The spectacular jump, out of the water, of a humpback whale. (Photo: Wikimedia)
Photo: Wikimedia

Watch the whales in Rurutu


  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Among the islands I dream of exploring when I return to Polynesia, there is Rurutu, in the Austral Islands. Preferably between July and October, during the humpback whale season.

My first whale

It was in the waters of Maupiti, in October 2012, that I met my first whale. Ocean side, after a dive.

I still have not got it. Because it is both spectacular and moving, to see rise from the water, close to the boat, the enormous gray back and streaming of this nice giant of the seas and hear it, all of a sudden, let slip sigh…

Unbelievable ! A whale arose near our small dive boat ... Maupiti, Polynesia, October 2012.
Unbelievable! A whale appeared very close to our little diving boat... (Maupiti, Polynesia, October 2012.)

I remember being overwhelmed by this breath, this expiration. To have been invaded by a strange feeling of empathy, in front of this gigantic marine mammal, which, just like me, needs to come back to the surface to breathe...

Rurutu, in the Austral Islands

Since then, I dream of crossing the whale route again. When I return to Polynesia, I will certainly head to the Austral Islands, south of Tahiti, to make a stop in Rurutu - to pronounce with the soft R roll of Polynesians.

The island of Rurutu (Photo: Wikimedia / Jonathen Burckel)
The island of Rurutu (Photo: Wikimedia / Jonathen Burckel)

The island is known to be very popular with humpback whales, which come back to mate and give birth each year.

Rising from the icy waters of the Great South Antarctic, they usually arrive in Rurutu in July after a journey of more than 4,000 kilometers. They usually leave at the end of October, when the calves have enough strength to undertake the migration.

The spectacular jump, out of the water, of a humpback whale. (Photo: Wikimedia)
The spectacular jump of a humpback whale out of the water (Photo: Wikimedia)

Sanctuary of cetaceans

Polynesia, where a moratorium has been protecting whales since 1986, was declared a sanctuary for marine mammals in May 2002. Cetacean sightings are regulated and require authorization.

Freedivers swimming alongside a whale (Photo: © GIE Tahiti Tourisme / Lionel Pozzoli)
Freedivers swimming alongside a whale (Photo: © GIE Tahiti Tourisme / Lionel Pozzoli)

Scuba diving near whales is not permitted, as the bubbles disturb them and may cause them to flee. On the other hand, it is possible to go out at sea with an approved structure, to observe them from a boat, and sometimes also in the water, but only with flippers-maskstuba. I admit, I'd also love to hear them sing... One day I'll make this dream come true!

  Polynesia: Maupiti + Rangiroa + Moorea - October 2012

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  1. Beautiful... I dream of seeing whales. I often went to whale watching places, but each time it was not the right time!

  2. Dear Corinne,
    I miss the whale shark but as far as whales are concerned I was served several times in Mayotte and for the diving it's very nice too, not to mention the change of scenery !!! For the song of the whales I still remember a dive in the Saintes...bewitching...
    You could think about it because it's easier to access and less expensive than Rurutu, there are direct flights from Corsair from Orly or Air Austral from CDG to DZA. Kisses and Merry Christmas !!!

  3. Hello,
    We followed each other closely in Polynesia because I was there in September 2012 and I was also there in September 2016. We also plan to go back in 2018 and this time Rurutu will be one of the islands visited.
    My first encounter with a whale took place in Moorea in September 2012 and I have fond memories of well as some photos!
    I am interested in information about Polynesia and as I am on my second trip I can also provide some.
    See you soon, with whales!
    Otherwise, by the way: Excellent 🙂!

  4. For sure, swimming with whales is extraordinary. At least for the swimmer. But don't you think that getting so close to cetaceans is a big nuisance for the animal? The legislation in Polynesia will soon change (according to what the head of the Mata Tohora association told me). Let's hope that the whales will gain in tranquility.
    If you are interested you can take a look at my last article:

    1. Tahiti The Blog: I follow your blog and had already read the (very interesting) linked article 😉 I thought it was already seriously regulated in Polynesia, but I'm glad to hear it's going to be more so. Your update at the end of the article (an update I'm discovering now) is downright edifying: 23 operators for whale watching in Moorea!!! Argh... Without being a cetacean specialist, I have the feeling that it's way too many... So yes, of course, like many people, I would love to be able to admire and photograph these magnificent giants while being in the water at the same time as them, but if it's better to abstain from immersing oneself near them, because their well-being and survival are at stake, then so much the worse! I like to leave them alone... The sea is not an amusement park.