, 9.00am, 10.30am, 1.00pm, 6.30pm & 6.30pm
Returning AIT: 6.10am, 9.10am, 10.10am, 11.40am, 2.10pm, 5.10pm & 7.40pm
Sundays Departing RAR: 11.15am, 1.30pm & 4.00pm
Departing AIT: 12.25pm, 2.40pm & 5.10pm
There are no visa requirements for Cook Islands, as long as you are visiting solely for Tourism or recreational purposes. New Zealand nationals can stay up to 90 days while nationals from other countries up to 31 days. We include visa information in our Trip Preparation Bulletin that we send you prior to your departure to Aitutaki.
Can anybody join the tour or do I need a minimum of fitness level?
You need above-average fitness and agility in the water.
Good snorkeling skills
To be comfortable and confident snorkeling in very deep water in the open ocean, for 50 – 200 metres (sometimes in big swells).
You need to be able to get your fins/mask & snorkel on quickly when requested by the crew.
You must be able to get yourself off and on the boat unassisted.
Although humpback whales are 12 -15 metres long and weigh about 40 ton, they are gentle animals and are very aware of us in the water. They will even drop their 5m long pectoral fin or turn their tail fluke to avoid us as they swim by. The calves are sometimes very curious and they often seem to love to be around us. The thought of being so close to them may be frightening but after your first encounter you will understand why they are known as the gentle giants of the sea.
If you feel that your swimming and snorkelling skills is not up to the level we require, or that you are a little unfit, we suggest that you enrol in snorkelling lessons and improve your swimming skills and fitness levels prior to joining your tour to insure the best encounters possible.
Your level of skill and confidence will determine whether our Skipper/Guide will allow you in the water with the whales.
It is TOP PRIORITY to have good snorkeling gear.
Please note: Your tour leader is not there to assist you in the water, he is there to keep all the group safe.
What equipment do I need to bring?
A good snorkelling gear that fits you personally!
We will be out in the water every day so it's essential to have your own comfy snorkelling gear. You will not be able to rent good quality snorkelling gear in Moorea.
PLEASE NOTE: FOR YOUR SAFETY we ask you to wear a buoyant wetsuit or vest PLUS your mask, fins and snorkel at all times when snorkeling with the whales on any WhaleSwim Adventure tour
You will need:
comfortable mask & snorkel – semi-dry top and self-purging is preferable so you are not constantly blowing water out of your snorkel. (but not with totally dry’ style with the ball in the top – the ball can jam shut, making breathing difficult! ) Please have your mask ‘fitted’ correctly at the store – all masks are different and all face shapes are different. Remember, this gear is the very reason you are booking our tour! Please choose a black or dark blue, red or dark grey masks – NOT clear masks as they tend to create reflection off the surface of the water.
comfortable pair of full foot long fins, do not buy them too tight or you will get blisters. Make sure you have a bit of movement in them. (NOT dive fins that you need to wear neoprene booties with) You have to keep your fins below the surface of the water when snorkeling (prevents noise and water disturbance that spooks the whales) and this is difficult if you are wearing booties that float. If you want to protect your feet/heels from blistering in your full-foot fins, then the nylon/spandex skin socks (https://www.finisswim.com/Skin-Socks)
For large feet (up to size 16) – we recommend https://www.leisurepro.com/p-scpfg/scubapro-go-travel-fin
buoyancy – its safer and easier to be still in the water around the whales wearing a buoyant garment – like a neoprene vest or t-shirt or a wetsuit (short or long – depending on whether you feel the cold). It will keep you afloat on the surface without any effort and allows free movement in the water.
Water temperature is 24/26 degrees but we DO recommend, if you easily get cold, to bring a 3mm wetsuit (even in Tahiti!)
a Lycra top (Rashie) or suit or a Sharkskin top will keep you warm if you tend to feel the cold easily and for protection from the sun while you are on the boat. (optional)
If you are bringing a Go-Pro – short handle pole is the best! – a headstrap doesnt work and a long-pole is not permitted!
Latest iPhone or Samsung with the latest under-water housing, a compact camera with excellent lenses and uw housing are other excellent options.
Type of equipment we recommend :
For Safety reasons, we DO NOT recommend this type of equipment :
(This mask is designed for using on a reef in shallow still water - they fog up
and often leak in choppy waters)
(The booties will make your feet float therefore
splash the water & scare the whales)
(Those fins are too short and
not enough powerful to swim with - please do not listen to the store sales
person if the have not swim with whales in the open ocean!)
(The all dry snorkel with
ball on top, the ball can jam shut making breathing difficult!)
(Long selfie stick forbidden on our tours,
they get in the photos & on the face of other guests)
How many people in the group?
Our tours are small and cater for a maximum of 10 guests only.
Our 24 years of experience around humpback whales, it doesn’t matter if there are 4 or 15 people in the water at one time, it’s about the way we behave around the whales. This means that you are in the water with the whales every time and you will have the opportunity for many in-the-water encounters during our 4 – 4.5 hours on the water with the whales, over the 6 or 8 days. You will have time to enjoy the incredible up-close surface action too. Minimum age is 18 years old unless you are booking all 10 spaces on the boat.
Where to stay prior or after the tour?
Planning to stay a little longer?
Here are our recommendation of hotels in Aitutaki: Resort Taha’e, where you are staying for the tour - excellent and on the beach.
If you would like a few nights at a 5-star resort - we recommend Pacific Resort Aitutaki or Aitutaki Lagoon Private Island Resort.
We look forward to you join us in paradise!