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Swimming with Humpback Whales in Gorgeous Tonga

Hello from Vavaʻu — the smallest island group in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Tonga is located in the South Pacific and has more than 170 islands, 38 of which are inhabited by just over 100,000 people.

Tonga is far away from Europe, America, and even Australia, but it is well worth the journey. People come here to escape the crowds and enjoy some of the most pristine islands in the world — and while many come to vacation on the beach, others (like me) hit the water to try to catch a glimpse of the elusive humpback whale.


You might not think to visit such a small place, but actually Tonga is a treasure trove of unique experiences and adventures like…

  • kayaking to remote islands

  • paddle-boarding in crystal-clear water

  • snorkeling over beautiful coral reefs

  • staying in traditional Tongan huts (known as fales) right on the ocean

  • dining on delicious seafood (and possibly even catching it yourself)

  • and swimming with humpback whales!

My friends and I actually arrived to Vavaʻu this week, where we stayed on our own private island, explored beautiful coastline, and swam with the largest animal species in the world — whales! To be more specific, we went swimming with humpback whales. 

Each morning, we woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and jumped in the boat with our local guide, setting out to search for whales. There are so many whales here that you see dozens of blows from the moment you depart the beach, but the trick is to find a whale pod that is swimmable. You can identify swimmable humpback whales by  the way the move in the water and interact with the boat, which is what your guide will be looking for. Once the timing was right, we gently slipped into the water and got a glimpse into the underwater world of humpbacks. They sing, they play with you, and the entire experience is absolutely incredible! Throughout our week-long stay, we had dozens of whale encounters and it was spectacular!


Vavaʻu is one of the most beautiful island groups in the South Pacific, and its waters are a popular breeding spot among humpback whales from July to October, when the humpbacks are migrating from Antarctica to warmer waters. If you have some holiday time coming up, I would strongly recommend heading to Vavaʻu and swimming with the humpback whales of Tonga to learn firsthand how you can help preserve their natural habitat!

Visit Acanela Expeditions to book your trip now — you won’t regret it!

Grab your backpack, there’s more to explore!

Post and video by Kylie Chenn