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LOOK INTO THE EYES OF A WHALE. 
EXPEDITION TO THE KINGDOM OF TONGA

days

14 people

4190

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Kateryna Poliarska 

GROUP COORDINATOR

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days

25.09 - 3.10.2024 

DESCRIPTION

In 2019, we were able to fulfill our very old dream - to swim with whales side by side in the same space as them. It was such an exciting and emotional experience that we decided to repeat the incredible trip to the kingdom of Tonga, focusing only on the whales.
We have already observed whales many times in both Antarctica and Greenland. In Spitsbergen and Iceland. However, you can swim side by side with whales only in one place on our Earth - in the kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean from the beginning of August to the end of October.

Implementing this expedition is not easy. A very small number of local certified tour operators are allowed to approach the whales. The demand for participation in such adventures is so great that reservations need to be made 2-3 years in advance. This is what we did in 2019 immediately after finishing our expedition, booking boats and hotels for the Paganels for 2 years in advance. Then there was Covid. Then the war began in Ukraine. As a result, we will be able to implement this expedition only in September 2024! Best time to watch and swim with whales!

We will go to the kingdom of Tonga for a week, where we will stay in a small hotel near the Ocean on the island of Eua and go out every day in search of whales on boats with certified guides. According to local regulations, the boat can only accommodate 8 people with an instructor and captain. Therefore, there will be one group (2 boats) of 16 people with guides.

  Before you start reading the program, watch our film, filmed in September 2019, listen to humpback whales sing.

It is something completely incredible and you may also be lucky enough to hear these enchanting sounds in close proximity to the loving whales.


It will be a very, very beautiful, rare, rich, interesting journey! You are lucky if you see all this with your own eyes.

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Andrii Andreiev

Expedition leader, photographer, filmmaker

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Olga Andreieva

Expedition leader, translator, photographer

ROUTE

IN THE COST OF EXPEDITIONIT INCLUDES:

- transfers along the route according to the program;

- air flight Tongatapu - Eua - Tongatapu;

- accommodation in hotels along the route (double accommodation);

- 3 meals a day while staying on the island of Eua;

- breakfasts while staying on the island of Tongatapu;

- lunch, water, tea - coffee on board during trips to sea;

- 5 days rental of certified boats for going out into the ocean (7 hours a day);

- necessary permits;

- half-day excursion to the island of Eua on Sunday;

- rental of necessary equipment for swimming with whales and snorkeling;

- services of local guides and helpers;

- services of guides from the Paganel Studio team.

EXPEDITION COST DOES NOT INCLUDE:

- international air travel from your home to Tonga (Tongatapu Island) and back;

- visa;

- meals not specified in the program;

- personal insurance;

- additional payment for additional activities.

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IMPORTANT!

Due to the fact that our expeditions do not include international flights to the starting point of the program, we cannot be held responsible for changes in flight conditions by airlines or airport requirements. Since our travelers fly from many different countries and cities, we never participate in the purchase of air travel and limit ourselves exclusively to advisory services in the selection of flights. Air agents or airlines from which tickets were purchased are responsible for the purchase and technical support.

ITINERARY

Day 1
(September 25)

Arrival to the kingdom of Tonga on the island of Tongatapu. Border and customs formalities.

The first thing that catches our eye and causes surprise are people, clearly local, wrapped in some strange clothes, more like potato sacks or as if they left home wrapped in a mat. However, we hasten to please you, this is not a bunch of crazy people, but the national clothing of the Tongans, which looks a little strange to us.

  Meeting with guides. Exchange money, buy a SIM card if necessary and transfer to the hotel in the city of Nuku'alofa. Check-in. Instruction and briefing on what awaits us in the coming days.

Rest after a difficult flight.

Day 2
(September 26)

We wake up early. We quickly have breakfast, check out and head to the airport. We check in and board a small plane that will take us to the island of Eua. Upon arrival on Eua, we get to our base, check in, and throw things into our houses.

Next, we take thin wetsuits brought from home (the water can be 20-22 degrees), masks, snorkels (we recommend bringing them from home), fins, go-pros and underwater cameras (if available). If you get motion sickness in the water, then take anti-motion sickness tablets in advance. Getting to know the captains, as well as local guides and instructors who will always be in the water with you, and how closely you follow their orders depends on how closely and how interestingly you will get to know the whales in their habitat.

 The group is divided into 2 parts of 8 people. Those who need missing masks, fins, snorkels, go and get them from our local organizers.

Then we go out to sea with two boats. Depending on the weather at sea that day, we go to look for whales, if the sea is fresh and there is a wave, then the boats move to the reefs in shallow water, if the Ocean is calm, then we go to open water.

 

   We look for whales as a team, and when we find them, the local “whale guide”, after watching for some time, decides whether this is our client or whether it is not worth wasting time on him when a whale or whales stop or swim in the same area.

