Budget Tonga vacation, swim with humpback whales

“The chance to swim with humpback whales in beautiful Tonga, with time to relax and explore, and all at a brilliantly reasonable price, too.”

Highlights

Three whale swimming safaris | professional guides | whale watching brief | Tonga | Ha’apai | guided island tours on Ha’apai and Tonga | cultural show and feast | free time to snorkel and relax on beach | market visits

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Date
Price
Basis
26 Jul 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 26 Jul 2018 departure
02 Aug 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
Available
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23 Aug 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
Available
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30 Aug 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
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20 Sep 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
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27 Sep 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
Available
Click here to enquire about or book the 27 Sep 2018 departure
04 Oct 2018
£ 1799
excluding flights
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Budget Tonga vacation, swim with humpback whales

Environment

It is impossible not to have an impact on the local environment, cultures and eco-systems when you travel. However, it is very possible to try and ensure that these impacts are as limited, or positive as possible. We are committed to ensuring that we try to leave our host countries in a better state than we found them and encourage and assist our travelers to help us with this. We use a fully licensed and professional whale swim operator who strives to swim on every trip. However, be aware that whales are wild animals and you will be observing them in their natural environment. Swimming may or may not be possible depending on the whales' behaviour, their reaction to us and the weather conditions. We are only visitors in their realm and their welfare is our primary concern, always adopting a soft, respectful approach during our encounters. If the whales show signs of being disturbed, we cease contact and continue our search for whales that are more in tune to interacting with us. That being said, our experience with the whales combined with our careful approach technique usually result in exhilarating in-water encounters that leave our guests with unforgettable whale moments in Ha'apai.

Community

Throughout our long tourism business journey we have succeeded in establishing strong links with the communities we are dealing with in the host destinations. We believe that the Responsible Travel concept has to be a two-way strategy with both the travelers and the local community gaining benefits. We benefit the local communities we visit using a wide scope of activities that have a positive impact on the local economy, directly by donating money to charity organizations, financially supporting some local communities and by recruiting employees who belonging to the local community. We encourage our guests to buy local products and make use of services that the local community offers. We help indirectly through capacity building projects we implement with our employees and through the experiences and culture exchanges that take place between the locals and the travelers during our tours. We promise to support the local community of every destination we take our travelers to. We will do this by employing local guides, using local handicraft shops and recommend shops to our travelers so that their vacation spending contributes to the people of that country. Furthermore, we provide each traveler with a tipping guide. By doing this we set a concept of tipping and gratuity for every person who will offer a form of service to the traveler. We have also considered the social aspect of the local community and how to respect the customs and traditions of the inhabitants helping us operate our tours. We always provide our guests with all the information needed to understand the community they are visiting and we create valuable opportunities for the travelers and the locals to mingle and exchange ideas and thoughts. The first objective is to operate our tours in the most perfect way possible. Our second objective, but not second in importance, is to benefit the local community, protect the environment, and have a positive social impact on the inhabitants living in our host destinations. One of the ways of doing this is to inform and educate our travelers on the cultures of the destinations. By doing this we aim to create a form of respect between the travelers and the local citizens who they will face along their tour. We educate all our staff on the real life situations of each destination. Sales consultants will use this information to inform potential travelers of the correct information and threats that they may face. By creating long lasting relationships with our local ground handlers, we are able to establish what needs the community has and through their information we can inform our travelers what they can contribute to the local community from their home countries. The biggest community challenged the locals face is the preserving of Tonga's culture and herigate. We therefore encourage our travelers to support local dance groups and performances while on tour.

2 Reviews of Budget Tonga vacation, swim with humpback whales

3 out of 5 stars
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Reviewed on 09 Oct 2017 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?


Swimming with humpback whales was the most memorable.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?


Pack ight, very little needed.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?


Locals used in tours etc.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?


Very enjoyable.

Reviewed on 18 Sep 2017 by

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?


Not really.

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:

Dear Jacqueline,

Thank you for your feedback on your recent trip to Tonga.

I’m delighted you enjoyed swimming with the whales so much. It is an amazing experience, not available in many places, and I’m pleased that you liked the resort and your hosts there, including the dogs. However, I am sorry that some aspects of the tour didn’t run as smoothly as we would have liked or meet with your expectations.

We do describe the Ha’apai 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 aren’t 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. We’ve followed up with the hotel to try to ensure they check their bookings better to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

As the flight times to Ha’apai vary regularly, often requiring a very early start from the hotel, when these are early we include breakfast when you arrive at Ha’apai, 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.

I’m sorry that there was an issue with the boat. This unfortunately can happen from time to time, and I’m sorry that it caused a delay to your experience on one day. I’m 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 Ha’apai, 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.

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