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Humpback Whale Watching


The chance to swim alongside this magnificent animals

Humpbacks are known for their complex, imaginative songs which have the largest frequency range used by whales. In warm waters, they create beautiful, sometimes eerie sequences of squeaks and howls that travel through calm oceans. When the water is cold, the sounds become rougher, sounding more like groans. The reason for their songs and the difference in temperature in not known but could be to do with mating season or hunting, although only males have been recorded singing.

Where do Humpback Whales Live?

These powerful swimmers are found in all major ocean basins and are migratory, spending the summer in cooler polar waters, and then calving in tropical waters. The population living in the Arabian Sea is an exception to the rule, sticking to tropical waters year round. Humpbacks are seen as far south as Antarctica and as far north as the Canadian and Norwegian Arctic then can be seen in destinations such as Canada, Costa Rica, Madagascar, Alaska and Colombia. The four populations of humpback are known as North Atlantic, North Pacific, Northern Indian Ocean and Southern Hemisphere.

Indian Ocean Reunion Patrick Dykstra Swimming With Humpbacks

The Best Time to See Humpbacks in the Cook Islands

Our Swimming with Humpback Whales in the Cook Islands Safari is in September

The Best Time to See Humpbacks in the Polar Regions

The best time to see humpbacks in the Polar Regions is the summer, bearing in mind that the summer in the Arctic will be end of May to August, and in Antarctica will be end of October to February. Despite there being less daylight, you can also swim with Humpbacks in Norway on our Swimming with Orca Safari in November.

The Best Time to See Humpbacks in Madagascar

In Madagascar, Humpback whales migrate from July to September through a channel between the mainland and Ile Sainte Marie on their way to the breeding grounds, providing an excellent opportunity to view them.

Reunion Joshua Barton Humpback And Photographer


Swimming alongside these magnificent animals in the Cook Islands, with just a snorkel, is a fascinating privilege. Staying in your water facing villa at Aitutaki Private Island Resort, you will spend your days on the boat and swimming with the humpbacks.

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The Humpback Whale

  • One of the larger species of baleen whale, humpbacks weigh approximately 40 tons and range between 48 to 62.5 ft (14.6 to 19 m) in length.
  • Named after their shape as they dive under the surface, these impressive animals are very acrobatic, often breaching high out of the water, spy-hopping and lob-tailing, e.g. slapping the surface of the water with their tails creating a loud smack.
  • Swimming between 3-9mph with bursts up to 16.5mph in emergencies, they can dive for up to 30 minutes at a time reaching depths of up to 210 metres.
  • They give birth to one calf every one to three years, with a bond between mother and calf rarely broken. Humpback calves do not stop growing until they are around 10 years old.
  • You can see humpbacks of four different colours; white, grey, black and mottled, and they all have distinctive patches of white under their tails, a marking which is as unique as a fingerprint to each individual whale.
  • Throat grooves from their naval to their throat allow them to gulp huge amounts of krill and water during filter feeding and they have small bumps on the front of their heads and spout once or twice a minute whilst resting through two blowholes causing a double stream soaring over a metre in the air. This is their equivalent of breathing.
  • Humpbacks have unique, technical feeding habits. Working together, pods will form a circle, blowing bubbles as they swim in a spiral towards the surface – essentially forcing the prey, usually krill, plankton or other small fish, to the surface in a large concentrated mass.
  • Humpback whales are listed as least concern thanks to worldwide protection since the 1960s.