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“Not sure how that's possible, but it was even better than last time”
Review of Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd. - CLOSED

Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd.
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Owner description: We are undergoing a change of ownership, apologies for any inconvenience this may cause. Activities to be confirmed.
Reviewed 17 September 2013

I spent 3 days at Fins N Flukes last year and loved it so much that I went back this year, this time for 12 days. Once again, I had a great stay.
I have been to Tonga 8 times and I now organise tours to swim with whales.
Brian and Sabina, who run Fins N Flukes, are one of the best whaleswim operators I know. They are professional, reliable, knowledgeable, but more importantly their respect for the whales is outstanding. They focus on the whales well being and only put people in the water when they feel that the whales are comfortable about it. To them, swimming with the whales is a privilege, not a right, and I highly value the fact that they care so much about the animals. They were recently shortlisted for the 2013 Responsible whale watch award on the planetwhale website. This is so deserved and a great recognition of their passion and care.
We swam with whales every day, sometimes it was a short swim, other times we had the full 1h30 mns in the water, but every time the swim was conducted on the whales terms. One day we spent 1h30 around a mother and calf who were resting at the surface, while their escort was gently circling below or around us. They were so relaxed around us that the baby eventually fell asleep. It is such an humbling experience to be accepted that way by those beautiful giants.
We were very well looked after at the resort and on the boat, with lots of good food. Every day the chef will offer several menu options and be flexible with guests, allowing me to get yummy pancakes on a daily basis, breakfast, lunch or dinner!
The resort is right on the beach and is one of the most peaceful places I have ever stayed at.

1  Thank vmignon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
FinsNFlukes, Owner at Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd., responded to this reviewResponded 19 September 2013

The more we respect the whales the better our mutual experiences become!

As someone who have a degree of experience within the whale watching industry of Tonga we really appreciate your positive feedback.

Merci.

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Reviews (124)
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6 - 10 of 124 reviews

Reviewed 28 August 2013

We have just returned from a holiday to Tonga where we spent a week in Ha'apai. On two of these days we went out with Fins and Flukes. Day 1 and we were on the boat with Sabine. We had a good day, saw a few whales and briefly swam with a mother and calf. It was reasonably choppy (not enough to get sea sick) but it made spotting whales a bit harder. Day 2 was with Brian and Sabine similar day brief swim with whales and saw plenty of action from the boat.
I enjoyed the days but I have written another review on whale watching and you might want to read that as well. I will acknowledge the caution and conditions that the operators have to follow but I thought that being 100 metres from the whales when you enter the water was over protective and I dont see why you cant come in at an angle (slowly) from in front of them rather than have to swim from an angle behind. Whales are not trained circus animals so any experience is at their whim and sometimes they just dont stop. But by the time you paddle to where they were when you entered the water, 2 flicks of the tale have the whales 200 metres away. As I said, it was a good couple of days, not mind blowing. Sabine was a very good host, friendly and knowledgable.

2  Thank southaussies1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
FinsNFlukes, Owner at Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd., responded to this reviewResponded 29 August 2013

Thanks for your positive comments and advice on how we should approach whales.

Regulation 10, paragraph (f) of the Whale Watching and Swimming Regulations 2013 states:

"a vessel shall approach a whale from a direction that is parallel to the whale and slightly to the rear of the whale and never in the area directly in front pr behind a whale".

As you can see and have also indicated in your feedback we do follow the current legislation on our trips and this is the reason we asked you to approach the whales in this (the correct) fashion rather than taking your advice to swim at them from the front. An approach from the side and rear allows the animals to move away freely from us if they do not wish to interact, as you also comment it is not a circus and we must respect their freedom with each and every interaction. The whales eyes are on their side, they do not have good forward vision like us, and approach from the front like you suggest hold the potential to startle the animal and ruin the experience for everyone including the whale.

100 meters snorkel with fins mask and snorkel is not a big ask really but it is valuable that you have raised the point. If others read this and want to come to swim with the whales you should realize that swimming is actually a part of the experience. Normal swim distance would be about 50m but we may make longer swims to avoid boat disturbance, particularly when calves are present. So, if you are a poor swimmer (snorkeler) it is a good idea to hit the local pool with your snorkel gear a couple of times a week for a month or so prior to your trip. This will help you hone you techniques and improve physical confidence for the moment you slip in with the whales here. If you cannot comfortably snorkel a distance of 100m we may not be the correct choice of service provider for you.

We are happy you found us over protective, we will never harass or intimidate the whales to meet consumer expectations, they are wild, each one is different and every swim has it's own set of variables to which we must adapt accordingly. What never changes is that we have a responsibility to protect the whales from any undue harassment from an industry that we are actively involved in. A longer swim, in the correct way, that results in a happy whale is well worth the effort!

