Tour type: Small Group
Group size: Min: 2 | Max: 8
Accommodation: 3-star hotel, island beach resort
Transport: A/C minibus/car, flights & boat
Highlights: Swimming with humpback whales, snorkelling, free paddle board, sea kayak & bike hire, optional scuba diving, Tongan feast & island tours, relaxing beach time
This amazing Tonga tour gives you a once in a lifetime chance to swim with humpback whales as they visit these islands to breed, give birth and socialise in the beautiful clear waters. The tour includes 3 whale swimming safaris, a local island tour, and time to relax and snorkel on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The whales visit Tonga during a specific season between July and October and we run several group departures during this period. We can also arrange private and tailor-made tours on request if our group dates or itinerary don't work for you.
Upon arrival in the Kingdom of Tonga we'll meet you at the airport and transfer you to your hotel. The rest of the day is free.
Extra day in Tongatapu - pre-tour
After breakfast you will be transferred to the domestic terminal for your scenic flight to the beautiful and remote islands of Ha'apai. The Resort team will be waiting at the Ha'apai airport to transfer you 1.3km to your beachfront fale, home for the next 7 nights. As flights to Ha'apai tend to leave early in the morning, breakfast is not included in your hotel, but after you arrive in Ha'apai instead.
The rest of the day is free to settle in, explore, try some snorkelling off the beach and attend an informative whale briefing in preparation for your excursion tomorrow. In the evening, watch the sunset from the Ocean view restaurant and bar, just meters from the sand.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
After breakfast we board our traditional Tongan fishing vessel at 9am for a 6-hour trip on the water. Your professional guides are eager to introduce the majestic Tongan Humpback whales. Our aim is to take you into the water for memories that will last a lifetime. Lunch is served onboard and all equipment is provided. Arriving back at around 2.30pm allows time to relax and look at your photos, take a walk along the beach and enjoy a cold drink from the bar. BBQ dinner served just after sunset.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
King George Tupou I pledged The Kingdom of Tonga and its people to heaven making Sunday a strict day of rest in the kingdom. It is actually illegal to work on the Sabbath. You can chose to begin your day by visiting a local church to hear the angelic voices of the choir or simply enjoy a day of your choice. The resort is open all day and swimming, snorkeling, cycling, kayaking, eating and drinking are all options for this restful day in Tonga.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After breakfast we head out for our second day into the crystal clear waters of Ha'apai to join the Humpback whales for further adventures and memories of a lifetime. Excellent food is provided in our ocean front restaurant as we share our experiences of the day.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
After breakfast we head out for our final day into the crystal clear waters of Ha'apai to join the Humpback whales for further adventures and memories of a lifetime.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Your day is free today to relax at the resort. We keep this free in case any of your earlier whale swims need rescheduling due to weather issues. If all has gone to plan, then your day is free and you could ride a bike, hire a car and explore the island's resorts, other snorkeling spots, beaches or the local cafe. Or you may simply relax at the resort - scuba diving, sea kayaks or snorkel the reef in front of the resort are options. An additional whale swimming trip may also be booked with the resort (subject to existing bookings and space on the boat). An optional guided tour around the island is also available (subject to guide availability). During this tour you can learn the whole truth about coconuts and their uses; hear the local history of the island including Captain Cook, Mutiny on the Bounty and the Port of Prince; and visit various historical and special spots around the island.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Your day is free today to relax on the beach, go cycling or kayaking, scuba diving or snorkelling. We also keep today free in case poor weather or other reasons have meant we need to reschedule one of our earlier whale safaris. You can also book additional safaris while at the resort if you wish.
Excellent food is provided in the resort's ocean front restaurant and a farewell bonfire is lit as the Milky Way falls across the night sky.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
This morning we fly back to the main island of Tongatapu and transfer to our hotel near the airport.
Options are available through your hotel to book a half day island tour. Here you can learn more about Tongan lifestyle, culture, heritage and traditions, see demonstrations and learn about the customs and stories of the old times and visit the busy Tongan Market where the locals throng to purchase and sell their produce. The market provides a great opportunity to purchase handicrafts, local fruit and take photos. Tours also visit the Royal Tombs where the late King George IV is laid to rest, along with the Royal Palace, and the Eastern Side of Tonga with Captain Cook's Landing, the Ancient Burial Tomb's and the Ha'amonga Trilithon, a stone arch which was said to have been built 1200AD, an impressive movement of 80 tonnes of stone and a story of a warrior king.
In the evening you could visit the Ohelei Beach Resort for a Tongan feast, cultural show and live music to make you feel right at home in with the Tongan culture and history.