The first group of 4 tourists with a guide jumps into the water and swims towards the whale, stopping within sight, and waits for what the whale will do - leave or show interest and a desire to get to know each other better, and swim up on its own.

If the whale leaves, the group returns to the boat and everything starts again. If the whale makes contact and plays, then after 15-20 minutes the groups change.

At this time, the guide remains with the whale, it continues as long as the whale remains in one place, but no longer than the 90 minutes allowed by the rules.

In the middle of the day, there will be a stop for lunch on a boat with disembarkation either on a desert island or in some calm place. Then we continue searching for whales. According to the rules, no more than 7 hours should pass from the boat leaving the sea to returning to the port, but today we have our first familiarization trip for 3.5 hours.

We return to the hotel, full of emotions and admiration, and close contact with whales and especially baby whales causes a whole storm of delight and adrenaline, we take a shower in our rooms, put ourselves in order, and gather in the evening at the reception of our hotel. We have dinner at the hotel restaurant, and then have a traditional the Paganels acquaintance evening with the presentation of expedition T-shirts and badges.

 

Panic and excitement begins on Facebook and Instagram among your friends and subscribers, because you posted the first photos and videos of whales. Satisfied with ourselves, we go to bed...

Day 3,4
(September 27-28)

We wake up in the morning at 7 o’clock. We run to breakfast, and then, having grabbed masks, fins, and snorkels, we gather at the hotel reception at 8 am. Out to sea in search of whales for 7 hours. Now is the time to tell you why we came to Tonga to swim with the whales. A unique feature of the islands is the opportunity to swim with humpback whales right in the open ocean - every year, this is where humpback whales migrate from Antarctica and back, where females give birth and raise their calves, and it is considered rightfully the best place in the world for observing humpback whales in their natural habitat. Local whales, as if on vacation, spend most of their time sleeping, singing and making love.

From July to October, these giants (an adult reaches 13-15 meters in length) have offspring, and mothers and cubs remain in shallow water between the numerous islands of the archipelago until they grow up and are ready to move to the other side of the globe.

 The average body length of a newborn humpback whale calf is 4.5 m, weight - from 700 kg to 2 tons. The milk-feeding period lasts up to 10-11 months, although the calf can feed independently already at the age of 6 months; During this period it grows to 8-9 m and weighs about 9 tons.

During the day, the baby whale consumes 40-45 kg of milk with a fat content of 50%, although the mother does not eat at this time, but is only engaged in raising and teaching her child skills and wisdom that will later be useful in adult life. The cub remains with the mother for up to a year, and occasionally for up to 2 years.

The government of the kingdom strictly regulates this type of tourism, which is gaining more and more popularity in the world every season - only a licensed operator on a licensed boat with a licensed guide can swim with whales.

Day 5
(September 29)

Today is Sunday. It is a day off on the islands. Captains, boats, guides and whales are resting. Well, right after breakfast at the hotel, we will devote the first half of the day to an excursion around the island of Eua. Do not forget to bring swimming trunks, swimsuits, hats, sun cream and a good mood.

 

Eua Island is a small picturesque island in the Pacific archipelago of Tonga, popular among lovers of eco-tourism and outdoor activities. Unlike other islands in the archipelago, Eua is of volcanic origin and covered with mountains. Its highest point rises 383 meters above sea level. The island measures 19 by 7.5 km and is almost entirely covered with dense tropical forests. The island of Eua has varied terrain and beautiful cliffs, which is why it has been designated a national park.

We return to the hotel, have lunch and have a rest.

Day 6,7
(September 30, October 1)

We go swimming with whales again. We wake up in the morning at 7 o'clock. We run to breakfast, and then, having grabbed masks, fins, and snorkels, we gather at the hotel reception at 8 am. Out to sea for 7 hours in search of whales. In the middle of the day we have lunch, coffee and tea.

Day 8
 (October 2)

Today is our final day of swimming with whales. Going out to the sea in search of whales for 3.5 hours.

 Upon returning to the base, we quickly return the rented equipment. We pack things into suitcases and bags. Transfer to the airport for evening flight to Tongatapu. 15-minute flight.

 

Upon arrival on the main island of the Kingdom of Tonga, transfer to a cozy hotel where we have already stayed. We check into our rooms.

In the evening, we gather at a restaurant for a farewell dinner. We exchange impressions about the past expedition. We are sad about parting with new friends, Tonga and, of course, with our dearly beloved whales...

Day 9
(October 3)

Waking up. We have a leisurely breakfast. We collect our things. We check out at the hotel. We say goodbye to the guides and our friends from the team of brave Paganels. Tears of parting.

Airport transfer. The expedition is over. Flight home... While we are flying, we remember the very moment when you were able to look into the eyes of a whale...

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Since most of the expenses for the organization of the trip are air tickets and travel documents for other types of transport, accommodation, excursions, services of local companies and guides, etc. are not refundable in case of your cancellation of the trip. We simply have no way to return it.

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Cherish Life! Love! Travel!

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