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.
We just want you to know what an outstanding job Grant delivered to lead our group.
With a diverse mix of backgrounds and nationalities amongst our group, Grant’s array of people skills and passion maintained a good atmosphere.
We loved the variety each day brought and the wonderful experience that our crew helped create. The cohesion between our Captain Villi, and Guide Lucky, brought a confidence and a rest. Watching their expertise and care for the whales on each encounter provided a level of professionalism that was unexpected. They made sure we were ready, coached our interactions, and discouraged anything that would not support the mothers and calves. It was so refreshing to see how much they appreciate the rich treasure the whales are for this environment and how important they are for Tonga. Both Grant and Lucky shepherded the weaker swimmers, giving them opportunities to come closer to whales and swim into caves that would normally be beyond their reach.
Perhaps our most favourite part of the trip was Grant’s total engagement with each of us. He conversed with everyone, checking in to see what else we might need, any extra equipment that might be needed, and made sure we were well fed and watered. His photos and footage captured throughout the week is just so fantastic. It is such a great boost to our own photos and videos, and to have our experience so well documented by him means the world to us. Over and over again we look at the photos and are so grateful for his skill and willingness to go the extra mile to capture every moment. We so appreciate Grant sharing his photos and drone footage to contribute to the iMovie and PowerPoint currently being creating to show Mel’s Kindergarten to Year 6 boys on her return to school. Our experience will open their eyes to new possibilities and inspire them to protect the gentle giants of the Tongan tribe. We hope they capture the importance of advocating to protect our ocean environments for their children and their grandchildren to come.
We have cc’d Grant here to express our gratitude for his continuous effort and the enormous happiness he has brought both of us. He is such an asset to your company, and we are incredibly grateful to have been gifted him for our time in Tonga.
Grant, Lucky and Villi were the best !!!!
They looked after me in every way.
They found the great whale experiences!!
Lucky made sure I got in close with my smaller camera and smaller fins.
Grant freely shared his photography skills n knew the tg6 back to front . A fantastic tour leader. !!!
Villi made sure we found the whales .
They were all so passionate about their jobs and so eager to give us the best time.
I thought from my first email your trips would be good and the tour exceeded my expectations.
Food was great each day and accommodation was beautiful.
A great team !!!!
And I want to write a special thank you to Grant, who has been wonderful and made my experience even more amazing. He was always very responsive over email and that gave me comfort in embarking on this very long journey, because I knew that between you, Grant and Kate – everything was planned and taken care of for my arrival. And when I actually got to Tonga, Grant stopped by my house to make sure I am prepared and know what to expect the next day – I was kind of freaking out at the house alone with no internet, so was very happy to see him! Haha. And each and every day throughout my stay in Tonga he was always supportive and went above and beyond to make sure my experience was as best as it could be. And on top of all that, he took some incredibly magical photos of me under water, that I will literally cherish for the rest of my life and show to my grandkids! Attaching one here because I can’t stop sending it to everyone I know! Grant told me the story of how you hired him – I’m sure you’re very happy with that decision, along with all the tour participants that get to work with Grant.
I also want to give a shout out to the local crew, especially Vili and Lucky. They work so well together as a team and just know the ocean and the whales so well that on a day when many other boats saw nothing in the water, I jumped in the water like 4-5 times and saw whales each time. I know the rest of our group thought the same, so please let them know how great they are when you see them 🙂 I could feel that to them, it’s not just a job, it is a passion and they really care about both the whales as well as making our experience great, so I really appreciated that.
I am already thinking of the next adventure I will choose to go on in the next couple years, and it is very likely that it will be one of yours! Thank you for opening a whole new world to me, Scott – these are lifelong memories.
Scott made my dream come true, and I will always be eternally thankful with him. I do believe in destiny, and I do not think that I met Scott by chance to swim with the whales. Before entering the water Scott would always brief us on what we would see and in the water, he has the gift to convey a cosmic emotion of peace and safety. He knows how to read the behaviour of Humpback whales in seconds just the slightest movement of a mother and calf. From these movements, he could tell whether the whales would be moving, resting, in a playful mood, or if the calf had just been fed. It is just amazing. These small yet extremely valuable insights make the experience priceless.
Being an economist, I have defined it the Scott Portelli added value which you will not find easily around. Scott has a deep bond with nature and with these amazing creatures, and he is able to share this passion and bond when you travel with him. My suggestion if you are a nature lover: book a trip with Scott at least once in your life. Also, I feel that my bond with nature has been completely re-defined thanks to the trip I took with him. Finally, my hope in the future is to be able to travel with once again. Scott, a big and sincere thank you from the bottom of my heart.
It’s rare that all things align to be absolutely amazing when you travel, so having just experienced this very thing with Scott Portelli and Swimming with Gentle Giants, I’m happy to say it’s been the best life experience for me to date.
I’ve come away from this experience with a deeper understanding about humpback whale behaviour thanks to Scott and his team; an even greater appreciation of Scott’s skill in capturing these majestic creatures while they play, pursue and communicate with each other; huge respect for Scott’s passion and his approach to nature and research; renewed vigour for jumping into the ocean to discover new things and the bonus is I’ve gained a bunch of new friends.
You get the whole package when you book a holiday with Swimming with Gentle Giants.
From the get-go, the communication between Scott and myself was informative and efficient, the professionalism in which he arranges the tour, organises the meet and greet, conducts the on and in-water briefing and guides and supports you through your mind-blowing encounters with cetaceans is excellent. And the knowledge and skill of Scott and his guides in locating whales to swim with is impressive. Even the thoughtful little touch at the end surely makes Scott’s tour stand out from any of the others (but I’m not giving away that surprise!).
Our group couldn’t have asked for 8 more diverse and exciting days of whale interactions. I pity my mates at home who are going to hear about this adventure on repeat.
Australia’s first instagrammer, Digital Influencer
My 2nd trip with Scott was to Rwanda to see the mountain gorillas and again, an absolute highlight. The trip itself was wonderful, the accommodations lovely. Seeing these majestic creatures up close is the stuff of dreams. If it’s on your bucket list do it! You won’t regret it.
One of the great things about Scott is he is a really calm person to travel with and I knew he’d be across all the admin, and I could just relax and enjoy the experience. I’ve jokingly told him more than once he will send me broke one day because every time he sends an email of his recent trips I start dreaming of where to go next. Norway and the Orcas are top of the list.
You honestly won’t regret accompanying Scott on any of his trips.
Extraordinary and indescribable are two words that come to mind when attempting to retell the experience of swimming with humpback whales. The pristine blue and turquoise waters allows you to greet these enormous, yet curious mammals and literally meet them eye to eye.
To swim alongside these gentle giants is a humbling experience and it’s the skill and experience that Scott and his crew bring that makes all of it possible. The knowledge that Scott shares and his passion for everything to do with the oceans is infectious. His humble dedication and commitment to environmental sustainability and protection is admirable.
If you’re one of the few who get to experience this magical place with Scott and his team, consider yourself really really lucky. We can’t wait to do it all over again.
Thank you, Scott.
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!