Photo Special: Swim with the Whales

Experience the exhilaration of an underwater encounter with an ocean giant…

Book or Enquire

7 days from £2,626 pp sharing

Other dates available on request

  • Includes accommodation, professional photographic guidance, activities, all meals, and all transfers to and from Va’Vau airport. Also includes a 900 x 600 canvas image of your choice, including shipping.
  • Deposit £890 pp. Single supplement – please enquire
  • Maximum group size 6 people
  • Excludes international and domestic flights

Download our 2013/14 Tours Guide for information on booking your flights and FAQs about our tours

A sunset view from the boat.

For a few months a year, the crystal clear waters of Tonga’s Vava’u Islands are home to the majestic Humpback Whale. These pristine islands provide a sanctuary for hundreds of whales to mate and give birth after their 5,000 mile journey from Antarctica. Secluded island lagoons, crystal clear water, white sand beaches, underwater caves, and traditional Tongan hospitality make this a dream destination.

Our photographic tour is perfect for those guests who want the very best shots of the humpbacks both under and above the water. Playing infants, thundering groups of males in a heat run, and acrobatic females can all be photographed. This tour focuses on time in the water and on the best opportunities to capture these awe-inspiring animals on camera.

Throughout your tour you will be accompanied and guided by Darren Jew, Canon/AIPP Australian Science, Environment and Nature Photographer of the Year in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. Darren’s professional advice is there should you need it and can really make the difference when capturing that magical moment.

For those luck enough to experience it, snorkelling next to a humpback whale is a life changing experience – nothing can prepare you for the site of an ocean giant beneath you.

To ensure that the welfare of the whales is protected at all times, we work with the most respected operator in the region and follow very strict guidelines on how we interact with the whales.

  • Snorkel with humpback whales, including mothers, calves, and groups of boisterous males.
  • Be guided by one of the best underwater cameraman in the business. Darren’s enthusiasm and passion is infectious and always makes for an entertaining trip.
  • Benefit from post swim technical sessions with Darren as he passes on his years of experience in underwater photography, and explains how best to capture the whales on film (optional).
  • Listen to the whales sing beneath the water.
  • Stay at the comfortable Talau House and experience the best of Tongan hospitality.
  • Explore the secluded white sand beaches and rock pools of a paradise island.
  • Snorkel and swim the crystal clear coral reefs of around 50 different islands.
  • Enjoy a traditional Tongan feast and the warmth and hospitality of the local people.
  • Snorkel the imposing dark blue waters of Swallows Cave.
  • Travel with a local operator who works strictly within the ‘Whale Watching Guidelines of Tonga and Nuie’.
  • Travel in small groups, allowing you maximum time in the water and ensuring less impact on the marine environment. We limit our photographic swims to 3 people in the water with Darren at any one time, as this allows extra space for photography.

Days 1
On arrival in Vava’u you will be met by one of our team and transferred to the town of Neiafu. You are free to have breakfast, explore the town, and visit the local market before meeting at 12.00pm for a welcome lunch and briefing. Our guides and crew will carefully explain the plan for the coming days and then transfer you to Talau House. The rest of the day is yours to relax, swim, or snorkel.

Days 2 to 7
Following a thorough briefing on how we interact and swim with the whales, we set off on our island quest from the jetty at the resort. Once the whales are located, we gently snorkel into a position and wait for the encounter. There is nothing like dipping your head below the water and seeing a 40 foot long humpback whale beneath you! Nothing can prepare you for this moment. If we are lucky, the inquisitive whales and calves will approach, keen to investigate and engage with us.

During our days on the water, our experienced team of crew and guides will ensure you have everything you need. Delicious lunches on board the boat, opportunities to snorkel reefs and the famous Mariners and Swallows Caves, and beach combing along palm lined white sand beaches are all part of our relaxed itinerary when out at sea.

Just some of the wild Tonga you may encounter:

  • Humpback Whale
  • Hammerhead Shark
  • Spinner Dolphin
  • Sailfish
  • Manta Rays
  • Clownfish
  • Parrotfish
  • Moorish Idol
  • Orange Spotted Filefish
  • Pipefish
  • Damselfish
  • Sea Urchins
  • Pufferfish
  • Triggerfish

Many of the photos you see on this site were taken by amateur photographers on our tours.


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Encounter the wild are privileged to work with and support the Ocean Alliance.

Led by Dr. Payne and Chief Executive Officer Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance collects a broad spectrum of data on whales and ocean life relating particularly to toxicology, behaviour, bioacoustics, and genetics. They advise educators and policy makers on responsible stewardship of the world’s oceans. Please read our tour brochure for more information on how your participation can make a difference.