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Imagine the coming eye to eye with one of the world’s most majestic gentle giants. If your dream is to go diving withe whales, we’ve found the best liveaboard trips for you.
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Why dive with whales?
While there are over 40 species of whales (including their smaller cousins – the dolphins), the largest of them, the Blue Whale, is also considered the biggest living animal in the world where they can grow up to 100 meters (98 feet) in length and can weigh up to 180 metric tons. On top of their huge size, we are also amazed by how whales swim slowly and gently as if they are performing an underwater acrobatic ballet dance.
Since they require a large area to survive, whales are often found far offshore. Some of them travel far distances following either feeding or breeding migration pathways. With this, the best way to get to the whales is by booking a liveaboard trip. These custom-built vessels have long-range sailing capabilities that can reach remote locations where the whales thrive in abundance.
Before we dive in…
Not all liveaboards allow you to go scuba diving with whales. Some liveaboards may only allow you to go snorkeling as there are legal restrictions imposed (this may vary per country). Second, do not expect to see whale sharks (although you may see one or two if it’s your lucky day). Whalesharks are not whales. They are technically sharks and are considered the biggest fish in the world.
The Best Liveaboard Trips to Dive with Whales: At a Glance
Year of Commission: 2000 (renovated 2013) Capacity: 18 guests Area of Operation: Turks and Caicos / Dominican Republic Dive Destination: Silver Banks Whales to be encountered: Humpback whales
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor II is a 37 meter (121 feet) long luxury liveaboard vessel that offers dive safari adventures in Turks and Caicos and snorkeling tours with humpback whales in the neighboring Dominican Republic. It can accommodate up to 18 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 9 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices include the Master Stateroom, Deluxe Stateroom, and the Twin-share Staterooms. Onboard amenities will keep you occupied like the main saloon, a wet bar, a shaded sundeck that is fitted with a jacuzzi and a dining area that serves Caribbean and American dishes.
From January to April, the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II will disembark on an 8-day journey towards the Silver Banks of the Dominican Republic. These protected waters are a safe haven for humpback whales where they migrate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean. Once onboard the Turks and Caicos Aggressor II, your interaction with the humpback whales will be divided into 2 parts. The first part is the whale watching event where you will position yourself on the deck and watch the breaching of male humpback whales as they leap out of the water while trying to attract the attention of a potential female mating partner. The second is the snorkeling adventures where you will go in the water and usually swim near a mother and calf in close proximity.
Year of Commission: 2000 Capacity: 8 guests Area of Operation: French Polynesia Dive Destination: Mo’orea Whales to be encountered: Sperm whales and Humpback whales
The Aqua Tiki II is an 18 meter (59 feet) long luxury sailing catamaran that offers dive safari, snorkeling and whale watching tours in French Polynesia. It specializes in small groups and has a maximum capacity of 8 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 4 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices includes the Twin Cabin, Double Cabin and the VIP Cabin. Although small in size, it still has onboard amenities like the main lounge that is fitted with TV, a library with lots of Fish Identification books, trampoline at the bow that serves as a sun deck and a dining area that serves freshly prepared foods.
When you book with the Aqua Tiki from July to November, you will never fall short when it comes to whale watching, both at the surface and underwater. On top of being declared as a Marine Mammal Sanctuary, a myriad of whale species visits the waters of French Polynesia, particularly in the area of Mo’orea. Aside from several species of dolphins, there are 2 dominant whale species that can be seen during the said months: the sperm whale and the humpback whales. Sperm whales are often seen swimming gently at the surface while humpback whales (especially the males) has the tendency to breach and leap out of the water creating a big splash.
Year of Commission: 1999 (renovated 2013) Capacity: 20 guests Area of Operation: Mexico Dive Destination: Baja California Peninsula (Sea of Cortez) Whales to be encountered: Blue whales, Fin whales, Killer Whales, Humpback whales and Sperm whales
The Valentina is 38 meter (125 feet) long liveaboard vessel that offers underwater interaction with whales along with other marine species like sharks and rays. It can accommodate up to 20 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 10 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices includes the Deluxe Bunk Bed Cabins, the Deluxe Twin Cabins and the Deluxe Double Cabins. Onboard amenities will keep you occupied like the main saloon, a sun deck and an air-conditioned dining hall that serves Mexican, European and Asian dishes prepared by their in-house chef.
