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Tonga whaleswim

Thursday, March 1, 2007

The South Pacific kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited. Three main groups cover 800km north-south, and the capital city Nuku'alofa is on Tongatapu, the largest island. They are made up of volcanic islands rising from the ocean and seismically uplifted coral limestone islands. A new volcanic island broke the ocean surface in the 1990s.

Known as The Friendly Islands, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875, a British protectorate in 1900 and acquired independence in 1970. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.

Tonga is one of three locations in the world where you can snorkel with majestic and gentle humpback whales. It is an important breeding ground and whales can be seen bearing young, caring for calves and engaging in elaborate mating rituals. These beautiful creatures are also known as singing whales as males sing during courtship. Their low notes can reach a shattering 185 decibels and carry 100km across the open ocean.

More than 160 have been identified as returning year after year to the calm, reef-protected waters. Polar waters are far too cold for the survival of calves.

Rae Gill, owner of WhaleSwim, had a humpback whale encounter off the Dominican Republic coast in 1997 and it became her passion to raise whale conservation awareness to as many people as possible.

Between July and October, Rae and her team of conservationists, a marine biologist and wildlife photographers, provide seven- and nine-day snorkelling expeditions. They are totally committed to whale conservation and tours have strict guidelines.

Expeditions include education, guidance, activities, meals and accommodation. A hydrophone on the vessel allows you to hear the singing whales and video footage will be taken of you swimming with them.

They have three group sizes — eight and 12, and five on photography expeditions.

Blue Lagoon Resort is a Pacific gem. It has just six comfortable bungalows, known locally as fales. They have been constructed on the island's white sand beach from local materials — woven pandanus and thatched coconut leaves. Beds have crisp white cotton sheets and mosquito nets. Each has its own bathroom and hot and cold water.

The restaurant has excellent food prepared by the resort's owner, and the whole experience is delightfully remote. No telephones, faxes or e-mails — just VHF radio and the beautiful turquoise waters lapping at the door.


Vava'u, Tonga.


WhaleSwim Adventures’ seven day tours start at $3250 per person twin share. Transfers, accommodation, meals and educational whale trips are included. Pacific Blue has flights to Tongatapu. One-way fare from;
  • Sydney, $349
  • Brisbane & Melbourne, $399
  • Adelaide, $429

There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one-way on the net. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one way flight is applicable.

Peau Vava’u connections to Vava’u start at $468 return. Conditions apply.

Prices correct at March 01, 2007.

More information

WhaleSwim Adventures
PO Box 900,
Newport NSW 2106
Ph: (02) 9973 2572

PO Bag #49
Kingdom of Tonga
Ph: 676 71 266

Blue Lagoon
Fot'ata Island
Kingdom of Tonga
Ph: 676 70 247

Virgin Blue
Ph: 13 6789

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