Free time until transferring to the airport for your international departure flight. You may wish to revisit the main Tongatapu market today, as Saturday tends to be the busiest time of the whole week, a great chance for a final taste of Tonga and some souvenirs.
This tour is also available for booking privately for travel anytime through the year, and we can also customise the itinerary to fit your personal requirements. Please contact us for details and prices.
The hotels and accommodations listed below are the ones we most often on this tour. From time to time we may exchange these for similar properties at the same level. In general, specific hotels cannot be guaranteed on our group tours, but you may select your preferred options if you are booking a tailor-made trip.
Little Italy Hotel is a friendly waterfront hotel just 2 minutes drive from the centre of Nuku'alofa and within easy reach of the international airport. There is a popular and well known Italian restaurant and bar on site.
Little Italy Hotel is a friendly waterfront hotel just 2 minutes drive from the centre of Nuku'alofa and within easy reach of the international airport.The busy Talamahu Market is only 20-minutes walk away.
Rooms have either traditional Tongan or Italian style and are simple but well appointed, clean and comfortable, with a refrigerator, safety deposit box, tea/coffee making facilities and cable TV. Some rooms have private balconies with views of the ocean.
There is a bar and a popular and well known Italian restaurant on site, serving pizzas, pasta, steak, lobster and other seafood dishes. A range of local and imported wines and beers are available.
Ha'apai Beach Resort
Nestled in a lush tropical garden overlooking the white sandy beach on Lifuka Island, Ha'apai Beach Resort is the perfect spot to relax, unwind and enjoy the true island experience.
Nestled in a lush tropical garden overlooking the white sandy beach on Lifuka Island, Ha'apai Beach Resort is the perfect spot to relax, unwind and enjoy the true island experience. Located halfway between the airport and Pangai, the resort offers a completely tranquil retreat with the convenience of being close to town.
Enjoy quiet days on the beach, snorkel the reef or discover the local wildlife - Ha'apai Beach Resort offers a truly relaxing tropical holiday. Swing yourself into one of the hammocks for a relaxed day in the shade, spend your day on the water scuba diving, whale swimming or hire a bike or sea-kayak to explore the island at your own pace. Refresh yourself at the beachfront bar and savor the meals in our restaurant. Guests enjoy clean, serviced rooms, free wifi while our business services help the business traveler stay in touch. You can even catch the big games on SKY channel.
Our tours are designed to include all that you need to enjoy a really special time in the destination youre visiting. However, we do also offer some extra options to complement the tour and add some additional sightseeing or activities, or some extra time at either end of the tour.
All accommodation based options (e.g. Single supplements, extra nights, cruise upgrades) should be booked and paid for in advance so that we can make the appropriate arrangements. Other options may either be booked and paid for in advance or while you are on the tour, though we recommend booking in advance to ensure there are no issues with availability.
Many options are priced the same throughout the year, but some may incur single or high season supplements - full details are given on the tour reservation form or on request.
The detailed Tour Notes below have been written to give you some more detailed information about how the tour runs, what to expect, and how to prepare for your holiday. We recommend downloading an up to date copy of these shortly before you travel in case of any changes.
Accommodation is based on single or double en-suite rooms with air conditioning. All couples will be given a private double room. Twin rooms are not available at Ha’apai Beach Resort.
If you are a single traveller, or travelling with a friend but don’t want to share a bed, then a single room will be provided without any extra supplement being payable. This will include a single en-suite room in the hotel on Tongatapu, and a small single room with shared bathroom in Ha’apai Beach Resort.
If you are a single traveller (or travelling with a friend but not sharing a bed) then a single room supplement is available. This will cover a single en-suite room in the hotel in Tongatapu, and single use of a larger double en-suite room at Ha’apai Beach Resort.
We use a selection of comfortable mid-range hotels and deluxe guesthouses in and around the Kingdom of Tonga's capital Nuku'alofa.
Ha'apai - Ha'apai Beach Resort
Ha'apai Beach Resort is a year round destination nestled right on the beach, overlooking the turquoise waters and surrounding islands. You can experience a unique and special slice of paradise - the real and remote Tongan Islands. Ha’apai Beaches were voted in the top ten beaches to visit by Lonely Planet in 2014.
Ha’apai Beach Resort offers friendly, basic and comfortable, beach-front accommodation conveniently located on Lifuka Island, only 5 minutes from Pangai town and the airport. The beach houses are located in a lush tropical garden overlooking the white sandy beach at the former Niua'Kalo Beach Motel. Despite the proximity to town you have the tranquillity you expect from a beach holiday, a clean beach with a snorkelling reef on your doorstep and lots of wildlife to be discovered. The beach houses are perfect for those wishing to stay on the beach at a reasonable price without having to travel to a different island. All rooms are fully insect screened and furnished with comfy beds (queen size in double rooms), closets, power points, fresh linen and towels. Cold drinking water and Wi-Fi access are included in the room price.
