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"Standout Ethical" Whale Swims on Tonga

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Note, there is no difference in the likelihood of whale encounters between these dates. All dates are within the main whale swim period.

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Why travel with us?

After experiencing the operation provided by Dave and his team first-hand, the Institute has agreed to put aside a week that we will recommend to our supporters as both an experience of a lifetime and excellent example of ethical ecotourism.

Dave’s commitment to the welfare and understanding of the whales, combined with his gift as a skipper and guide, make his whale swims a standout ethical ecotourism experience that I am delighted to recommend.”

- Jeff Weir, Executive Director, Dolphin Research Institute

We don't swim with cow and calf pairs

We'll let you into a secret - the swims are better, longer and more exciting this way. It's also the best way we can guarantee to you, that your holiday won't be having an impact on the lives of the animals you're encountering. If you check our videos, testimonials and Facebook page, you'll see this doesn't reduce the experience - in fact, we find the encounters with subadults to be richer and more diverse.

Read here to find out why ...

Image by Image by Juliet Ferguson

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More About Us


Best trip of my life, great diving and awesome fish, can’t wait to go back. Thanks Dave and the BWE crew - Sam Morgan

Amazing crew all round! So passionate and caring about whales. Skipper Dave was extremely knowledgeable about whales, guides very knowledgeable about local area and reefs and were very confident and made us feel very at ease - Mikala Peters, Wildlife Coast Cruises

Incredible and way better than I anticipated, particularly being in the water with a singing whale was a highlight for me - Carlos Olavarria, Marine Mammal Scientist

Unforgettable experience... From the moment we arrived we felt part of the extended family. The local boat crews are fabulous & lots of fun & always willing to help out. Swimming with the whales was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life - Kirsty Faulkner

David Donnelly

Dave is a marine mammal researcher with over twenty years field experience and a broad background in marine science including eco-tourism, oil and gas, documentary film making and research. He has worked for six universities on a range of scientific projects. He has been part of the Antarctic Blue Whale Project since January 2012, runs the Australian Orca database and is an experienced tracker of singing Humpback Whales. Dave brings extensive experience to the team as a highly-skilled marine fauna observer, small boat operator and safety diver.

Our Whales

We want you to have the greatest time and leave with a life-changing whale swim encounter. Finding the right whales to swim with means being safer and getting a more rewarding experience. We don't target mums with calves but look for groups of young animals who choose to spend time with with us that isn't a distraction from their normal routines. In our experience this makes for altogether better encounters.


The Experience

Your 7-day tour starts the moment you land in Tonga and we pick you up from Nuku’Alofa airport to transport you to our private guesthouse.

You will be led by our expert whale biologist guide, Dave Donnelly, who along with Tongan crew and hospitality staff will be looking after you during your stay. While it’s possible to go the whole week barely opening your wallet, we have two non-swim days, where you can explore including a couple of evenings to eat out (we can recommend a range of eateries to suit every budget).

One of the non-swim days is the obligatory Sunday when Tongans are not allowed to work. The other will be the day we think is the least favourable for whale swims - on this day we arrange a supplementary cultural tour with our guides.

For the most part however, we will be heading out about 8am to the harbour and boarding our vessel. Under the careful guidance of our whale specialist, we will spend time looking for and learning about whales.

Finding the right whales means getting the best encounters possible - and while we have had up to 15 swims in a day, sometimes a swim can last up to an hour or so. It just depends on the whales‘ mood and that’s where our experts make all the difference to your experience.

By booking with us, you'll avoid the hustle and bustle of the other islands and get the chance to relax in the company of like-minded people with the experience, passion and commitment to deliver an outstanding experience without any hidden costs for you or the whales.

*What's Included?

  • 5 days whale swims on the best 5 days out of six (excluding Sunday)
  • Airport and vessel transfers
  • Expert guides with you 24/7
  • 7 b/fasts, 5 lunches, 5 dinners
  • 7 nights’ accommodation in a secure private guesthouse with shared bathroom (a small supplement applies for ensuite)

Excluded: anything not listed above, international flights, alcoholic drinks and items of a personal nature.


  • For $150 per person, a cultural island tour including lunch, guiding and transport, can be arranged with our Tongan guides for your one non-whale-swim day that is not the Sunday.
  • $350 per day for ensuite room (subject to availability).

Getting there

Let us know if you'd like our registered travel agent to arrange your flights for you.


As of the start of 2016, there are daily flights to and from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne; and flights five times per week from Auckland.

For the latest flight information, visit the Kingdom of Tonga website

Where is it?

Your holiday is on the main island of Tonga Tapu, accessed via the capital Nuku’Alofa.


Visitors from most countries do not need a visa to enter Tonga. The latest details are also on the Kingdom of Tonga website. Please also check with your travel agent before flying.


For all Sales & Marketing enquiries, contact:
Simon Mustoe
Tel: +61 (0) 405 220 830