Jacqueline Smolders review 18 Sep 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Swimming with the whales
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Book the scuba diving in advance or extra days whale swimming. It is hard to book it later on. Actually book everything yourself.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
We had a great time but I would say it was not entirely as expected and I would probably not book another package vacation. The price quality is not very good. The hotel in Tongatapu asked us twice how we would like to pay for the room (of course we did not pay) and we did not get a transfer when we got back from Ha'apai. Also they charged us for the breakfast the last day, while it says on the program it is included. In the program it says it will be a group of 6 people, but basically all the whale swims (except the last one which we booked extra ourselves) were with 8 people which was a lot and makes you wait half of the time.
Also the boat broke down on one occasion, making us loose over an hour out of 6 hours of whale swimming, and nobody apologised. The owner of the hotel tried very hard to fit in extra whale swimming and diving for us and was overall very nice and the dogs were lovely. However in the end I feel like the package did not give us the comfort we expected (since we still had to pay for breakfast twice, the hotel did ask us to pay for the night, we did not get a transfer and things as dessert were not included with dinner). It is weird when dinner is included that dessert is not. Also we have a feeling that the package was way more expensive than if we had booked everything ourselves and the comfort which we expected with the package was not really met. I have booked packaged tours before with other companies and they were way better. I don't think we supported the local community as most people we dealt with were not originally Tongan. I did really like the Tongan feast the last night and the city tour in Tongatapu the last day with Viki. Overall the Ha'apai beach resort was very nice.
Read the operator's response here:
Thank you for your feedback on your recent trip to Tonga.
Iím delighted you enjoyed swimming with the whales so much. It is an amazing experience, not available in many places, and Iím pleased that you liked the resort and your hosts there, including the dogs. However, I am sorry that some aspects of the tour didnít run as smoothly as we would have liked or meet with your expectations.
We do describe the Haíapai Beach Resort as a 2-star property on our website, which we feel reflects the simple style of the rooms and facilities, though the atmosphere, food and service we feel is much better than that. We have tried to give a fair and accurate description, but will look again to make sure that expectations arenít unrealistic.
The hotel in Tongatapu was paid for in advance from our side, and the hotel includes free transfers and had your flight details, so you should neither have been asked for any payment or missed receiving a transfer. Weíve followed up with the hotel to try to ensure they check their bookings better to ensure this doesnít happen again.
As the flight times to Haíapai vary regularly, often requiring a very early start from the hotel, when these are early we include breakfast when you arrive at Haíapai, rather than in the hotel package. We will be arranging a refund for you and your travel companion for the final breakfast at the hotel that you should not have been charged for. Mariska will contact you directly regarding this.
Iím sorry that there was an issue with the boat. This unfortunately can happen from time to time, and Iím sorry that it caused a delay to your experience on one day. Iím pleased though that efforts were made to make up for this afterwards with extra whale swims.
The resort does employ local Tongan staff, and we do include several activities in the itinerary that allow you to explore and interact with local community. These include the guided island tour on Haíapai, the tour on Tongatapu, and the Tongan feast night at the end of the trip.
Overall, I am sorry that your expectations of the tour and accommodation level were not met completely, and that some aspects did not run as smoothly as we would like.