Remembering my first Tonga Trip


I still remember my first trip to Tonga in 2006.  I chartered a 60 foot sail boat with a whale swim permit and spent 2 weeks sailing through the island group.  We spent 6 days in the Vavau’ island group then sailed south to the Ha’apai group for 6 days.   I was very fortunate on that trip to create this images as it later received world wide recognition.

Gold Medal Winner
Our World Underwater

That year I learned a lot. First and foremost whales are not dive sites.   There is no such thing as a 9AM whale followed by a 2 PM whale.   The whales are wild and on their own schedule, so to do it right requires  9-10 days on the water.


The next lesson I learned is that the type and condition of boat chartered  makes a huge difference.  For example getting in an out of the water quietly is very important in terms of not upsetting whales. Some boats have very high gunnels and no swim doors so it is harder to get in and out of the water.   All boats have engines and each kind gives off a different sound.  Whales like low signature sounds that are smooth rather than rough and do no like loud, rough or diesel engines.

this is the boat I will use in 2017.    

For the day boats in the 30 foot size, I prefer a ribbed zodiac or a catamaran design speedboat like this. These are prefect boats for whale swimming. When it comes to liveaboards,  I prefer a  small group of 4 or 5 people.  Getting in and out of the water on the back of the boats is very easy.

53 foot sailing boat called Wildlife

Since 2006, the industry has grown a lot and now in Vavau’, many would say there are too many licensed boats.   The infrastructure dealing with accommodations, restaurants, and domestic flights is at capacity and feeling stress.  As a result people have to book 1-2 years in advance to get the best boats and accommodations.

I am already booking clients for 2018, and 2019 so if your interested in whale swimming and whale photography please send em a message and lets tart talking……




About living with love and peace

this blog is not about me as much as it is for me to be of service to all people. I want to share the what I have learned and inspire people to live with peace and love. Everything starts inside our mind, heart, and soul. When we become at peace with ourselves and our life circumstance our positive outlook and intent can motivate others to strive for their own peace. The idea is to pay it forward.
This entry was posted in bucket list adventure, dive travel, Dive with a Photo Pro, fine art photography, guided dive trips, guided photo tours, guided photogrpahy adventures, guided whale swim tours, guided whale swimming adventures, humpback whales, incredible adventure, Nature Photography, Nikon, once in a life time, paradise, photo tour and workshop, photography workshops, photography workshops, snorkeling adventure, swim with whales, swimming with whales, tonga, Travel, underwater photography, underwater photography workshops, whale art, whale photography workshop, Whale swimming, whales and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Remembering my first Tonga Trip

  1. Jim says:

    Aloha Douglas

    Met you in person whale tales up at the ritz

    I am the sports photog from New Hampshire

    I am an average diver

    I am a really good shooter on land

    Not so sure about underwater

    Tried it in Bonaire years ago If it were my source of income I would have starved to death

    How might these tours work

    Cost Time of year

    Prob not a short answer

    I will be back in island aug this year as well as nov

    Mahalo Jim

    Sent from my iPhone so forgive my fat fingers and spelling issues


  2. Aloha Jim, Here is how it works, I take a small group of people usually 4-5 but sometimes 6 as it depends on the people…… We do 10 day trips and emerge ourselves in photography of whales above and below the surface. For people that want to learn about underwater photography I am happy to help. I have a lot of experience and so does the crew. Our motivation is to find whales open to mutual interactions with curious whales. When this happens they come to you and pose. It is incredible. Cost ranges from $6,250 – $7,995.
    These trips sell out 1-2 years in advance so if you want to go, plan it as soon as you are able.
    you can call me 808 870 3686 to talk if you like…. Mahalo!

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