5-16 August 2013
- one of the few places on the planet where you can swim with humpback whales
- a rare 11-night itinerary to give you the best chance at that once-in-a-lifetime multiple-hour in-water encounter with mother nature's most wonderful creature
- cruise the picturesque Ha'apai group of tropical islands aboard the fabulous motor-sailer—and our former home for 3 years—NAI'A
- reef diving also on offer (if the whales allow!)—a late afternoon dive, and a night dive after dinner
- free souvenir video DVD filmed during the trip
What to Expect
The ship departs from and returns to Nuku'alofa, the capital of Tonga. There is some international flight information on the Tonga Visitors Bureau website.
On boarding day, we'll sail from Nuku'alofa and travel overnight to the Ha'apai group of islands. The Ha'apai islands are picturesque and sparsely populated with minimal tourism and very few other boats. We'll stay in Ha'apai until the end of the last day. Then it's another overnight trip back to Nuku'alofa to disembark on the last morning.
Although the itinerary will be dictated by the whales, a typical day would be like this...
Wake up to perhaps find a whale or two resting near the ship's anchorage. Breakfast. Pull anchor and travel to look for friendly whales. Observe them from the ship, which is very interesting as there is diverse behaviour to see—breaching, pectoral slapping, singing, mothers with their calves, courtship, etc. Continue to travel around and observe whales until we find a friendly whale that is interested in us or the ship—perhaps this whale will pass close to the ship, or "spy hop" to look at us. Once we find a friendly whale, we'll quietly slip into the water with it.
Being in the water with a humpback whale (or two, or three!) is truly a magical encounter. For us it's been the highlight of a lifetime, and we can't wait to go back for more.
It does take patience and luck to find a friendly whale and to have a long in-water encounter. This is why we've arranged an 11-day trip (normally Nai'a's whale trips are 9 or 10 days). The more time you invest, the better your chances. Remember, though, that these are wild animals in their natural environment; from past experiences, we can expect to get in the water with whales on most days, but we can never guarantee how good or how long these encounters will be.
Note: there is no scuba diving allowed with the whales. Everything is done on snorkel—which actually works very efficiently because the "friendlies" generally spend a lot of time at or near the surface. There are 2 dinghies in the water to pick you up and drop you in again should the whales have moved a little bit. Getting in and out of a dinghy is easier if you don't have to deal with scuba gear, and there's always a burly Fijian to lift you in.
Later each afternoon, we'll do a scuba dive on a reef. The hard corals are very good and the viz is often excellent. Sometimes you can hear whale song while you're on your dive.
In the afternoon there may also be the occasional opportunity for a beach visit on one of the many small uninhabited islands.
After dinner, if you still have energy, there will be a night dive.
Evenings are always spent in a glassy-calm protected anchorage. The Fijian crew will often pull out their guitars and sing. Join them for a bowl of kava, or head up to the sundeck to count the stars.
More information about Tonga's whales and swimming with them is on the Nai'a website.
If paid before 31 December 2011: USD 5485/person
Contact us to get yourself on the guest list. Spaces are limited.
Whale watching from the ship.
In-water whale encounter.
Filming from the ship's crow's nest.