We hope that all of our future clients will understand that whale welfare is their responsibility too.

Once again, to gain a true appreciation of these animals we do recommend that visitors devote at least three days to the water. You went twice with us and had another encounter that met your expectations of your third day with a different operator - you got out what you put in and that's great.

It's great that you swam with a mum and baby (briefly), many people only ever dream of experiencing such an amazing experience.

Thanks again and see you next time.

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Reviewed 20 August 2013

We spent a week in Ha'api at the beginning of August. Our flights got changed at the very last moment which meant we arrived early morning. My husband Brian the night before and asked if it was possible to add us to the whale swimming boat the following morning and he told us that so long as there were no flight delays we could come along-he was concerned about making sure the rest of the guests were not held back which was the right thing to do. Thank God we were very lucky and zoomed from the airport ( well lets be honest- we putt putted along in the Island taxi ladies car at island pace) , put our swimmers on, grabbed our mask and before we knew it we were on the boat meeting new people and heading out the sea to swim with whales-something we have been dreaming about for a long time.
We had three days with the beautiful Lords of the ocean. So beautiful and gentle. Our experiences were amazing and we got some pretty close action (on the whales terms). Brian seems to have some special whale predicting talent. Its hard to listen to instructions when you get a whale in site but you must for your own safety and for the well being of the whales-they come close enough anyway. We had a baby come right up to us-so close we all got a bit nervous that it wasn't going to stop but at the last second it did a cheeky wee turn and we were all left rocking on the surface-talking about feeling the power! Mum took him off then, we were all betting he was saying "did you see me messing with the tourists Mum?'
Brian and Sabine are strict but have to be for your safety and to be fair to the whales. If they weren't no one would listen to them!
Accommodate is spotless and comfortable. Food at the restaurant is really good. The staff are all really helpful, humorous and do their best to make sure you get the best experiences in the water. Lots of hammocks for afternoon napping and relaxing. Two lovely dogs will keep you company if you want them-if not they won't bother you!
We were very lucky to get buzzed by a humpback very briefly when diving. I have to admit to breaking the number one rule of diving-to breath-very difficult when you have a singing male in area banging out some pretty heavy tunes! So beautiful!
Would love to come back some day!

Thank irelandais
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
FinsNFlukes, Owner at Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd., responded to this reviewResponded 21 August 2013

What a trip!

My whale predicting talent, which I can label as lucky guessing, would be impossible without the hard work of our entire team.

Your positive comments reinforce our strong work ethic and commitment to whale welfare and your positive whale watching experience is a credit to each of us equally.

Thanks you so much for visiting and we hope to see you again soon.

Sabine, Brian, Ngu, Iker, Graham, Nette, Kelly, and Micky.

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Reviewed 29 July 2013

Fins 'n' Flukes is definitely the best place to stay, if you're in Tonga to watch the whales. Sabine and Brian are very friendly and helpful. A whale-watching-day is quiet a experience and there are so many things they could tell you about the whales and their behaviour, it's just amazing.
We loved the respectful and caring attitude with which Sabine and Brian tried to get us close to the whales.
The base and the resort are well run. Nice, clean accomodation, excellent food and drinks (Franks refresher is still my favourite one...).

Thank Stefanie H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
FinsNFlukes, Owner at Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd., responded to this reviewResponded 21 August 2013

Respect is our primary focus, for you and for the whales. Balancing that is the tricky part.

We like to keep everyone happy.

Great people, great days and amazing whales.

Fins 'n' Flukes, Whales, Tonga, Ha'apai and you - a winning formula.

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Reviewed 27 July 2013

We had a great family holiday in July with our adult children. The aim of the trip was to swim with humpback whales and any snorkeling would be a bonus. We had 3 days out on the water swimming with whales and it was awesome. Brian and Sabine do their utmost to ensure that the boat and people do not stress the whales. I am an average snorkeller but felt safe enough as the boat was always nearby when I was in the water. We did snorkel on reefs as well and they are beautiful. Accommodation was certainly adequate and the location is brilliant being right next to the beach. Graham is a much better cook than me and we all enjoyed our choice of meals. The domestic flights in Tonga often change schedules so it's a good idea to have an extra day on Nukalofa to ensure you catch your international flight. My only regret is that we didn't stay longer!

1  Thank Fran D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
FinsNFlukes, Owner at Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd., responded to this reviewResponded 21 August 2013

We couldn't imagine stressing a whale for a dollar.

Thank you for recognizing our sensitive approach protocols.

Graham really can cook, it's the truth!

XOXO from Ha'apai.

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