We have met some amazing people over the years and made a lot of friends along the way. Check out some of the comments people have made about our tours.
Every day on the water was breathtaking. One day would be calm waters with inquisitive baby whales, gentle mummy whales and indescribably incredible whale songs, then the next be epic breaches and chaotically intense heat runs. Amongst the countless humpback whale encounters, we also swam with pilot whales, dolphins and hundreds of fish.
In addition to his genuine love for nature and extensive underwater photography experience, Scott is the greatest guy you will ever meet. Having been running these tours for 15 years, Scott an accredited whale swim guide himself is extremely knowledgeable in all things Whales. Both on and off the water, Scott was always happy to make time for the group. In addition to sharing his wealth of photographic knowledge, he also happily assisted with equipment set up, optimal camera settings and post-processing teaching and advice. Furthermore on the rest days he was more than happy to tailer and organise the day around the group whether it be going for a swim, exploring the island or simply relaxing. We even went out exploring late at night to take photos of the stars. Additionally, when I had an incident with one of the airlines, Scott went above and beyond what I would ever expect from anybody to help me out.
The boat and staff were faultless. Having only 4 people on each trip is premium for maximum time in the water. There was always plenty of yummy food available for all and the boat was well equipped for photographers. But the staff on the boat took it to the next level. Their infectiously enthusiastic and friendly attitude made the boat trips exciting and delightful every day. With arguably the best and most experienced whale guides in Tonga, we had incredible experiences time and time again.
I have no hesitations whatsoever in highly recommending Scott Portelli’s SWGG tour. In fact I am already looking into booking a return trip as well as booking in on at least one other of his trips that he offers around the world.
The trip took my breath away and will be in my memory for ever. Definitely ranking up there in the top two trips of my life, alongside a month in Antarctica. To get so close and get so many stunning encounters was nothing short of dreamlike.
Scott’s tour was so well organised, being an intimate group of only four meant that we got maximum time in the water, the staff on the boat were really connected and worked together so that the Whales were always treated with the utmost care and respect. They always seemed to get us where we needed to be, whilst putting the Whales first. I guess that’s how the best experiences come about, with patience and knowledge. I am already booking my next trip with all my family. I can’t wait to get out there again.
Thanks Scott & Whales in the Wild & Swimming with Gentle Giants.
I found the tours run by SWTGG were unique in so many different aspects. There are only 4 people plus crew on each tour which potentially doubles up your time spent in the water with the whales. The crew are all experienced Tongan locals which spent much of their time exploring the ocean. Their knowledge of the ocean and the animals allowed us to have varied interactions from watching mothers and calves nuzzle up to each to watching wonderful courtship between adult whales. One of the most beautiful things about the tours was that we got to experience their life style too. The genuine interest in wildlife and love of their job was translated into every aspect of the tour. Another unique aspect of the tours is Scott him self. Being an experienced underwater photographer he had given me crucial tips and provided me with endless opportunities to get the images that I needed. His experience of photographing whales for the past 13 years has given him great understanding of their behaviour and their body language underwater and he uses that knowledge selflessly to guide us through this experience. The tour has by far exceeded any of my expectations of what swimming with the humpback whales would of been like and became so much more.
The opportunity to swim with the humpack whales, with mothers and calves, listen to the whales singing while also enjoying the beautiful waters of Tonga was fantastic. I would definitely recommend the trip.
I first met Scott on another huge life adventure and quickly learned that he had an execptional vision and compassion for wildlife both above and below the water. When I heard that he organised these tours to Vava’u in Tonga there was no one else I would have even considered booking with. Scott was accommodating and willing to listen to what we wanted and his crew on board the boats was exceptional in every way. Their knowledge of the humpback whales and other sea creatures was enlightening and I thank them from the bottom of my heary for making our (my hubby and my) experience something that will never be forgotten.
Antarctica is awesome, spending time with mountain gorillas humbling but being in the water with a singing whale has to be the most exhilarating experience I have ever had in my life!
The experience was surreal, it was unbelievable to be able to get so up close and personal with the humpback whales. We saw mother and calves and escorts and juveniles and watched them pop up spy hopping at the back of our boat! We were looking out for them, and it seemed they were looking for us too! They were curious. When they were close by we were in the water as soon as possible experiencing some amazing encounters. It was such an incredible, unforgettable, wonderful experience.
On lunch breaks we were taken to these beautiful caves or beaches where you can snorkel among the coral reefs and where you can see lots of amazing fish, plate corals, see stars, sea slugs, you name it. We enjoyed a packed lunch each day and had cupcakes which were a real treat. The only bananas allowed on the boat were lolly ones, but be sure to buy some from the markets for your leisure days. They are delicious.
If you are interested in a fun and friendly holiday that is not only relaxing but exhilarating then this may be the holiday for you. Swimming with the Gentle Giants with Scott Portelli and his team is a once in a lifetime experience, and if you are lucky you may even get to experience it twice. I know I would love to.
I had a wonderful experience and hope you do too. There is nothing quite like it, the feeling of seeing whales curiously look at you as they swim towards you, beside you, below you and around you.
Definitely one for the bucket list.
Their focus is on education, conservation, wildlife photography and fun. Their approach to the whales and the Tongan community is that of respect. Your in good hands with Scott and his guides.
The best experience for me came one day as we entered the water with a mom, calf and male escort. Scott lead us along side of the whales and positioned us in such a way that the female and male turned directly toward us. They stopped, noses touching near the surface and sun back lighting them, right in front of us maybe 3 meters away. We hung like that for a good minute, just us looking at them looking at us while the baby played below the adults. There are no words for what one feels except to say that I personally feel there is no better tool for conservation for the whales and the ocean than an experience like this.
Swimming with Gentle Giants will change your life forever. I highly recommend this company, their team and Scott.