New for 2020 are several glamping style tents with comfortable facilities and your own bathroom. The tour price is however based on staying in beach houses. A small discount will be offered if only glamping tents are available at the time of booking.
The resort has a small library with English and German books and magazines, a variety of games and lots of informational material on diving, the whales and Tonga. There is even a telescope to view the clear night skies.
Besides scuba diving, whale watching and snorkel trips, there is plenty to do to keep you entertained. The resort has bikes and snorkelling gear available free for guests and sea-kayaks for hire, allowing you to explore Ha'apai above and below the water on your own terms. If you just wish to spend a relaxed day at the beach, swing yourself into one of the hammocks to enjoy that good book or treat yourself to a fresh green coconut.
Private vehicles are used for all airport transfers and other transfers. Domestic flights are included for the return journey between Tongapatu and Lifuka Islands. A fully licensed safari boat is used for the whale swimming trips.
The tour includes a 24-hour airport meet & assist service in Tongatapu airport, your arrival and departure airport-hotel transfers and all other transfers.
You will be met on your arrival in Tongatapu airport, after you have passed through immigration and collected your luggage. Please exit the building and turn left where you’ll find a driver from the Scenic Hotel Tonga holding a board with your name(s) displayed. Please look out for them and introduce yourself. They will then transfer you on to your hotel. Please call the contact numbers on your voucher if you do not find them straight away.
On Day 2 you will need to arrange your transfer to the airport through the hotel reception (their shuttle bus travels very regularly as the airport is very close by). On arrival in Ha’Apai you'll be met and transferred to the resortfor breakfast. We will send you your e-tickets and flight numbers for the Tongatapu - Ha'Apai flights; you will need to check in yourselves. Please be ready to leave the hotel 2 hours before your flight departure to Ha'Apai.
We want to give you as much flexibility as possible when it comes to booking your holiday with us. So, to take account of people with varying travel plans, we don’t include your international flights in the main tour price. We are however very happy to suggest flights to go with the tour. Please contact us with your preferred dates and departure airport and we’ll give you a selection of airlines, times and fares to choose from.
Your airport arrival & departure transfers are included on the first and last days of the tour.Our Tonga tours start and finish at FuaÊ»amotu International Airport on Tongatapu island (TBU). Air New Zealand flies to Tongatapu from Auckland 6 times per week and can be used to fly to Tonga from a wide range of international airports. Virgin Australia offer a limited service to Tonga from New Zealand and Australi, and Fiji Airways flies from Nadi to Tongatapu.
We are committed to being a small group operator, as we feel this gives everyone in the group the best chance to get to know their fellow travellers and to hear and make the most of their guide. Also, in Tonga we need to restrict the number of people in the group to fit the size of the whale watching boat and to ensure that the whale swimming experience is managed responsibly for both whales and guests (a maximum of 4 swimmers plus guide are allowed in the water with the whales at any one time). This tour therefore has a maximum group size of 8 travellers (min 1). You may join with other travellers on the whale safaris.
While on Tongatapu your travel is essentially independent, with the hotel shuttle providing your transfers to and from the airport for your international flights and your flights to and from Ha'apai.
While on Ha'apai the owner/managers at Ha'apai Beach Resort will be your hosts and manage your time there. Matt Haling and Jodi Hawley originated from Australia and New Zealand and were drawn to The Kingdom of Tonga in 2012 by the humpback whales and the idyllic island lifestyle. These avid sailors sailed their yacht 2800 nautical miles from Australia to settle in the paradise that is Ha’apai. Matt began diving in 1989 and has a special understanding and bond with the marine life. He has taught underwater photography and video around the globe, spending over 6000 hours underwater, professionally filming and photographing its wonders. Jodi is a skilled sailor, amazing cook and a passionate whale guide who has an affinity with the whales. Their partnership makes for your perfect holiday experience at the resort and on the water as they welcome you into the island lifestyle.
Every year from mid July to mid October the serene islands of Ha'apai provide safe haven for one of mother nature´s most captivating creations - the majestic Humpback Whales. Tonga is one of only a few countries in the world where you are allowed to actually swim with Humpback Whales, and with our guides and the tropical paradise of Ha'apai it is simply the most beautiful and tranquil place to do it. The whales come from the Antarctic to the calm warm waters of Ha'apai to breed, birth and socialise. Mothers spend the time until their departure, nursing their young and courting a potential mate. It’s a very important and sensitive time in their annual cycle and the most exciting time to watch and interact with them.