Prior to their bestselling trip to Socorro Island that runs from November to May, the Valentina will disembark on a 6 to 7-day journey towards Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula in the Sea of Cortez. On top of sea lions and whale sharks where you will interact with them underwater while diving, you can see (while standing at the viewing deck of the vessel) sperm whales, fin whales, humpback whales or even a pod of Killer whales. If it is your lucky day, then you might see the biggest animal that ever lived on the planet – the blue whales.
Year of Commission: 2000 (renovated 2015) Capacity: 25 guests Area of Operation: Mexico Dive Destination: Socorro Island Whales to be encountered: Humpback whales
The Nautilus Explorer is a 35 meter (115 feet) long custom-built liveaboard vessel that offers whale watching tours in Socorro Island of Mexico. It can accommodate up to 25 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 13 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices includes the Triple Stateroom, the Double Stateroom, the Single Stateroom and the Superior Suites. Onboard amenities will keep you occupied like the main saloon that is fitted with comfortable couches, PC computers and a 42-inch television, a sun deck and a dining area that serves freshly cooked foods.
On top of the adrenaline-loaded cage diving with great white sharks, the Nautilus Explorer offers whale watching tours from November to April where the surrounding waters of Socorro Island is loaded up with one of the gentle giants of the deep – humpback whales. When you go snorkeling, you can see that this gentleness is best exhibited by the swimming pattern of the mother and calf. But the case is totally different for male humpback whales as they display their might to attract females when they breach out in surface waters often landing on their backside.
Year of Commission: 2001 (renovated 2019) Capacity: 16 guests Area of Operation: Ecuador Dive Destination: Galapagos Island Whales to be encountered: Killer Whales
The Blue Spirit is a 31 meter (102 feet) long liveaboard vessel that offers diving adventures with killer whales in the Galapagos Island of Ecuador. It can accommodate up to 16 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 10 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices include the lower deck and the upper deck cabins where it has a twin occupancy. Onboard amenities will keep you occupied during the long journey from mainland Ecuador to the offshore island of Galapagos like the main saloon, a sun deck and a dining area that serves international cuisine prepared by their in-house chef.
The whale interaction of the Blue Spirit and the rest of the liveaboards that operate in Galapagos Island is unique since this is one of the few experiences where the interaction will happen underwater. Except for the pod of dolphins, it is very seldom that you can see whales swimming or breach out of the surface. Everything happens underwater. And it is not just any type of whale that you will encounter when you dive in Galapagos, but often you will see the passing by of Killer whales. The interaction usually happens once you reach the reef ledge where orcas will pass by just a few meters away from the limestone wall.
Year of Commission: 2015 Capacity: 12 guests Area of Operation: Australia Dive Destination: Great Barrier Reef Whales to be encountered: Minke whales, Southern right whales and Humpback whales
The Coral Sea Dreaming is an 18 meter (59 feet) long liveaboard sailboat that offers whale watching tours in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. It can accommodate up to 12 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 4 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices includes the Quad Cabins, the Bunk Bed Cabins and the Private Cabin. While sailing towards the largest reef system in the world, onboard amenities will keep you occupied like the air-conditioned saloon, a sun deck and a dining galley that serves sumptuous meals.
While the eastern coast of Australia is part of the migration pathways of many whale species, the best place to see them is at the outer stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. From June to November, the Coral Sea Dreaming will disembark on a 2 to 3-day journey to anticipate the arrival of Minke whales. When you sail towards the outskirts of New South Wales, you will find Southern right whales and humpback whales.
Year of Commission: 1989 Capacity: 116 guests Area of Operation: Argentina Dive Destination: Valdes Peninsula Whales to be encountered: Southern right whales and Killer whales
The Ortelius is a 91 meter (298 feet) long arctic expedition vessel that offers whale watching tours in Valdes Peninsula of Argentina. It can accommodate up to 116 guests where you can relax, feel warm and rest from a selection of 53 cabins. Your room choices includes the Quadrupole porthole cabins, Triple porthole cabins, Double porthole cabins, WIndow Deck cabins and the Superior Cabins. During the long journey towards the arctic coast of Argentina, onboard amenities will keep you occupied like the main saloon, a sun deck which also acts as the viewing deck and a large dining area that serves freshly cooked meals.
