Whether you’re swimming with whales or watching them from a boat, there is something truly special about spending time with these ocean giants.
Thankfully there are a variety of dive destinations that offer whale swimming and above-water whale encounters you won’t want to miss.
Read our guide to the best dive destinations for whale fans to find out more.
1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
For one of the lesser known yet incredible whale experiences, go Great Barrier Reef diving during the Australian winter.
Tens of thousands of whales migrate from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef during the winter months, including dwarf minke whales.
These 8 meter long whales are utterly charming and actively seek human contact, coming close to snorkelers in the water and making repeated passes.
You can see them whilst scuba diving but joining a minke whale safari is the best way to spend hours in the water with these whales.
The Ocean Quest liveaboard offers ‘meet the minke’ safaris during July each year.
The largest member of the dolphin family and toothed whales, orcas are easy to identify and a firm favourite with ocean fans around the world.
Hundreds of orcas gather off the coast of northern Norway during the Arctic winter to feast on migrating herring moving through the fjords and along the coastline.
Since they follow the herring, the orcas are relatively easy to find. You can join dedicated safaris with the Sula liveaboard to get in the water with the orcas as a snorkeler or free diver.
Just be prepared for typically cold Arctic winter conditions and chilly water!
You’ll be rewarded with a life-changing experience and a great chance of seeing the Northern Lights dance across the night skies.
Tonga has some beautiful dive sites without any crowds but is best known for its clear blue waters and abundant humpback whales.
It is one of the best and most reliable places in the world to swim with humpback whales and their young. It’s also an idyllic destination for a far-flung adventure any time of year.
The Nai’i liveaboard is one of the few boats that offer liveaboard-based Tonga humpback whale swim safaris.
Just make sure you book early, as it’s extremely popular.
4. Dominican Republic
Silver Bank marine reserve in Dominican Republic is another great place for swimming with humpback whales.
The marine reserve provides a winter haven for the North Atlantic humpback population, where they gather to mate, calve and raise their young.
The Turks and Caicos Aggressor II offers safaris that focus solely on humpback whale swimming, typically from January to March each year.
If you’re visiting the Arctic during the summer months, you won’t be able to dive with orcas but you can go diving around Spitsbergen off Norway.
It’s a remote and wild destination where you can try ice diving, boat-based diving and even wreck diving.
The best dive sites are only accessible by Arctic liveaboard diving and you’ll find plenty of life underwater, including sea snails, sea butterflies, crabs, fish, sea lions and more.
While you’re there you can spot minke, fin, humpback and blue whales, plus walruses, Arctic foxes, bearded seals and an array of birds.
The Hawaiian chain of volcanic islands offers a good mixture of dive options, including wrecks, caves, healthy reefs and drift dives.
All accompanied by lush coral gardens and striking lava landscapes, plus marine life you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.
If you dive there during November to May, you also have the chance to watch Hawaii’s humpback whales as they migrate through the area.
Keep your eyes on the blue if you’re diving off Oahu during September to December, as that’s also tiger shark season.
7. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
If you’ve not yet dived Western Australia, add it to your wish list.
Quieter than the Great Barrier Reef, western Australia offers an array of dive opportunities and plenty of marine megafauna.
The UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Coast supports an abundance of marine life including humpback whales from July to November.
Thousands of these whales migrate through Ningaloo Reef each year, where you can go swimming with them or enjoy their mating displays from the comfort of your boat.
The Cabo Pulmo marine park, the Socorro Islands and the Sea of Cortez all offer spectacular Mexico scuba diving and whale watching.
These megafauna hotspots offer encounters with many whale species; including blue whales, grey whales and humpbacks, plus giant mantas, dolphins and sea lions.
If you’re looking to encounter blue whales, head to Baja California between February and March.
For grey whales, visit from January to mid-March. The Socorro Islands host humpback whales during the winter season until April.
For a truly remote adventure and whale watching experience, join an Antarctic liveaboard diving expedition.
As one of the world’s last wilderness areas, it is busy with life including around 15 whale species.
Go diving there and you have a chance to dive Antarctica and immerse yourself in snow and ice-covered landscapes.
You may also see blue, fin, humpback, minke, sei, southern right and sperm whales during your expedition.
This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com