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Swim up close & personal with humpback whales!

This snorkeling trip will be one of the best in-water experiences of your life.

Who Are We?

HumpBackSwims.com is run through Scuba Diver Life Expeditions
After traveling the world for five years to create stories, videos and dazzling photo galleries for her website, ScubaDiverLife.com, Nadia Aly wanted to share the very best of her scuba diving and ocean adventures around the world with other divers and snorkelers. Her all-time favorite expedition is the one profiled here.

This website is dedicated to educating potential and current clients about the humpback whale experience. We focus on small groups; we hire experienced skippers and guides; and we offer comfortable accommodations during your trip. 

There are lots of options when it comes to swimming with humpbacks in Tonga, but not all of them are great options. You've likely traveled a long way to swim with these beautiful creatures, and we feel that we've created the island's best experience — for both the snorkelers and the whales. Come join us and meet the humpback whales of Tonga for yourself. 

You Must Watch Our Video!

Trip Details

We keep our groups small, with only 6 guests per trip (or 4 on our photograpers boats) — this allows for maximum time with the whales. Each trip features 8 days in the water with the whales, weather-permitting. On in-water days, we try to be on our private boat by 7 a.m. so that we can be one of the first boats out looking for the whales. Sometimes we spot them right away; some days it takes a little time. Every day is different, and every encounter is different.
Our trips offer in-water encounters with humpback whales, including mothers and calves. Tongan law allows 4 swimmers in the water at one time, along with an accredited whale guide. Thusly, our guests are split into two groups of three, who will enter the water along with the guide, and Nadia Aly, the group leader. These small groups allow for an amazing, intimate encounter with these gentle giants.  

Where is Vava'u, Tonga?

Where Do We Stay?

We stay at Vava'u Villas, which is owned and operated by Vanessa and Ian Jones. They've put a lot of heart into their welcoming B&B, and their dedication shows.


We will be staying in the Villas' brand-new glamping tents. The luxurious, roomy tents each feature an en suite bathroom. There's also an onsite restaurant, where you can get a fantastic breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can request a regular room if there is availability, but the tents are more appealing and comfortable. Wi-Fi is available for a fee and there is hot water. A taxi into town will cost roughly $5 USD.


Guests can choose from twin share or single occupancy, with the price based on twin sharing. If you would like your own room there is a single supplement cost of $1000 USD.


The pictures on the left show the very early stages of what the tents will look like, with completion in March/April 2017. We'll post updated pictures once the tents are fully built.

Please remember that Tonga is a developing country. From accommodations to food choices, things are simple in Tonga. Our guests are coming to swim up-close humpback whales, so if your main objective is to relax on a sandy white beach or stay in a luxurious resort,  Tonga is not for you.



Check out reviews of the resort here on Trip Advisor



Getting to Vava'u has become much easier in 2016, with Fiji Air announcing direct service to Vava'u via Nadi, Fiji. Depending on where you're coming from there are now three ways to get to Vava'u:

Fiji Air via Nadi, Fiji

Vava’u, Tonga flight schedule, effective April 2, 2016: 

Arrival: FJ 275 From Nadi to Vava’u, leaving 8:00am, arriving 11:10am: Saturday and Wednesday 

Departure: FJ 274 From Vava’u to Nadi, leaving 4:00pm, arriving 5:20pm: Saturday and Wednesday 
*Schedules are subject to change. 

The options below fly you into Fuaʻamotu International Airport (TBU) in Nuku’alofa, Tonga. From TBU you can get a domestic flight to Vava'u on Real Tonga http://realtonga.to  — yes that is their website!

If you need help setting up an overnight stay near TBU, let us know, we can help advise you.

Virgin Air via Sydney, Australia

Via Nuku’alofa to Vava’u, Virgin Australia (Virgin Blue) flies to Tonga from Sydney.

