Dreaming of whale watching in Moorea? It’s about to come true!

Among many activities, whale watching and the desire to swim with them are some of the top things that tourists think of when they visit Moorea island.

The clear blue waters here provide a habitat for a variety of marine life including humpback whales. Islands of French Polynesia especially Rurutu, Rangiroa and Moorea are one of the few places in the world that offer you a chance to swim with whales.

Swimming with whales in Moorea isn’t an easy thing, you may catch a sight of whales from your boat easily, but being able to swim with these sea giants is once in a lifetime experience.

It could take you minutes to hours to find a perfect spot and time to dive into the water and see whales up closely. So, it’s important that you go with a professional whale tour guide who knows all about whales and can help you swim with them in a safe environment.

Best Whale Watching Tours in Moorea

whale watching in Moorea happening underwater

Quick tip; Book in advance as these whale tours tend to get filled up pretty quickly.

Here is a list of the 5 best whale swimming / whale watching tours in Moorea.

1. Swim with humpback whales

Rating: 5/5 Stars

⏳Tour Length: 3-4 Hours

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This tour by Catallina Tours is among the best whale tours in Moorea. Travelers have given them great reviews, raving about the amazing experiences they’ve had.

Whether you’re staying at a resort or coming to Moorea from Tahiti on a ferry, they can pick you up from your location, or you can just meet them at the Moorea Activities Center in the neighborhood of Opunohu.

You’ll hop on a boat with a group of around 10 people and head out to sea in search of humpback whales. Your guide will give you some general information about the whales and some safety tips to keep it safe for both the parties, the whales and you.

Sometimes you spot whales right away and other times you might have to wait a little longer. Once a target is spotted, your guide will check out the whale’s behavior before making a jump into the water.

Your swimming skills will definitely come in handy here as it’ll require lots of swimming in order to get close to these magnificent creatures.

It isn’t necessary to always see whales up close, as you have to maintain a safe distance from them. But if you’re lucky, a whale might swim right up to you and you could get a close-up look.

After this incredible experience, they will take you to a lagoon where you can snorkel and see sharks, rays, reefs and many other fish underwater.

The expedition ends with some delicious fruits and juices and what could be better than that.

2. Ocean Wildlife Expedition; Swim With Whales, Sharks, & Rays

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Tour Length: 4 Hours

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If you’re looking for a tour that’s not just about whale watching but also lets you explore some fantastic snorkeling spots in Moorea, and to see other marine life, then this tour by Moorea Moana Tours is for you.

The tour only allows a maximum of ten people to ensure a more personalized experience. Also, it lets you choose the time, whether you want to do it in the morning or afternoon.

On the boat ride, your guide will give an overview of the tour, share some swimming tips and other interesting stuff about Moorea’s water so you’re well-informed.

Your guide will take you to areas where there is a high chance of spotting whales and the possibility of swimming with them. If lucky enough, you might hear whales singing as well.

Keep in mind that swimming with whales requires a good bit of swimming, so be prepared for a workout. If you’re not a strong swimmer or physically fit, it’d be tough for you. But don’t worry, you can still watch whales from the boat.

Also, note that you can only get to swim with whales in whale season.

After the whale watching, you’ll head out for some snorkeling fun if you haven’t done this part already. You will get to see sharks, rays, dolphins, turtles, coral reefs and other types of whales such as pilot whales.

Moreover, the tour operator offers photo taking service for a little extra, this way you not only have a great time but also have the opportunity to capture your precious memories.

Man capturing humpback whale underwater

3. Private Excursion: Marine Wildlife Observation and Whale Watching

Rating: 5/5 Stars

⏳Tour Length: 4 Hours

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If you’re looking for a private and comfortable boat to explore Moorea’s marine life and swim with whales, this half-day tour can help you with that.

Before going on the tour, they discuss many activities and options with you and even allow you to customize it based on your liking. This tour is all about giving you a more personalized experience.

You’ll be provided with all the snorkeling gear and safety equipment you need, and then head out in the ocean, 100s of meters away from the shore in search of whales. Your guide will not only help you swim alongside whales but also educate you about Moorea’s fauna.

In addition to whale watching, you also get to snorkel at a lagoon where you’ll find reefs, sharks and different kinds of fish. The staff tries to keep you away from the crowds during this whole excursion, so you can enjoy this all to yourself.

Last but not least, you’ll get a chance to grab some snacks and drinks at Motu Tiahura. There you can spend some time, maybe relax a bit and admire the stunning waterscape of Moorea.

4. Swimming with Whales and Dolphins in Moorea

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

⏳Tour Length: 4 Hours

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This tour is perfect for whale lovers who are on a budget and don’t want to skimp on their whale experience in Moorea.

The staff will provide you will all the necessary snorkeling gear and information for this tour and then you set off on the boat to find whales.

You should know that finding whales takes time and effort, especially when you’re trying to swim with them. Currents and whale behavior are two important factors to consider before jumping in for a swim.

Conditions can vary, sometimes it’d be easy and other times it’d be a challenge. So whatever the case might be, you should be prepared for a workout.

After the exciting whale experience, you’ll be off to a lagoon where you’ll go for some snorkeling, and see other forms of underwater life.

There are no snacks or refreshments on this tour, so be sure to bring yours.

Channel between Motu Tiahura and Motu Fareone with views of boats and mountains

5. Humpback whale watching and marine life in Moorea

Rating: 5/5 Stars

Tour Length: 3 Hours

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This is another great tour that is praised by reviewers for their amazing experience with the guides and everything else.