Every day of whale watching is different with a vast array of interesting behaviour to witness - from the "blow" shaped like a love heart, a graceful spy hop, powerful fin or fluke slaps to continual full body breaching and inquisitive approaches to the boat. Using our hydrophone (waterproof microphone) we can sometimes listen to their magical love songs even when they are out of sight. Swimming with the Humpback Whales is the ultimate marine experience, even life changing for some. So come with us, strap on your mask and fins and glide into the blue for your experience of a lifetime swimming with Tonga's Humpback Whales!.
Our whale watching trips depart at 8.30 am from the main wharf in Pangai. For your safety you will be informed about the vessel, whale behaviour and how we conduct swimming with the whales then begin our search for the playful giants. Depending on the events of the day, we will have lunch at anchor, allowing you to snorkel on one of Ha'apai's wonderful coral reefs, or on a beach of one of the many islands. The afternoon will be spent looking for more whales before we make our way back home around 2.30 pm.
We use a fully licensed and professional whale swim operator who strives to swim on every trip. However, be aware that whales are wild animals and you will be observing them in their natural environment. Swimming may or may not be possible depending on the whales' behaviour, their reaction to us and the weather conditions. Only 4 swimmers, plus a guide, are allowed in the water with the whales at any one time. The boats we use carry up to 8 people so people generally take turns with the whale swims. These are kept short enough though so that everyone gets as much time with the whales as is possible and responsible. A Premium Whale Swimming option is available which guarantees that you go into the water on every swim and don't need to sit any out on the boat.
We are only visitors in their realm and their welfare is our primary concern, always adopting a soft, respectful approach during our encounters. If the whales show signs of being disturbed, we cease contact and continue our search for whales that are more in tune to interacting with us. That being said, our experience with the whales combined with our careful approach technique usually result in exhilarating in-water encounters that leave our guests with unforgettable whale moments in Ha'apai.
Each boat trip includes complete snorkelling gear, a fresh, home-made lunch, tea, coffee and refreshments, with trained professionals to make your day safe, informative and enjoyable.
You should ensure you are fully insured for medical emergencies including emergency evacuation and repatriation
Recommended vaccinations and other health protection measures vary according to the country you are visiting and where you are travelling from. We recommend you contact your GP/medical practitioner or a travel clinic for current information on vaccinations needed for your destination. You should ensure that you are up to date with vaccines and boosters recommended for your normal life at home, including for example, vaccines required for occupational risk of exposure, lifestyle risks and underlying medical conditions. In addition, additional courses or boosters normally recommended for the countries in this region are:
Tonga: Additional vaccinations: Hepatitis A, Tetanus. Malaria is not present unless contracted abroad and brought into the country. Yellow Fever certificates are not required.
The above information can change at short notice. For up to date health information & vaccination requirements we recommend that you contact your medical practitioner or a travel clinic.
Health, Fitness & Dietary info:
You must be able to swim and be confident in the water to join this tour. However you do not need to be a strong swimmer.
You do need a reasonable level of fitness with the ability to climb a moving boat ladder with a maximum capacity of 120kg.
Ha'apai is a remote island with few medical facilities, a limited flight service and unpredicable electricity supply. Please inform us of any pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma and any prescription medicine you may be taking. We also need to know about any food allergies, dietary requirements or physical disabilities that you may have. We can then advise you of whether we can accept your booking to visit the island. Our resort hosts' decision on accepting guests is final. Unfortunately vegan menus are not available due to the lack of available produce.
Passports should be valid for at least six months after your departure from the country. Please do not bring an almost full or almost expired passport. Visa arrangements are the responsibility of the traveller, and requirements are subject to change by the local authorities.
Most nationalities do not need a visa for tourist visits to Tonga for less than one month (including UK, EU, USA, CA, AU, NZ). Other nationalities may need to obtain a visa in advance. For further information on your visa requirements, please either contact us or your local visa agency.
Tonga is a place where you don’t require much in order to be comfortable. It is tropical, sunny and very relaxed, so you only really need to bring a few essentials:
Most international airlines restrict you to between 20kg and 23kg per person of checked in luggage to go in the hold of the plane. However, domestic flights between the main island and Ha'Apai n Tonga have lower personal luggage allowances of 15kg per person (allowances may be combined between 2 or more people if you are travelling on the same ticket - eg. two people could check in one 20kg bag and one 10kg bag).
Most international airlines allow between 5kg and 10kg for hand luggage. Domestic flights within Tonga are restricted to 4.5kg.
For simplicity we recommend that you bring no more than 15kg per person of checked in luggage and 4.5kg per person of carry on luggage. All luggage must be labelled with your name & address.
