France Outdoors French Polynesia

Whale-Watching & Swimming with Humpback Whales in Moorea


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Whale-Watching in Moorea

Within moments of arriving on the island of Moorea, French Polynesia, it’s easy to see why it’s known as the “magical island.” This Polynesian paradise near Tahiti is defined by its lush tropical volcanic landscape and seemingly endless ocean views. But delve beneath the water, and a whole other magical experience awaits you…humpback whales!

Between June and November, a colony of humpback whales call the islands of French Polynesia (and Moorea in particular) their home. One of the best things to do in Moorea is go whale-watching and whale swimming (snorkeling with humpback whales). It is one of those incredible travel experiences that won’t just be the highlight of your holiday but a story you tell for decades to come.

The humpback whale is highly revered in Polynesia both throughout history and today. These impressive creatures grow up to 2 meters long, can weigh around 3 tons, and live for 80 to 90 years. Their size might sound overwhelming and dangerous, but they are peaceful beings who only prey on minuscule crustaceans.

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Moorea Whale-Watching – Best Time of the Year

What time is best for whale watching in Moorea?

If you are planning your trip to Moorea solely around the humpback whale, then you need to know when they are likely to be in the area. Generally speaking, the season for whale watching in Moorea is between June and November. During these months, the humpback whales from Antarctica in the southern hemisphere begin their winter migration north. Some of these magnificent creatures choose the islands of French Polynesia as their new home.

Though the humpback whales’ first and last departures vary from season to season, owing to an array of factors, you are likely to be able to see these whales consistently from the end of July to November. Many consider mid-August to mid-October to be the peak season for seeing humpback whales in Moorea.

Beware that nobody can predict whales’ behavior, so it could happen that you don’t see whales during your Moorea whale-watching tour. However, there are other animals to watch (turtles, sharks, stingrays,…), and tour guides are always fun and entertaining and will make sure you have an amazing experience.

Are you planning a trip to Moorea?

Below are some of the best Moorea tours, hotels, and more!

How to Get to Moorea from Tahiti

After your flight to Papeete, in Tahiti, AirTahiti operates four Tahiti – Moorea flights a day most of the year, and the transfer is only 15 minutes long. Don’t harm the environment more for such a short distance, and use the ferry instead.

The best way to travel from Tahiti to Moorea is by ferry. Aremiti Ferry sails 7-10 times per day, and Terevau Ferry makes the transfer 5-7 times daily. The scenic transfer Tahiti – Moorea takes from 30 to 60 minutes.

Top Day Tours and Activities in Moorea

Top Moorea Accommodation and Lodging

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa (top suggestion), Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort  (luxury), Manava Beach Resort & Spa (mid-range), and Hotel Hibiscus (budget). Check out all our favorite hotels in Moorea.

Don’t leave for Moorea without travel insurance!

HeyMondo offers travelers insurance that combines medical and travel-related coverage for single trips (leisure and business trip), annual multi-trip, and extended stays (with Covid-19 coverage included). Use this link to get a 5% off.

Whale Swimming in Moorea

Humpback Whales - Moorea, French Polynesia

As well as whale watching, Moorea is one of the few places in the world where you can actually swim with humpback whales. Swimming with humpback whales is only permitted from the 1st of August.

French Polynesia became a sanctuary for the protection of whales and dolphins in 2002. Therefore, there are rules established by the DIREN (Direction of the Environment) about whale-swimming and snorkeling with humpback whales safely and in a way that doesn’t impact the environment or the whales. Because of this, swimming with whales in Moorea can only be done as part of a Moorea whale-watching tour with a qualified guide.

Official Moorea whale tour companies will ensure you are informed about the best practice for swimming with humpback whales. For example, there’s no freediving, boats will drop you off around 100 meters from the whale (150 meters from a whale if it’s with its baby), and you will swim to the whale calmly.

Swimming with whales in Moorea is an invigorating and incredible experience but one in which the safety of the whales should always be of the utmost importance. 

Best Moorea Whale Tours

There are a number of whale-watching tours you can take in Moorea. The Moorea whale tours outlined below are safety conscious and provide experiences in a way that is respectful to wildlife.

1. Whale-Watching Moorea – Small Group, Half Day

This small group whale-watching tour is ideal for those looking for an intimate whale-viewing experience. This Moorea whale tour allows for a maximum of six people, which is half the number of people usually permitted on such tours. This not only allows for a better experience for you but also ensures the well-being of the animals.

Starting at Coco Beach Restaurant on the north coast of Moorea, this Moorea whale-watching tour will provide you with snorkeling equipment, drinks, and snacks, all you need for an enjoyable experience before heading underwater to see the whales.

2. Whale-Watching Moorea – Private Group, Half Day

You can also book a private half-day whale-watching tour only for your group (up to 6 people), which gives you the best whale-watching experience. The tour lasts around four hours and includes pick-up from your hotel.

The experienced guides will give you a briefing on how to behave with the whales, and they are knowledgeable enough to be able to read the whales’ behavior. This is one of those tours where you will not only see these incredible creatures but learn a lot too.

3. Swimming with Whales and Dolphins – Half Day

This swimming with whales and dolphins half-day tour has been around since 1984. This eco-friendly tour prides itself in respecting the environment and the animals you will encounter. This tour includes swimming, not only with humpback whales but watching dolphins and snorkeling with stingrays and sharks. It’s an all-round experience that allows you to interact with a number of animals that call Moorea home. Pick-up from the hotel is possible. 

4. Whale-Watching & Swimming with Whales in Tahiti – Half Day

If you don’t plan to go to Moorea but still want to enjoy this unique experience, whale-watching and swimming with whales in Tahiti is also possible with this whale-watching and swimming half-day tour.

Mobydick Tahiti offers you the opportunity to embark with them to try to see these incredible cetaceans between Paea and Mataiea, a little-frequented area that will allow you to approach them in a respectful and passive way.

On this whale-watching and swimming half-day tour, the boat is equipped with a listening system (hydrophone) that allows you to hear the male whales singing, a unique experience!

5. Lagoon Discovery Marine Fauna & Flora Tour – Half Day

Perhaps it’s not feasible to travel to Moorea during whale watching season but fear not; you can still take a tour that allows you to explore the wonders of the waters that surround Moorea.

This half-day lagoon discovery marine fauna and flora tour is ideal for those wanting a small group trip. Your knowledgeable guide will teach you about stingrays, turtles, dolphins, and sharks. You’ll make several stops to snorkel and even visit a beautiful sandbar!

Whale Watching & Swimming with Humpback Whales – How it Works

So, what will your whale-watching Moorea tour look like, and how does it work? This experience can only be completed with a guided tour.

The typical Moorea whale tour will start with pick-up at your hotel (if included in the tour). Hopping on board your boat for the day, you will first stop by a beautiful sandbar, where you get the chance to swim with stingrays and black-tip sharks!

Next up, you’ll hopefully be able to see some incredible dolphins playing and jumping out of the water. As if your experience wasn’t incredible enough already, it’s time for the main event…the humpback whales!

How to Swim with Humpback Whales?

The instructor always knows the best place to snorkel with whales in Moorea. Once the whales are found (it does not always happen!), the instructor will determine if whale swimming (snorkeling with humpback whales) is possible (it will depend on the whales’ behavior, but also on the sea conditions and on you!).

During each launch, an instructor will always be present at your side to ensure that this moment of swimming with whales in Moorea takes place in complete safety.

There will also be time to relax and enjoy some drinks and snacks, surrounded by the unique environment of Moorea.

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