Tonga South Pacific | Photography | Adventure

Tonga - Humpback Whales
September 2020

Tonga - Humpback Whales September 2020

A real close-up experience with Les Picker & Andy Biggs.

This is a trip you really don’t want to miss! Spend 4 solid days of snorkeling in the waters of Vava’u, Tonga amongst southern humpback whales and their offspring. Imagine snorkeling up to a 40-ton gentle giant, in a peaceful setting, and spending time watching and observing with a small underwater camera or GoPro. Come and join Andy and Les in the calm waters of Tonga and find out for yourself.

You will need to be reasonably fit in order to fully enjoy this trip. You don’t need to have any snorkeling experience, however you need to feel comfortable swimming without any assistance in open waters. We will spend our time going from the dock to our boat and into the ocean; humpback whale experiences are real and they are safe. Some of the whale sightings will happen from our boat and some will happen when you are snorkeling in the ocean.

The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of 170 tropical islands and most are uninhabited. Tonga has white sand beaches, calm seas and wonderful temperatures at this time of the year. We have chosen accommodations that will give us the best access to the locations, minimize long driving times and allow us to relax at the end of each day, after the sun sets and the cameras are put away. This is a vacation, after all.

Non-photographing spouses are welcome and can participate in all activities.

Trip Highlights At A Glance

Snorkel with humpback whales during their breeding season, which takes place in the protected and shallow waters of Tonga, with guidance from expert photographers Andy Biggs and Les Picker.

We have six hours of snorkeling arranged for each day. We will have GoPro cameras provided for all travelers. All you need to do is show up, grab a camera and swim. Extra batteries and accessories such as selfie sticks will be provided as well. Hands-on instruction on how to use GoPro cameras for video and stills, as well as instruction on how to use the more popular video editing software on the market. We will work with you to make sure your photo and video needs are met.

Real close-up adventures with humpback whales is an experience of a lifetime. Don’t worry about a thing. We have everything taken care of! All you need to do is arrive and we will take care of the rest.

The Schedule

Monday, September 28, 2020: Tongan Beach Resort, Vava’u

With over 170 islands full of wonder, unspoiled beauty, lined with white beaches and coral reefs, the Kingdom of Tonga is an unforgettable destination.

On arrival to Vava’u, you will be greeted and transferred to Mango café for lunch overlooking the harbor. Following lunch, we will transfer to our accommodation to check in. Our accommodations for the next 5 nights is set on 500 feet of beachfront with all 12 guest rooms enjoying views of the golden sand beach and crystal clear turquoise waters of the Port of Refuge Harbor.

Enjoy time at leisure this afternoon before reconvening for a whale swim briefing. We will have time to be fitted with snorkeling gear and dip in the water to get used to our equipment as well as familiarize ourselves with the guidelines for getting out of the boat and protocols regarding swimming with the whales. Enjoy a welcome dinner in house this evening.

Tuesday, September 29 – Friday, October 2: Tongan Beach Resort, Vava’u

Over the next four days partake in an experience of a lifetime by swimming up close and personal with Humpback Whales. Before departing the resort, each guest will be fitted with their snorkeling gear and provided with a personalized bag to put their equipment in for the next four days.

Vacationers are not the only ones to return to Tonga’s shores on a regular basis. After a long journey north from the icy krill-laden depths of Antarctica, southern humpback whales take shelter in the tropical reef-protected waters of Tonga to give birth to their young.

The arrival of the whales from June to November completes a remarkable cycle, as the new calves return to where they were first conceived 11 months earlier. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with whales. You may get to hear the beautiful singing, see the stunning full body breaching, watch as a group of males peruse a female mate or see a mother gently tending to her calf.

Each day can be quite different, as our opportunities are solely dictated by the whales’ activity and presence. Swimming excursions will be monitored by our guides with the well-being and safety of both the whales and participants as a top priority. Each swim can last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes at a time, depending on conditions and the comfort level of the whales. If the animals seem stressed or disturbed by our presence, the guides reserve the right to conclude the experience at any time. This process will be repeated throughout the day. Only 4 people will be allowed in the water at a time, allowing for intimate experiences and to not stress the animals. This also allows for resting in between swims.

The Vava’u Archipelago is blessed with a near-perfect climate. In conjunction with swimming with the whales, you also have the opportunity to snorkel in the amazing crystal clear water with its brilliantly colored coral and reef fish. Snorkel the Blue Clouds Reef and Coral Garden.

On one of our nights we will transfer via boat to a local restaurant in town for dinner.

Saturday, October 3: Depart Vava’u

Depending on your departure time you may spend time independently sightseeing, shopping or relaxing in this lovely marine city before transferring to the airport for flights home, re-crossing the international date line and regaining the day we lost flying westbound.

What Do I Do Next?

Our groups are small, so space is limited. If this exciting trip has your name on it; if you’re excited by the thought of becoming a member of this trip, then now is the time to register. Remember, there will be limited space available for this workshop. When they’re spoken for, that’s it. If you have any questions before registering, send us an e-mail with any inquiries to

The Cost

The cost of this workshop is US$7,500 (double occupancy only). This fee includes all in-country ground transportation as well as hotel accommodation (double occupancy) and all meals.

Deposit: A $500 deposit is required when you register online. Upon receipt of the initial deposit, you will immediately be billed for $2,500 to be paid only by check.

Deposits are refundable as follows:

By August 31, 2019; full refund
By November 30, 2019; 50% refund
By January 31, 2020; 25% refund
After February 1, 2020; no refund

Final Payment: The final payment of $4,500 is by check only. That payment is due on March 29, 2020). An invoice will be sent 30 days prior to the due date. Final payments are not refundable.

Please note: We will attempt to adhere to this itinerary as much as possible. However, certain conditions (political, climatic, environmental, cultural, or wildlife migrations) may necessitate changes in the itinerary. We reserves the right to alter the itinerary at any time. We will attempt to notify participants of changes as far in advance as possible. Costs incurred by such changes will be the responsibility of the participant.

What’s Included?

  • 5 nights’ Accommodations while on Vava’u, Tonga
  • All snorkeling activities with the humpback whales
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with group lunches and select wine and beer with group dinners
  • Welcome gift
  • Personalized snorkel bag
  • Go-Pro camera for use during the Tonga Photo Adventure

What’s Not Included?

  • International airfare and/or other transportation between your home and Vava’u, Tonga (We can assist with air transportation)
  • Travel Insurance

How To Get There

Of course this will depend on your departure point. However, ultimately you will probably need to fly into Tahiti, then take a 90 minute shuttle flight from Tahiti to Vava’u. There you will be greeted by our team.

Trip details will be sent once you have registered.

Photographer Steve Woods

Photographer Steve Woods

Monday, Sep 28, 2020 08:00
Saturday, Oct 3, 2020 08:00
Total Price
Can anything be more exciting than snorkeling with and photographing humpback whales and their calves? $7,500 per person double occupancy. After initial $500 deposit, you will immediately be billed $2,500, to be paid by check. Final payment of $4,500 is due on March 29, 2020. Deposits are refundable as follows; 100% by August 31, 2019; 50% by November 30, 2019, and 25% by January 31, 2020. Final payments are not refundable. All costs are in U.S. dollars.