The Kingdom of Tonga is a Polynesian archipelago with more than 150 islands — but, more notably for divers, it’s also a haven for humpback whales. The island group of Vavaʻu is a particularly great location for those who would like to snorkel with humpbacks, as the whales go to calve and mate there from July to October. When the calves make it to Tonga during this season, they are finishing a cycle, returning to the waters where they were conceived less than a year before.
Rules prohibit snorkelers from harassing the whales, but those who follow the guidelines can spend plenty of time in the water around these magnificent creatures. Because of its focus on marine protection, Tonga encourages travelers to use only licensed whale operators to help protect the animals.
Underwater photographer Steve Woods — you can also follow his work on Facebook and Instagram — captured this amazing footage in northern Tonga. Check out the videos to see what it’s like to snorkel with humpbacks with views both underwater and from the sky.
The amazing aerial footage above gives you a sense of how the whales move in the water. Watch the snorkelers move quickly with the current as the whales hang out near the surface. The on-lookers must have been shocked as the whale swung back by the group and nearly smacked them with its tail!