Please ask us for details if you are unsure about luggage allowances on your tour. Any excess baggage fees will be your responsibility to cover.
The whale watching season in Tonga runs from late July to mid October. We run regular small-group departures on this tour starting on Thursdays throughout the season. All departures are guaranteed to run with a minimum of 2 travellers and a maximum of 8.
Departure dates and prices are listed on our website and on a separate dates & prices sheet available on request. We can also run this tour privately and customise the itinerary if you would rather not join a group or if our group dates do not suit you or are fully booked. Please contact us for more information and prices.
If you would like to book a place on this tour, please complete the online reservation form on our website (via the Dates & Prices tab on the tour page). You may make a deposit or full payment online, or just hold a reservation if you prefer (full payments are due 8 weeks before departure). We will then contact you with more details about how to complete your booking. Payments may be made by debit or credit card (subject to a card processing fee), or by making a bank transfer, or posting us a cheque/bank draft. Full details will be provided in your booking confirmation email. Please contact us if you would like any more information or have any questions before making a booking.
Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our tours and needs to cover personal accident & liability, medical expenses and repatriation, travel delay & abandonment. We also strongly recommend that you take out cover against cancellation and lost/stolen baggage. Personal medical insurance does not normally provide sufficient cover and is generally not suitable for travel on our tours. You will not be able to join your tour if you have not provided us with details of your insurance or if you arrive without cover in place (no refunds will be due in this event). More information...
You may arrange your own insurance, or you can take advantage of a comprehensive policy that we can arrange for you through Endsleigh Insurance which has been designed to be suitable for our tours. The policy is available to travellers of all nationalities and you do not need to live in the UK to take out the policy. For full details of cover provided, prices and to apply for one of our policies, please complete travel insurance application form.
Note: Any country that borders the Mediterranean is considered as 'Europe' for the purposes of travel insurance (including Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Morocco). If you are doing a tour that visits one country in 'Europe' and one that is 'Worldwide' (for example, an Egypt and Jordan tour), then you need a 'Worldwide' policy. When completing the form you should enter your travel dates including any extra days involved in overnight flights or connecting travel between your home and the tour. Our policies are not able to cover any extra time or activities other than your tour and options booked with us and your travel to & from home.
Note - to comply with insurance sales regulations, our travel insurance policies are only available to customers booking directly with us. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to arrange your own insurance.
If you plan to arrange a hot air balloon flight locally, or do some scuba diving during your tour, you should check the small print in your policy to make sure these are covered (these are covered in our policy). Please also check the maximum altitude that you will be reaching and that full cover including emergency evacuation is provided up to this altitude.
If you are taking expensive camera gear or other electronic equipment with you then please check the coverage and the fine print of your policy to ensure that you have sufficient cover.
IMPORTANT: We must have your travel insurance details (policy number and type of insurance) before you depart or you may not be allowed to join the tour. If you haven't told us already, please let us know the details when you can. You should take a paper copy of your insurance policy with you as you may be asked to show this at the start of the tour.
We are a UK registered company and an ABTA Member (Y4447) and you can be confident when booking with us that your money is safe and protected.
Financial failure insurance is also provided through Affirma to protect all customers for the land portion of your tour.
Please see our website or booking conditions for more information.
It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travellers to help us with this.
The following are a few simple tips that require very little effort on your part but which will help ensure that any effect you have on the locations you visit is positive rather than negative.
All porters are employed and equipped following guidelines set by the International Porter Protection Group (IPPG).
You can stay in touch with us online by following us on Facebook and Twitter. We post updates on relevant travel news in our destination countries, special offers and discounts and other interesting travel related news and information.
www.twitter.com/encounterstravl (yes, without the 'e')
It is important when considering and preparing to travel anywhere in the world that you have a good understanding of the country you are visiting, its laws and customs, and the possible risks and situations that may occur. This includes specific risks related to your itinerary (eg. does it involve water & can you swim, are you fit enough for the activities included), as well as more general risks such as terrorism and natural disasters.
General details and links to more information about health risks, visa requirements, money, and travel insurance are given in these tour notes. We recommend that you re-read all these before your departure as well as the small print of your travel insurance policy so you know exactly what is covered and what is not.
You should take copies of your important travel documents with you and ideally also store them online securely as a backup. Make sure that you have given us your emergency contact details and told that person where and when you are travelling. Ensure you take enough money with you and that you have access to emergency funds.
Finally, you should read through and stay updated with the current official government travel advice for your destination. We are registered partners with the UK Foreign Office's 'Travel Aware' campaign which provides further useful and invaluable information.