Every July to September, the Ortelius will set sail on an 8 to 14-day journey towards the arctic coast of Argentina, particularly in Valdes Peninsula. While you will be spending most of the time inside the vessel as the temperature is warm, wait until one of the crew will shout “Whales, Whales, Whales”. With this, you should always be prepared with your outdoor wear like a parka and a pair of boots. You will then proceed to the viewing deck of the vessel where you can have a panoramic view of the sea and an unobstructed view of the whales. The common species of whales that you can see are the killer whales that goes in pods. Southern right whales also flock this part of Argentina. In fact, due to its abundance, the Argentine town of Punto Piramides has declared the month of September as the National Right Whale Day.
Year of Commission: 1992 (renovated 2015) Capacity: 14 guests Area of Operation: Hawaii Dive Destination: Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Lahaina, and Maalaea Whales to be encountered: Humpback whales
If there is a ground zero for humpback whale watching, then nothing beats Hawaii. Over 300,000 guests visit Hawaii each year to watch and observe humpback whales. With peak season that runs from December to April, an estimated 10,000 humpback whales will drop by at the Hawaiian waters en route to their Northern Pacific migration path. Most of the humpback whales that can be found in Hawaii during these months are giving birth to their calves. They are mostly found in the shallow waters of Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, Lahaina and Maalaea.
The Kona Aggressor II will take you to the birthing grounds of humpback whales in Hawaii. Your whale interaction with the Kona Aggressor II involves 2 parts: watching them at the viewing deck of the vessel or go snorkeling and see how mother humpback whales nurse their young. What is good if you book with the Kona Aggressor II is that, on top of the whale watching tour, you can go on a 7-day dive safari tour and explore popular dive sites like Paradise Pinnacle, Tubestria Tunnel, The Hive, Turtle Pinnacle and Rob’s Reef. This 24 meter (79 feet) long liveaboard vessel is like a floating Hawaiian hotel. It can accommodate up to 14 guests where you can relax and rest from a selection of 6 air-conditioned cabins. Your room choices includes the Quad Staterooms and the Deluxe Staterooms with onboard amenities like the main saloon, a wet bar, a moon deck bar, a sun deck with jacuzzi, a swim step at the bow and an air-conditioned dining area that serves freshly made Hawaiian dishes.
Year of Commission: 1976 (renovated 2009) Capacity: 116 guests Area of Operation: Norway Dive Destination: The Fjords and the Arctic Ocean Whales to be encountered: Killer whales
If fjords and orcas are in your bucket list, then get on board the Plancius and head out to Norway and the surrounding waters of the Arctic Ocean. They offer the famous Orca Expedition where you can get up close with one of the most intelligent marine mammals – the Killer whales. While the surrounding environment is predominantly cold, this 89 meter (292 feet) long arctic liveaboard vessel can warmly accommodate up to 116 guests where you can stay and sleep either at the Quadruple Porthole Cabins, the Triple Porthole Cabins, the Twin Porthole Cabins, the Deluxe Cabins and the Superior Deluxe Cabin. On top of the Orca Expedition, you can also go scuba diving. But you have to take note that proper training and experience on ice diving is required.
Year of Commission: 1979 (renovated 2010) Capacity: 16 guests Area of Operation: Tonga Dive Destination: Vava’u Whales to be encountered: Humpback whales
While we have presented several destinations that features humpback whales, the ones that you will see in Tonga are unique since they come from a specific population and they come here every year (from June to November) to mate and give birth to their young. What really stands out with your humpback whale interaction in Tonga and sets apart from other destinations is the tropical condition and that visibility is always crystal clear reaching over 30 meters (98 feet).
While primarily based in Fiji, the Nai’a will also set sail to Tonga from July to August in time for the arrival of the humpback whales. This 37 meter (121 feet) long liveaboard vessel is the only accredited boat to do whale watching in Tonga and bookings are easily filled up since their seats are selling like hotcakes. It has 9 cabins that can accommodate up to 16 guests where their rooms are classified as Staterooms that can be configured with a King Bed (ideal for couples), King Bed with Bunk Bed, Single Beds and Bunk Beds.
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