Whale Watching - Vava'u Islands, Tonga

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   Whale Swimming and Watching in Vava'u Tonga.    Vava'u: 18°41' 60 S 174°1' 60 W

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Activities in Vava'u Island Group, Tonga

Whale Watching/Swimming

Tonga is serious about protecting Whales! Help us

  • Whales may leave an area permanently if continually disturbed. Cease contact at any sign of whales, particularly mothers and calves, becoming distressed or alarmed.
  • Respect the marine environment. Disposal of rubbish into the sea, particularly plastics, can kill whales and other marine life through accidental swallowing/entanglement etc. All vessels are to provide receptacles for rubbish collection which is to be returned and properly disposed of on shore.
  • When whale watching on the water

  • All vessels both private and commercial, underpower or undersail, operating within the Vava'u group during whale-watching season must take care to remain outside a 300m radius of a sighted whale. If a vessel finds itself within a 300m radius of a whale, the vessel must slow to 4 knots until 300m away.
  • If whales approach a vessel, the vessel must avoid sudden changes in movement until the whales move on. When leaving a whale, vessels must move away very slowly (no wake speed) until at least 100m away.
  • Licensed operators only may either remain stationary within 300m of a whale or approach a whale no faster than 4 knots within 300-100m of a whale.
  • In the caution zone

  • The caution zone is 100-300 meter of a whale (refer to diagram). Only licensed operators are allowed in the caution zone.
  • No more than two licensed whale watching operator vessels may be in the caution zone at any one time.
  • As a matter of courtesy, vessels should limit their time within the caution zone if other vessels wish to enter.
  • If a licensed vessel is on its own with a whale(s) there is no time limit. However, if a second licensed vessel arrives a one and a half hour time limit starts to apply within the caution zone for the first vessel.
  • All licensed vessels within the 300m zone should gain VHF radio contact with others. VHF channel 74 (lowpower) is to be the VHF channel monitored by licensed vessels within 300m.
  • In the event of a vessel's VHF radio not working that vessel should remain outside the 100m caution zone.
  • Dinghies, small boats, and kayaks engaged in whale watching within the 300m zone must carry handheld VHF radios.
  • Two or more kayaks within the caution zone, if belonging to the same license holder are considered as one licensed operator.
  • The caution zone moves with the whale(s). Vessels in restricted 300m area allow the vessels who were initially in the caution zone to move with the whales by positioning themselves away from the whale(s) if the whale(s) move closer to them.
  • The licensed vessel with swimmers in the water may cautiously approach a whale up to 10m, if necessary, to pick up swimmers. The vessel should be stationary at 10m and should never be closer than 10m.
  • Vessels should approach whales from the side as opposed to directly in front or behind. Vessels must not approach whales in the exclusion zone (refer to diagram).
  • Vessels must not box whales in, cut off their path or herd or chase them.
  • Vessels must minimise boat and other noise, eg. gear shifting.
  • Swimming with whales

  • For the protection of the whales, and swimmers, it is advisable to go with a licensed operator if you wish to swim with whales.
  • Conditions that allow swimming are at the skipper's discretion.
  • If there are six or more clients on board a vessel an extra crew member is to be on board in addition to the skipper. It is recommended that Tongan staff are given preference.
  • No more than four clients plus one guide per vessel may swim with any one group of whales at a time.
  • Only one vessel may have swimmers in the water with any one group of whales at a time.
  • An alpha flag is to be flown when swimmers are in the water.
  • When a second vessel approaches a vessel with clients in the water, the second vessel must remain outside the 100m zone to give safe manoeuverability to the first vessel.
  • A first aid kit, 10m line and float should be onboard all vessels. It is recommended that vessels if possible should use an attached safety line (no longer than 10 metres) with an identification buoy.
  • Activities banned for interacting with whales

  • The use of SCUBA equipment.
  • The use of artificial light sources.
  • The use of jet skis and motorised swimming aids. Jet skis must stay 2,000 metres away when in the vicinity of whales.
  • Specialist interactions