Tia – MSc. Wildlife Conservation
I will never forget the time we had been swimming with a mother and her calf, simply enjoying their company when they decided to continue on their journey, not knowing which way they went or how far they had gone we simply bobbed around in the water waiting for the boat to come and collect us when literally 20 metres in front of us these 2 enormous creatures launched themselves out of the water breaching across each other. Being so close I felt the power through the water as I was left stunned at what had just happened right in front of my very eyes.
Every single day on the water brought new experiences and provided us with many more stories to tell over a glass of wine in one of the islands many wonderful restaurants and bars. No two days were the same with us exploring different parts of the island with our guide Scotty who offered endless information on the Whales, the locals, the way of life as well as providing us with some sound photography tips as well.
Swimming with the whales is a truly addictive experience one in which I will embark on again as soon as possible.
Without a doubt the most memorable experience I had was when an adult male was floating lazily beside our group and gently turned over, his pectoral fin outstretched and seemed to reach over to me and give me a friendly slap. It was incredible!
An unforgettable experience – something everyone should do at least once in their life.
Whilst the stories, the photographs I had seen prior to my trip gave me some insight into what to expect… absolutely nothing can even come close or describe what it is actually like to be right there in the water with a whale first hand and the beauty of a mother nurturing it’s calf.
If you want to do something that will remain with you forever and encounter these amazing creatures, Swimming with Gentle Giants can take you there. Indescribable!
My heartbeat is running and I can’t breathe anymore. (Without a snorkel I would’ve drowned or at least drunk 1000 litres of seawater.)
There is only one thing I can hear and that is my own-heavy- breath. IT IS AMAZING, AWESOME, INCREDIBLE, FANTASTIC, SHOCKING, CHRISTAMS AND BIRTHDAY AND…Much much more. It’s a feeling you can’t describe!
There were 3 adult Humpback whales plus a calf and they aren’t small at all. Back on the boat I had a little shock: I neither could speak (in any language) nor cry; I never felt like that before.
The next week in Vava’u was awesome; I had such a beautiful time. Every day we found whales who wanted to hang out with us. They shared a tiny little part of their lives with us and didn’t have a clue how they made us feel.
One special thing about them was their look: when they look at you, they see you, like you see them. They don’t know what we are, but they can definitely see us as we see ourselves in the mirror. And that is just amazing. I love whales.
My first day on the water I will never forget. I shared the water with a curious baby humpback, mother and male escort. All three were relaxed as I floated above them, while I was so excited I had to keep reminding myself this was really happening. Then the humpback calf surfaced, approaching like a playful puppy, bouncing by and checking me out at close range. So close in fact my camera could only fit half of his oversized baby’s body in the shot. I wondered what he would tell his mum as he dove down to be back by her side. Moments later the family slowly rose, peacefully surfacing beside me like huge submarines. They allowed me into their space. They nuzzled and touched lovingly as I floated close by. An unbelievable privilege to be in their presence.
The following days were filled with similar wonderful encounters. One day we floated 20m above a male humpback while he sung his original whale song hoping to attract a mate. Our chests reverberated like we were at a rock concert as he hit the deep base notes.
Scott and his team know and respect the whales. They ensure encounters are safe and on the whales terms, and the whales open their world to him. This really is an experience of a lifetime.
One of my most cherished experiences with Scotty was getting in the water and just floating above a mother and her calf while she was feeding, the calf was inquisitive and swam right around us before heading back down to the safety of it’s mother, to my amazement it continued to do this for the rest of the time we were in the water. The heightened understanding I received that day of how very gentle, beautiful and intelligent these creatures are was a gift I am blessed to have experienced and will never forget.
Scotty is an amazing guide that makes the whole trip incredibly enjoyable from his local knowledge of the area and Tongan people, his amazing affinity and love for the whales we encountered and his genuine wish to make every trip fun, exciting and unforgettable.
Thanks Scotty, I’m hooked!
If a picture is worth a thousand words then a thousand pictures will still not explain what it is like to be alongside a whale in its own environment, where they choose to spend time with you. You are eyeball-to-eyeball with one of the most astonishing creatures you will ever see and you will have feelings you never had before … and you will never be quite the same again. Treat yourself while you can, you will not regret it.
On other sightings, lone males blow and the show their flukes as they dive deep for many minutes at a time. This provided an opportunity to hear Humpback whale song first hand just by bring in the water. Hearing this unique singing was incredible and feeling the vibrations passing through your body is indescribable. For those people in our group who didn’t want to get into the water didn’t miss out as a hydrophone was placed into the water (but when the water is a beautiful 25-27 deg cel, I couldn’t help but jump in the water at every opportunity!).
Another day we had a calf repeatitively breaching within about 30m of the boat and just when we thought it couldn’t possibly get any better, the mother breached…we were speechless! the calf finished off the ‘show’ with another breach and then they continued swimming by.
I’ve been fortunate to have seen the humpbacks numerous times along the NSW coast, but to have an experience like this, there is nothing like it! Thanks Scott and the experienced Tongan skipper and crew for enabling me to experience these amazing mammals and the other marine animals we came across (pilot whales, spinner dolphins and common dolphins and a manta ray) and great snorkelling locations for our lunch break. I can’t wait to travel back to Tonga and do it all over again!
My main interest was being able to see some sperm whales and see some sperm whales I did, we had some awesome encounters that I will never forget. Our guide ensured that each of us on the tour had our share of amazing encounters and ensured that we got the most out of our time on the water. The crew were very mindful of our needs and we were looked after.
On land, the tour was so well organised that all I literally had to do was show up! Absolutely everything was taken care of, our accommodation was tidy and clean and the food was great.
I highly recommend Swimming with Gentle Giants tours and am looking forward to the next opportunity that I have to go on another one!