Dream Trip - Dive Fiji and Swim with Whales in Tonga
Hosted by Douglas J Hoffman & Volivoli Beach Resort
August 26 - September 12, 2024
This trip combines a week of diving the most colorful and vibrant reefs in Fiji, with 7 days of swimming with whales in Tonga.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime dream trip limited to six people. $9,270 per person.
It begins at VoliVoli Beach Resort in Fiji. This resort is the gateway to the Vatu I Ra Passage, better known as the Bligh Waters of Fiji. Deep Upwellings and strong tidal flow between the islands create the perfect conditions for vibrant soft coral, stunning hard coral, and myriads of tropical fish to thrive. This area was made famous by the Naia liveaboard, and thousands of divers have experienced dive sites like Mount Mutiny, E-6, Vatu Express, Mellow Yellow, and Chili. The visibility on these sites is incredible! Best of all, Volivoli is the only land-based resort diving in these waters.
After a week of diving in Fiji, we will make our way back to Nadi, and fly to Vavau, Tonga. The flight is about 2 hours long. We will be met in Tonga by the Guest house we're staying. We have four rooms each with queen size beds and private baths. The upper social areas have a great view, and offer an opportunity to hear the local church Choir sing. Breakfast is provided each morning. and so is lunch on the boat. We are on our own for dinner. There are five restaurants within a five -10 minute walk, and the guest house has a full kitchen so we can cook whatever we want.
We have the boat for 7 full days of the private charter. The boat does not go out Sunday. The goal for the trip for the most part is to find a mother and calf that are displaying behavior we know from experience may develop into an extended mutual interaction. This is when the whales accept us and float along with us for multiple breaching cycles.
We will spend 7 nights and have five days of boat diving with 12 dives. The shoreline in front of the resort is sandy, and often mucky, but has all kinds of critters including sea horses. I have seen different anemones, & nudibranchs, as well as Ornate Ghost Pipe Fish on the house reef. The accommodations are ocean view and have two beds in each. This trip is based on double occupancy. If interested in upgrading to own room, deluxe ocean view, or to a villa with its own pool, it’s easy to do. The resort has many levels to offer. The camera room has space for 14 big housings and is located next to the dive shop. The shop has a lot of gear available for rent which is great because I use my baggage allowance for camera equipment and rent a BCD and Regulator. The compressor room is the cleanest of any dive resort I have seen which is incredible as they have three dive boats and when busy pump 100 - 125 tanks a day. The restaurant is amazing with menu service for every meal with the exception of the Fiji Cultural Night. You can order appetizer, entre, and dessert each day it’s included. What's not, is alcohol. The resort has two bars. One is on the beach next to the dive shop, and the other is in the main dining room and social area. Transportation to and from the airport is included, as is Wifi.
Most females breathe every 20 minutes or so. Calf’s on the other hand need to breathe every 4-5 minutes. This means the baby is hanging with mom and going to the surface a lot. When we humans behave in a nonthreatening manner and the female trusts us, she allows us to stay above her while she sleeps. After a few breathing cycles the baby usually swims close to the swimmers and puts on a show. It’s all good as we stay together so the female can keep an eye on us. It’s all good for us swimmers until one gets lost in the moment and starts to follow the baby, rather than stay in the group where the mom can monitor the situation. It never fails that as the swimmer makes mom uncomfortable she just slowly descends with the baby, and disappears.
What to Pack
Participants should make sure to have a good rain jacket and hat. The water temp will be warm enough that wetsuits are not necessary (79 degrees). That said about half the people bring shorty 3 mm suits. I have a lava core skin I love, but most of the time I just wear a rash guard. Shark skins are also popular and light weight. We do not have weight belts so keep that in mind when considering what to bring. The sun is bright in Tonga so be sure to bring sunscreen. I suggest Stream@ Sea brand. It is good for you and the environment.
When it comes to whale swimming we will have two groups of three swimmers rotate in and out of the water, every 1-2 breathing cycles of the mom. This gives people plenty of opportunity to view from the surface as well as underwater.
As far as packing goes, bring as little as possible as they weigh everything. If you want to be a hero for the local kids bring a bunch of colored pencils and pens to give away. If you do have extra baggage they will charge you for it. It is not crazy expensive like some places but be prepared and have local currency. That is the most critical part. The baggage allowance is not the same. In 2023, international passengers going from US Mainland to Fiji got 1 piece of checked-in luggage.
Getting there. There is no easy way to get to Tonga. The fastest and most reliable route is through LA, and flying to Fiji. After a 2-hour layover, you connect to the 2-hour flight to Vavau, Tonga.
There are four requirements for this trip.
- You must have six months left on your passport to do this trip.
- You must also have DAN or other travel insurance. I have DAN and I am alive today because it works.
- You must have trip insurance. Get the best you can get and hope its money well spent that the trip goes off without a hitch. As hard as I try to make things go smooth there are things that happen beyond my control. Obviously there is the pandemic, but there is a chance Tonga could close its borders, A tsunami comes, the boat sinks or breaks, you get sick prior to the trip, you break your leg before the trip, or something else. This way you are covered. I have been doing these trips a long time and have seen a lot both things. Insurance is the best way to protect yourself.
- By the time of the trip this may not be required but for now everyone entering Tonga must show proof of Covid vaccination.
You can pay for the trip all at once or as many as three installments. Pay 1/3 at time of sign up. June 6th of 2022 pay another half or third. June 6th of 2023 the final balance would be due. To avoid service and processing fees of credit cards pay by direct deposit, cashiers, or personal check.
Call for further details
+1 808 870 3686
About the Dive Sites
Bligh Water & Vatu-I Ra Passage - With over 80 dive sites avaialble, here are a few of my favorites.
Arguably one of Fiji’s most famous sites. Starting just three feet from the surface this large pinnacle drops to over 900 meters. There are abundant hard and soft corals along with a cathedral-like overhang adorned with gorgonian fans. Along the pinnacle, the wall has many crevices, swim-throughs, and tunnels. This is a massive pinnacle that divers always enjoy.
Soft coral-encrusted coral heads with pinnacles that is home to marine life ranging from tiny pipefishand nudibranches, to larger pelagic fish in the blue. The entire site is fantastic with the slopes covered with soft coral and reef top with beautfil hard coral gardens. Everywhere you look there are bright colored Anthias fish darting around. My personal favorite site in Fiji.
Black Magic Mountain
Another world class pinnacle starting just 10 feet from the surface. Everywhere you look are colorful soft corals and gorgonian fans. While deep is an option,best part in my opinion is between 60 and and the surface.
Named after Captain Bligh and the famous mutiny on the Bounty this is another large pinnacle starting near the surface and dropping off into the abyss. Healthy soft coral walls can easily keep a diver busy for many hours. This is by far one of the most requested sites in Fiji.