Although the tour isn’t much different from other whale tours, I decided to add it to the list anyway because someone might want to choose it. These tours get booked up fast during whale season, so it’s nice to have more options.

The meeting point is Hauru Public Park Parking from December to July and they change it to Pacific Attitude from August to November. Or you can request a pickup.

The guides are knowledgeable, passionate and most importantly helpful. They help you in swimming with humpback whales and show you how to interact with them safely.

You also have the option to hire an underwater photographer to capture your incredible moments with the whales.

All in all, it’s a great tour that provides you with exactly what it’s advertised for.

What to Expect When Swimming With Whales in Moorea?

Whale encounters are not guaranteed

During your whale-watching expedition, it isn’t guaranteed that you’re always going to swim with whales. Humpback whales are unpredictable mammals, so it’s important to observe their movement and behavior before diving in. If the whales aren’t in a good mood, your chances of swimming with them get slim.

However, the good news is that this isn’t always the case, whales are usually in good mood.

Be patient

Also, keep in mind that it would take time to find whales and the perfect spot to swim with them, so you’ll need to be patient.

Humpback whale tail

Be ready for a workout

Another thing you need to be aware of is long swims. After spotting the whales, you’ll need to swim towards them leaving your boat meters away. This is your chance to swim with these amazing creatures for a while before swimming back to the boat. Therefore, being a strong swimmer and in good shape is important for this experience.

Waves can be challenging

Depending on the conditions during your tour, strong waves & currents can also make it difficult for you to swim and get close to whales.

Bring essentials

Most wildlife tours will provide you with snorkel gear, including fins and masks, and some even offer snacks. However, it’s a good idea to bring your own essentials like a wetsuit, towel, water and most importantly, reef-safe sunscreen because the sun in Moorea can be intense above the surface.

Witness calves

Whale tours in Moorea are only allowed during the breeding season. So not only will you see giant whales, but you’ll see whales with their calves as well.

Whale serenades

One of the magical experiences during a whale watching trip is stumbling upon a singing whale.
Whale sounds are a way for whales to communicate with each other and find food. These are ever-changing and evolving and can last anywhere from 5 minutes to a half-hour or so. Usually, it’s the male humpback whales that sing to attract females, and their songs can be heard from miles away.

Be prepared for seasickness

Whale tours can last a few hours and your body may not like being this long in water. To prevent any unpleasant sea experience, it’s better to bring motion sickness medications even if you’re unsure if you’ll need them.

Best Time for Whale Watching in Moorea

The best time for whale watching is July to November which is known as the whale season in Moorea. Every year in early July, thousands of humpback whales make a journey from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean to mate and give birth. They stay here for about 4 months, until November, before returning to Antarctica for feeding.

These whales travel about 6,000 km of distance from their high-latitude feeding grounds in Antarctica to the waters around Moorea, French Polynesia. They protect and feed their babies until the end of southern spring which is around mid-November.

So this is the time when you can see whales and possibly swim with them. But tour operators usually start doing whale tours in August.

Apart from that, weather plays an important role that needs to be considered when booking a whale tour. Bad weather can make it difficult to find whales let alone swim with them.

Cost of Whale Watching

The cost of whale watching in Moorea typically ranges from $150 to $1,000, this would depend on what’s included in the tour and which tour operator you choose.

Types of Whales in Moorea

Normally on whale tours, you can see the following whales in the waters of Moorea:

  • Humpback whales
  • Sperm whales
  • Pilot whales
School of vibrant fish and reefs in waters of Moorea

Moorea Whale Watching Rules and Regulations

In May 2002, the French Polynesian government declared French Polynesia a Marine Mammal Sanctuary covering about an area of 5 million km² and making it the world’s largest marine sanctuary. All thanks to the efforts of marine biologist Dr. Michael Poole.

The Marine Mammal Sanctuary of French Polynesia is governed by laws that regulate how people can approach cetaceans for scientific and commercial purposes.
Here are the rules that everyone must follow:

  • Whale tour operators must have valid permits.
  • When outside the reef, reduce the speed to 3kn within 300 meters of whales or dolphins.
  • Keep a distance of at least 100 meters from the wildlife.
  • Stay at least 300 meters away from aquatic animals that have entered the inner lagoon.
  • Follow a parallel path to moving animals and never cut them off.
  • Do not block them against the reef
  • Don’t swim directly toward animals, reduce proximity if they come near you.
  • Do not touch them.
  • Avoid diving after or chasing any animals.
  • Never separate a mother from her calf
  • Don’t encircle the animals.

Note that the Polynesian authorities recently ruled that whale tour operators can only run their whale tours and perform whale activities after August 1st. Before this time, you can still do some whale watching from the boat, following the rules, of course.

Wrapping up the guide

People get emotional when they see whales up close. It’s one of the most amazing experiences you can have in your life, and there are only a few places in the world that allow you to swim with whales. So, when you get such an opportunity, seize it.

I hope this guide to whale watching in Moorea has been helpful! I’ve included the best tours as well as some other important information to ensure you have an unforgettable experience.

More FAQs

Can you swim with whales in Moorea?

Yes, you can swim with whales in Moorea, but only after August 1st.

Is it safe to swim with whales?

Whales are human-friendly animals, it is safe to swim with them. However, it’s important to keep a safe distance from them.

How many days do you need in Moorea?

I’d say 5 to 7 days are more than enough for this small island if you don’t want to get bored.

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