  • Specialists include scientific researchers and commercial filmmakers/photographers who must obtain specialist licenses and all necessary permits from relevant government agencies.
  • When working with whales specialists must adhere to the Whale Watching Guidelines as specified in their respective permits, and notify local operators of their presence and intentions.
  • Whale watching from the air

  • Aircraft (including seaplanes, microlite and light aircraft) must maintain a minimum height of 300m from a whale.
  • No aircraft may land on the water to whale watch.
  • The duration of a whale encounter by aircraft is limited to five minutes or two approaches (sweeps).
  • No more than one whale watching aircraft may be within five km of the whales being watched.
  • Ban on helicopters for whale watching.
  • Ban on remote control aircraft.
  • DO NOT Whalewatch or Swim with Whales from private yachts or by hiring a local speed boat! Fines, visa cancellation, risking your personal and your vessels safety and harassing a wild animal is NOT worth the risk!

    This is the best place to see whales in the wild. With its long season and numerous whales of different types and very close proximity to town it is a great place to see whales. There is also a number of operators offering different services.

    Tonga is one of 3 countries where you can swim with whales

    Whale exclusion zone diagram
    An exclusion zone exists for non-licenced whale watch operators.


    Vaka Vave Charters

    Contact Diane
    telephone +676 879 4436

    Vessel Vaka Vave Whales Swimming Whales Swimmimg Whale mother and calf

    We offer whale watching and whale swimming charters in Vava’u, Tonga. Snorkelling gear, snacks, lunch and bottled water supplied. Discounts for multiple day charters. Private charters also available.


    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Euaiki Resort Whale Packages
    or telephone +676 7512935 tongaislandresort.com

    Euaiki Resort Whale Packages

    Tonga is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to have the unique experience of swimming with humpback whales. These whales come to the Vava'u Island Group each year from July to October. The whales leave the open ocean to give birth to their calves in the warm and protected tranquil waters of Vava'u. Eueiki Island is situated on one of the two main channels where the whales enter the island group. Swim With Whales and Whale Watching Tour-Eueiki Island is ideally situated in the center of this whale nursery.

    Whales mother and calf

    You can take a tour from the island on our traditional 37ft outrigger Tofua'a Moana. Taken from the Polynesian design, this outrigger has been built on the Eueiki Island by the owner, Mark Belvedere, and fitted with an e-tech engine, which is the forerunner in quiet non-polluting technology.

    Outrigger vessel

    The Tofua'a Moana (Ocean Whale) is an environmentally friendly vessel, moving quickly and smoothly to provide you with the most comfortable and non-obtrusive approach to the whales. Late this whale season we will be whale watching with our large double hull sailing canoe. Contact us for special rates and packages!

    Pricing Information:
    Accommodation: $TOP400.00 per night (Double)
    Extra Bed: $TOP80.00 per day
    Meals: $TOP150 per day
    Return Transfers: $TOP150.00 per person
    Whale Swimming: $TOP300.00 per person per day

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Beluga Diving Ltd
    Kingdom of Tonga
    phone/fax + 676 70327
    VHF Ch 09,
    www.belugadivingvavau.com Phone and Fax (676) 70 327
    or (676) 71 115
    E-mail beluga@kalianet.to

    Beluga Diving Ltd

    MV GLADIATOR, a 34-ft Catamaran aluminium boat with a cabin that has Twin 100 h/p 4 stroke Yamaha engines and this boat can take up to 12 comfortably and travels at 25 knots and MAD MAX: is our runabout boat and can take up to 8 comfortably and travels at 19 knots.

    See these magnificent creatures in Paradise - come aboard with Beluga and their team of trained professionals.

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Kiwi Magic
    Phone and Fax (676) 7512149
    E-mail kiwifish@kalianet.to
    PO Box 153, Neiafu

    Vava'u Islands

    Web: www.kiwimagictonga.com

    The awe-inspiring experience of whale-watching in Vava'u can be enjoyed aboard the 34-foot game fishing boat "Kiwi Magic".

