Immerse yourself in Tonga’s compelling mix of spectacular landscapes, pristine rainforests and azure waters and discover why Captain James Cook dubbed the Kingdom of Tonga the “Friendly Islands” more than two centuries ago.
- Led by David Attenborough's favourite cameraman
- Visit the beautiful island paradise of Tonga
- Snorkel alongside one of the world's largest mammals
- Let Doug Allan help you capture underwater images
As wildlife lovers strive for the ultimate encounter with big mammals, the bar is constantly being lifted higher and higher. We would like to think that we've raised the bar another notch. Join our wildlife group tour to Tonga allowing you the opportunity to swim with humpback whales which hibernate to the warm, crystal clear waters of the Tongan Pacific from June until November. Escorted by BBC cameraman Doug Allan, famous for some of the most spectacular underwater footage of humpback whales ever filmed, you are guaranteed expert insight into the enchanting world of these underwater behemoths.
Itinerary at a glance
On arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. You will then have the rest of the day at leisure.
A Debrief with Doug Allan and Lolesio Lui
Local regulations mean that boats are not allowed in the water on a Sunday so whale watching activities are not possible today. The morning is left at leisure but in the afternoon there will be a briefing with Doug Allan and Lolesio Lui (the skipper of the boat being used for whale watching) on what to expect for the following five days of whale activities.
Situated in the Pacific Ocean, the Vava'u Island group comprises of 61 tropical islands dotted with coral gardens, deserted beaches and clear lagoons. It has a year-round climate suitable for swimming, snorkelling, diving and sailing. Some of the islands are ringed by white sand beaches while others have tropical forests, sea-level caves, and dramatic limestone cliffs with breath-taking views.
Remote and truly unspoiled, the waters around Vava'u are crystal clear with visibility exceeding 100 feet.
Most of the islands are uninhabited, a few have villages, a few have very small unique resorts with exceptional food. There is abundant sea life with over 100 species of colourful tropical fish, giant clams, manta rays, sea turtles and spinner dolphins. From June to November, Vava'u's warm waters are home to gentle Humpback whales, thriving in the islands' sustaining environment, caring for their newly-born calves and breed for another generation.
Five Days of Searching for Humpback Whales with Doug Allan
The next five days will follow a similar pattern, as you take to the Pacific waters in search of humpback whales with Doug Allan.
Doug will only work with Lolesio Lui in Tonga. It was with 'Lole' that Doug captured his incredible footage of humpback whales for The Blue Planet. Lole and his brother Nosa operate a 36ft Yamaha Hull, powered by two 225 HP engines. She is fast and comfortable with a huge ladder specially designed to help with climbing in and out of the boat. The boat will depart every day from the Tongan Beach Resort at 08:30 and return at approximately 14:30. Water, fruit and a packed lunch will be provided when on board.
Lole, Nosa and Doug will apply their many years of experience to the task of finding humpback whales in calm waters. If the animals are found there will be time spent assessing whether the whales are comfortable with the presence of the boat. If the whales are not happy then the boat will move on and possibly look for whales in waters further from land, where encounters with whale sharks, sunfish and marlins are also possible.
Should the whales seem unperturbed by the presence of the boat and the weather conditions are favourable, there will be an opportunity for all on board to enter the water and swim alongside the whales. This is done with four clients plus Doug Allan entering the water for sessions of approximately 15 minutes each time. Doug will of course take the lead and it is essential that you keep movements and noise to a minimum as you approach the whales slowly, replicating Doug's actions as closely as possible. As long as this simple code of conduct is followed then there is no reason why everybody on board shouldn't experience several turns in the water, swimming alongside humpback whales.
Doug will know if the whales are becoming restless and should he detect signs of anxiety in the animals he will immediately call an end to any activity in the water. Should this happen, Lole will either look for other whales or will take the group to one of many great snorkel sites around the island of Vava'u.
Packed breakfast and lunch on board are included. Dinner at Tongan Beach Resort.
Days at leisure
You will have two full free days to explore the beautiful islands. Breakfast, lunch and dinner included at Tongan Beach Resort.
You will have two more days at sea swimming with Humpbacks.
About Doug Allen
Doug Allan is one of the world’s best known and respected wildlife and documentary cameramen, who films both above and underwater. He’s filmed whales in almost all the seas of the world and has twice won the underwater category in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
He has worked on a number of high profile award winning films and series for the major TV networks worldwide. In contributing to The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Human Planet and Frozen Planet, he has made over 70 filming trips, including orcas attacking gray whales off California, polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada, and killer whales washing seals off ice floes in Antarctica – all on screen firsts.
He's been giving talks for many years on wildlife, diving, his experiences while film making and the craft of nature photography.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT ON THIS TOUR?
Travel to and from Tonga via a stop in Nadi, Fiji with 10 full days in the expert company of Doug Allan. The trip is skippered by Lolesio Lui (Lole), the only operator Doug will work with in these waters due to his in-depth knowledge of the humpbacks and their behaviour. Lole's experience was important in assisting Doug capture his stunning footage when filming for The Blue Planet.
WHAT IS THE ACCOMMODATION LIKE?
With only 12 rooms The Tongan Beach Resort is a peaceful resort found on the Vava’u group of islands. The rooms are simple but clean and in keeping with their natural surroundings. There is no A/C but fans and a good sea breeze keep you cool.
DO I NEED TO BE FIT TO JOIN THE TOUR?
A reasonable level of cardio-vascular fitness would make the swimming easier and more enjoyable.
WHY DOUG ALLAN?
Doug has worked on many high profile award winning films and series for the major TV networks worldwide. In contributing to The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, Life, Human Planet and Frozen Planet, he has made over 70 filming trips, including orcas attacking grey whales off California, polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada, and killer whales washing seals off ice floes in Antarctica – all on screen firsts.
I’M CONCERNED ABOUT JOINING THE TRIP AS I’M NOT AN EXPERIENCED SNORKELLER OR DIVER.
You don’t need to be a diver. The time spent in the water will be fully accompanied by Doug Allan, however to join you should be a confident swimmer. If you have not snorkelled before it would be well worth getting a mask and snorkel and familiarising yourself with the equipment, say in a local pool, prior to the trip.