From Sydney to Tonga (Monday & Wednesday):

VA143 21:45 – 05:10 (Arrive next day)

From Tonga to Sydney (Tuesday):

VA182 16:45 – 19:30

VA178 06:00 – 14:30

VA178 & connecting flight VA8005 – 06:00 – 17:30

From Tonga to Sydney (Thursday):

VA182 3:45pm – 6:30pm

VA178 06:00 – 14:30

VA178 & connecting VA8005 – 06:00 – 17:30

Check www.virginaustralia.com for exact times and prices

Air New Zealand via Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand to Tonga

Air New Zealand offers flights on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Their return flights to Auckland depart every day except Thursday & Sunday.

Check www.airnewzealand.com.au for exact times and prices. 

  • Accommodation
  • Continental breakfast
  • Boat, skipper, accredited whale guide, lunches on water days
  • Return transport from Vava'u Airport to Vava'u Villas
  • Photo & video advice from Nadia Aly
  • Smiles & fun!
  • Hot breakfast
  • Lunches on break or rest days 
  • All dinners
  • Flights
  • Trip insurance
  • DAN insurance
  • Drinks 

Well, that's up to you! Fins, mask, wetsuit and snorkel are included in the tour, but let's be honest with one another — it's usually better to bring your own. We spend so much time on the water, nobody wants to deal with fins that sort of fit, a mask that fogs all the time, or a wetsuit that doesn't keep you warm. So we strongly advise bringing your own gear.

  • Wetsuit or swim suit (We wear a 3mm full wetsuit in the water)
  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Fins
  • Boat jacket
  • Camera!

Let's not forget about cameras to capture this amazing experience to share with your friends and family!


This is not a scuba-diving trip, so you don't need a diving certification. You should be comfortable in the water and know how to swim, and feel comfortable with a snorkel. There is no need for freediving experience as most of the whale encounters happen at the surface.

If you have any questions or concerns, reach out to us on our contact page.


Nadia Aly will be on all tours and be able to advise clients on photo and video techniques, as well as post-production processes. You can see her work at NadiaAly.com.


Group size is key to having a great time with the whales in Tonga. Day boats take anywhere from 8 to 12 people out on a boat — our boats have a maximum of 6 guests, and you'll be split into two groups of three, along with an accredited guide and Nadia Aly (group leader).

Each group takes turns in the water; the group on the boat takes a little time to relax or photograph surface activity, which can be just as thrilling!

The whale-swimming laws in Tonga allow for four guests in the water, plus the accredited guide, which equals five people in the water at a time.


Swimming with the whales is a craft. Knowledge and respect for these animals go hand-in-hand to create a good encounter. Being able to read the whales, how comfortable they are and giving them space when they need it — we implement many tactics borne of experience to help ensure long, safe and fun encounters for our guests and the whales.

All our guides and skippers are local to Vava'u and are great watermen, with years of on- and in-water experience in local waters. They're a great team with high respect and regard within the community & industry.

Bottom line...they know what they're doing, and they are good at it!


There is a lot of respect for the whales and for these in-water encounters with them in Tonga. Another boat will never come and jump in on your whale encounter. If a boat is with a whale, it's their whale until they sign off to another boat, if there is one in the area.

These encounters are quite initmate and special. We work as a group when in the water, and we stay close to one another, making sure we don't spook the whales or cause them any stress. You will see on your tour that every encounter is different, and some whales will be much more interactive than others. 



The weather can be flat calm or you can have rough seas and everything in between — it's the ocean after all. We go out to sea as long as our captain says it's safe.

You should expect to be out on the boat all day; we don't come back to dock unless there is an emergency on board. The water temp is roughly 77 F (25 C), and you will want to bring a boat jacket for wind protection. 

The whales visit Tonga outside of cyclone season, so there is no concern regarding cyclones.


It is illegal to operate a business on Sundays in Tonga. There are a few restaurants and resorts open for meals, however you will see that most things are closed, even the airport. These can be great days to visit the local church and see how the locals spend their day. Usually we head over to a resort and relax for the day on the beach.

Group Leader

  • Nadia Aly
    Nadia is the CEO of ScubaDiverLife.com. She travels around the world, writing stories and shooting video and still images for scuba divers and ocean enthusiasts. She leads over 10 expeditions a year, showcasing some of her best experiences with those who are keen. Nadia is also an accomplished underwater photographer; see her work at NadiaAly.com