Swimming with singing whales

In October 2016 we visited Vava’u the north group of islands in Tonga. The area is well know for Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) coming to the safe warm waters to give birth and mate. Being in the water with these whales that can be 15m long and weigh 40 tonnes is up there with the best things I have ever done.


About 12 companies get licences to look and then allow clients to swim with them with a maximum of 8 in the water at a time. I chose to go with a company that only has 4 people on the boat which makes photography easier (and I don’t get in the way of lots of people). The family that run the Blue Lagoon where excellent, great food, great boats and where flexible to support my requirements as a photographer including taking a trip to see one of the island where terns and boobies breed. We saw and swam with whales every day, in one case as part of a heat run with 14 whales all around us.


Dropping into the water around 30-40m away and slow finning over to the whales to make sure they know we are there and give them a chance to leave if they want, very few left as we approached. Often the calf would come over to see us and then move back to its mother, resting on her head to save its energy. The whales are very relaxed and sometimes let us stay around them for over 30 minutes.

The visibility was variable of the week in the water and resulted in some great shots.