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Melinda Sea Adventures
    Phone (676) 889 7586
    VHF 16 “Melinda”

    Traditional sailing ketch 'Melinda'

    E-mail melindaseaadventures@yahoo.com

    "Independence" our 44 ft luxury sailing catamaran offers whale-watching day trips. No need to sacrifice comfort to see the whales! Let us take you to the whales while enjoying all the comforts of home. Spread out your gear and relax while we take you to the whales. Easy swim platform, full bathroom, warm shower, delicious lunch, first class service.


    275 TOP per person. On our comfortable catamaran 'independence" you can see the whales while enjoying all the comforts of home. Spread out your gear and relax while we take you to the whales. Easy swim platform, full bathroom, warm shower, delicious lunch, first class service. 9:30 AM - 5 PM.

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Whale Swim Adventures
    Phone (676) 7512370
    or (64) 9 811 8096
    (New Zealand Head Office, October-July)
    E-mail rae@whaleswim.com
    PO Bag 49, Neiafu

    Swimming with a whale

    WhaleSwim Adventures have been operating eco-tours to swim with the humpback whales in Vava’u since 1999 and we offer a variety of 3, 7 & 9 day privately-chartered tours, including the best accommodation in Vava’u, meals, education, transfers and much more.

    Our WhaleSwim team are dedicated conservationists and environmentalists we carry out research and educational activities as well as record the haunting song of the humpback whales onboard each day during the whale season. (Recordings are available for guests). Join a group of like-minded people it’s much more fun!!

    Our tours range from a 3-day WhaleSwim’s at AUD$1500 per person twin share which includes 3 night’s accommodation, transfers to/from accommodation, meals, education & guidance in the water to our fantastic all-inclusive 7 & 9-day packages staying out in beautiful paradise islands in the whale nursery start at AUD$3,700 per person twin share! Special photography tours are also available. (We also have 10 years experience in hosting film crews for documentaries and travel programs.)

    See our website for great video clips and in-depth information about who we are and what makes us different! Come celebrate our 10th Birthday with the humpback whales!

    Operating tours with licenced Whale Watching operators

    Whale Watch Vava'u
    Phones +676 8866403
    and +676 7754331.
    E-mail mounuislandvavau@gmail.com
    VHF 77
    PO Box 7, Neiafu

    Mounu Whalewatch Vessel

    Mounu Island Resort has two purpose built whale-watching vessels available for charter. "Phoenix" and "Lulutahi" are equipped with a hydrophone to listen to the whales, as well as a viewing platform, toilet, and snorkelling equipment.

    2008 AWARDS: Voted "Best Resort in Tonga"
    by World Travel Awards
    2007 AWARDS: Voted "Top 30 Island Beaches of the World"
    by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine
    Voted "Best Resort in Tonga" and nominated for "Best Watersports Resort Australasia"
    by World Travel Awards

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government

    Whales in the Wild
    www.whales-in-the-wild.com Phone (676) 70 872
    Fax (676) 70 875

    Swimming with the whales

    Whales In The Wild Lt offer two comfortable boats for day trips which depart at 10 am each day.

    Maris King and Totally Wild are both comfortable boats and offer coverage from the sun and elements. Both are under full survey and have toilets for your convenience. Snorkel gear is provided free of charge. There is a hydrophone on board to listen to the Whale Song

    On our day out we will cruise through the glorious waterways and islands of Vava’u in search of the majestic humpback whales. If conditions are right you will be able to swim with the whales providing they are receptive to our presence.

    We will not harass the whales. We try to restrict our groups to 8-10 passengers with 4 people permitted in the water at any one time with our guide.

    We have had a day out described as “ The Best Day of my Life “ by an 81 year old woman. Now, that is saying something!

    licenced operator and operating under Regulations approved by Government