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Swim with whales in Tonga: Enter the majestic world of the humpbacks with Ocean Whale Swims

By Adrianna Johns on 15th February 2019

Have you ever dreamt of swimming in beautiful waters alongside the majestic giants of the ocean? If the is answer is yes, then why not head over to the Kingdom of Tonga to experience a once in a lifetime encounter.

Underwater wildlife photographer, Victoria Walker, lends a helping hand in order for people to experience these memorable moments by running whale swimming tours in the waters of the Ha’apai Islands.

Having had fifteen unforgettable years searching and encountering whales, Victoria not only wanted to photograph these majestic mammals but also ‘contribute to the public’s greater awareness and understanding of marine conservation-related issues’. For this reason, she decided to run Ocean Whale Swims.

Image supplied by Victoria Walker at Ocean Whale Swims

Walker has “experienced many wildlife encounters, but nothing comes close to looking a humpback whale in the eye. Swimming with a humpback whale is like no other wildlife encounter on the planet and a huge privilege”.

Focusing on small groups of seven people each time, this incredible tour is specifically run on the picturesque Tongan island of Foa in Ha’apai and will take you on a once in a lifetime adventure unlike any other, where you will have the extraordinary opportunity of swimming alongside these gentle giants.

Walker described how this “opportunity to swim with these marine mammals is a spiritual experience for some and an adrenaline rush for others, in the knowledge that these wild marine life encounters are on their terms, not ours”.

“Floating in the water, with the song of the whales vibrating throughout your body is like no other wildlife encounter. The water is clear, the humpbacks are gentle, and the experience is beyond amazing”, continued Walker.

Image supplied by Victoria Walker at Ocean Whale Swims

Swimming with these grand mammals is an extreme privilege and there is a responsibility of respecting them, along with their environment. This is why each swim conducted by Victoria and her team are done inline with their internal Code of Conduct, as well as the National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching.

With the help of Victoria and a professional whale guide, participants will have the chance to witness the angelic glides of these beautiful creatures as they swim close by to you; a picture-perfect moment which will also be captured in a photograph for you to always look back on.

Victoria explained how these “tours run in August, which is the very best time to see the whales with their newborn calves. Each day begins with picking up the guests from the resort by boat. We then head out in the search for the whales — it never takes too long as there are so many at that time of year”.

“Once whales are sighted, we will observe their behaviour patterns to see if it’s ok for an encounter. We then quietly enter the water and let the whales do the rest”, she continued to explain.

Image supplied by Victoria Walker at Ocean Whale Swims

Not only is this an incredible chance to have a wonderful wildlife encounter, it is also a great opportunity to perfect your photography, as you will also receive expert guidance by Victoria, who will also focus on helping you refine these skills both in and out of the water; fingers crossed that the weather is good as she will also run an astrophotography workshop one evening.

Travelling over six-thousand-miles from Antartica, these incredible mammals swim all the way to these idyllic islands, reefs and shoals to bask in the perfect warm waters in order for them to mate, give birth and nurse their young within the sheltered bays around Ha’apai.

With a small population of 6,616 people, these beautiful islands are mostly untouched by mainstream tourism, considering its remote location in the Indian ocean. This has made it the ideal destination for this breathtaking experience, as it is one of the only places in the world that allows people to snorkel and swim with these gentle souls.

Getting to Foa, Ha’apai, will not be a challenge considering that everything will be taken care of once you book a tour with Ocean Whale Swims. You won’t need to stress over your flights, transfers, snorkelling equipment as all this will be provided for you, as well as your meals and photography guide.

Image supplied by Victoria Walker at Ocean Whale Swims

There’s no need to worry about accommodation, seeing as you will be staying on what is arguably the best resort on the island. Located on the northwestern point, just ten kilometres from Ha’apai airport, palm-fringed beaches and crystal clear waters will welcome guests to the beautiful island. With all the beach bungalows facing the sea, there is no doubt that you will have a perfect morning each time.

Although seen as the main attraction, swimming with whales is not the only activity you can enjoy. There are several other ways to spend your time doing such as enjoying a lovely bike ride around the island, reading a great book, paddle boarding on the calm waters, kayaking, or snorkelling and exploring the surrounding reefs.

If you desire the experience of something life-changing on your next getaway, then contact Victoria at Ocean Whale Swims to book a space on this once-in-a-lifetime trip: