The possibility of swimming with humpbacks was a big drawcard, and we chose Niue over other islands, such as Tonga, because of the differences in management of whale interactions. We booked with Magical Niue based on a recommendation, and they were awesome. We got a clear introduction and safety briefing, and explanation of the restrictions around whale watching in Niue. There is a balance between trying to please the tourists, and not harassing the whales, and they did an excellent job at keeping everyone happy without pursuing the whales or forcing them into an encounter with humans. We did two trips with Rami and Jules and their staff, and while we didn’t swim with any whales, we saw several from the boat, including a mother and calf, and an adult breaching in the distance. We also swam with a massive pod of spinner dolphins, and got to explore some choice snorkeling spots that we would never have found by ourselves. Highly recommended!
We got the impression that whale tourism is a rather divisive issue with locals, with some against and some supporting. I suspect that those opposing it don’t benefit from the tourism dollars that come with it. Hopefully the whale watching permits have been adjusted so it’s clear where operators can and can’t operate, which would remove the possibility of officials interpreting the regulations differently depending on their personal stance. As always it’s a delicate balance between benefiting from the boost to the local economy that tourism can offer and not putting pressure on existing infrastructure or impacting the peaceful nature of the location.