Swim With Whales in French Polynesia

swim with whales in French polynesia

French Polynesia is one of the very few places left in the world where you are allowed to enter the water with whales. Simply being in a boat near these gentle giants is a once in a lifetime experience. But being in the water and making eye contact with a whale is pure magic.

In this post, I will cover everything you need to know and why I personally recommend booking with Moorea Moana Tours!

baby humpback whales jumping out of the water

Photographer: Kori

moorea moana tours owner, Pierrick in the water with stingrays

Meet Pierrick, owner of Moorea Moana Tours. Pierrick is Tahitian and once you have experienced Tahitian culture in its finest you will forever know and understand the deep rooted respect Tahitians have for mother nature, the ocean, and all living things.

At the age six, Pierrick's father taught him how to free dive and spearfish in the open ocean. As you can imagine, he has acquired an impressive amount of knowledge and experience working directly with wildlife for over twenty years.

In addition to the tour company, Pierrick and his longtime girlfriend, Kori, are cofounders of a local nonprofit organization, Mao Mana Foundation.

If you have a moment, I invite you to learn more about their community education outreach, shark research, conservation efforts, and more. It truly is inspiring and educational.

Click here to visit the foundations website

baby humpback whale swimming down into the water

Photographer: Ashley

As I mentioned above, the owner is Tahitian, which is the biggest reason I choose Moorea Moana Tours. It was heartwarming to hear from Kori that they only employ Tahitians.

In true Tahitian fashion, the ethics and values are not only within Pierrick himself, but in every single member of the team. Some may be disappointed when the captain or guide decides it is time to leave a whale for the safety of the whale or passengers, personally I appreciated the great deal of respect shown to both.

Lastly, after searching online and asking friends on island, I found that they truly have a great reputation for keeping the high standards and respect for the wildlife.

ashley swimming with humpback whales

Photographer: Kori

When to visit:

July - October.

The Humpback Whales migrate all the way from Antarctica to French Polynesia typically arriving, mid-July. They stay in the warm waters for approximately four and a half months while they give birth and reproduce. Keep in mind, these are still wild animals so; the arrival and departure times may vary a week or two from year to year.

In French Polynesia, they are able to go out into the ocean during the day and then into the lagoon at night to rest safely away from predators.

Early to mid-September is known to be a fantastic time to observe the newborns with mom. Often times, you may also be able to see a male, often referred to as an escort or minder. The males sing powerful songs that travel for hundreds of miles underwater. When he is singing close enough, it vibrates your entire body!

The first two weeks of October are also particularly exceptional. The babies are likely, just hitting 5-6 weeks of age and they are so curious and playful.

photo of a mom and baby humpback whale in french polynesia

Photographer: James Doughty

What to expect:

Unforgettable lifelong moments, with a strong respect for wildlife and your safety.

Tours are around four hours long. Not only, will you potentially see and swim with humpback whales, but you will also start your morning off swimming in crystal clear water with the cutest, friendliest rays and blacktip reef sharks!! This is a major bonus and a great time to check that your mask, fins, and snorkel are a good fit for you.

PS you can hire a photographer for the experience if you like. This is an unbelievably beautiful location to get those half/half shots!

swimming with the rays
swimming with sharks and Rays in french polynesia

Photographer: James Doughty

From there you will slowly exit the lagoon and your guide will explain what the captain and himself will be looking out for, how you should behave in the water, the rules set by the French Polynesian government, and their own personal code of conduct.

Once a whale is located, the guide and captain will assess the whale’s behavior, conditions of the weather, water, and how many other boats are in the area.

If, they feel it is safe for both the whales and passengers, you will be instructed to enter the water quietly and slowly. Be advised, boats cannot operate within 100m of the whales so, expect to swim with your fins underwater. You will slowly swim close enough to see the whales and from there, you simply sit still and observe.

Do not swim at the whales or dive down to them.

photo of a mom, baby, and male humpback whale in french polynesia
photo of a mom, baby, and male humpback whale in french polynesia

Photographer: Ashley

Once your incredible lifelong memories have been fulfilled, you will cruise back to lagoon while the guide cuts up fresh fruit. Do not, I repeat do not pass up the opportunity to eat fresh fruits. The pineapple is the best in the world! Along, with the delicious fruits you may also enjoy some Tahitian Rum Punch. Also, one I would not pass up and you guessed it, both are locally sourced!

baby humpback whale playing in the water

Photographer: Ashley

What to bring:
-Mask (if you do not have one, ask)
-Fins (if you do not have one, ask)
-Snorkel (if you do not have one, ask)
-Wetsuit or rash guard if you get cold easily
-Reef Safe Sunscreen

For many, this is a once in a lifetime, dream come true experience. It is my hope that one day, you will have this magical experience, and when you do, I hope you choose to support local.
Many thanks and much love, Ashley

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