Tahiti is known for its idyllic scenery and turquoise waters, but it isn’t just a preferred destination for sun-seeking tourists. Each year, the warm waters of French Polynesia also attract other visitors; schools of humpback whales. Observing them in their natural habitat is an emotional and truly unforgettable experience.

Each year, from july to november, hundreds of majestic humpback whales migrate to the warmer waters of French Polynesia to reproduce and nurture their young. It is a perfect opportunity for animal lovers and marine scientists to observe some of the world’s biggest and most majestic creatures.

A dreamlike spectacle

During their reproduction season from August to November, humpback whales gather in French Polynesia’s warm, clear waters to give birth and nurture their young. There aren’t many more impressive sites than a male whale leaping from the sea and crashing back into the water, or slapping the surface with its immense tail. In Rurutu, you can take an excursion to observe them up close, but if you prefer, you can often watch this amazing display from the shore!

For the more adventurous, there is the possibility of a diving excursion, on which you can swim very close to the whales. These dives are strictly regulated and you must go with a registered guide, to ensure that the whales are not unduly disturbed. You can approach them at a distance of 100 meters, which is more than close enough to observe these giants of the sea, that can measure 15 meters in length and weigh up to 30 tonnes. Some excursions also offer the opportunity of swimming with dolphins, an equally magical moment, but with a lot of added fun!

The Islands of Tahiti: a whale sanctuary

A whale watching excursion is an adventure that begins with finding these magnificent creatures. Most tourists want to see the huge humpback whales, but there are many other species that can also be found in the waters of French Polynesia, including pygmy killer, common rorqual and melon headed whales. Your guide will be able to identify any species you come across. In 2022, The Islands of Tahiti celebrated its 20th anniversary as the biggest whale sanctuary in the world.

If you want to go whale watching in French Polynesia, it’s advisable to reserve your excursion well in advance, as it’s an extremely popular activity. There are several options you can take, including a voyage that visits more than one island over several days.

Whale-watching rules

In French Polynesia, the conditions for humpback whale watching and launching are subject to strict rules, so as not to disturb these creatures.

Règles d'observation des baleines à bosse en Polynésie française
Règles d’observation des baleines à bosse en Polynésie française

These rules apply to the observation and approach of all cetaceans. If you wish to photograph or film protected marine species and use these images for commercial or marketing purposes, you must first submit a filming request to the Environment Direction of French Polynesia.

Qualified professionals

Prior to the whale-watching season, service providers wishing to carry out whale watching activities must first submit their request to the French Polynesia Department of the Environment. Each application is then scrupulously examined, and a list of authorized humpback whale-watchers is drawn up for each season.

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