The Guide to the Whale Season in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
For around four months each year, humpback whales make an amazing journey from the Antarctic to the Cook Islands’ waters in order to breed and calve. This gives visitors to Rarotonga and the Cook Islands a unique chance to not only watch whales close to shore but to swim with these gentle giants in their element. Find out how you could be taking part in these once-in-a-lifetime activities in this guide to the whale season in the Cook Islands.
Frequently Asked Questions About Whales in the Cook Islands
Before we have a whale of a time going into detail about the Cook Islands whale season, here are a couple of frequently asked questions that the internet has about whales in the Cook Islands!
Are There Whales in the Cook Islands?
Yes, there are whales in the Cook Islands, particularly humpback whales that frequent the Cook Islands’ waters every year when they migrate from Antarctica. Many other species of whales have also been sighted in the Cook Islands but are not regular visitors. Find out more about the species of whales seen in the Cook Islands in the section below.
When Can You See Whales in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
You can see whales in Rarotonga during the Cook Islands whale season, which is from July to October.
Species of Whales in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
The main species of whale you will see in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands is the humpback whale.
Every year, humpback whales take a mammoth migratory journey of 6,500km (4,000 miles) from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to the warmer waters of the Cook Islands to mate and calve. Humpback whales do not feed during their time in the Cook Islands, solely relying on their fat reserves. During the humpback whale season in the Cook Islands, humpback whales and calves are seen close to shore.
Other Whale Species Sighted in the Cook Islands
Blainsville’s beaked whales have also been sighted a few times in the Cook Islands, but this has been a relatively rare occurrence. Other whale species sighted in the Cook Islands, although not common, include Antarctic minke whales, dwarf minke whales, sperm whales, short-finned pilot whales, Cuvier’s beaked whales, sei whales, melon-headed whales, fin whales, blue whales, Bryde’s whales and Omura’s whales.
The Best Time to See Whales in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
The whale season in the Cook Islands is between July and October. It is possible, however, to see humpback whales as early as May and as late as November.
When is the Best Month to See Whales in Rarotonga?
You stand the best chances of spotting humpback whales in the middle of the whale season in the month of September, so if you want optimal chances of seeing humpback whales, make your trip to the Cook Islands a September trip!
More About the Cook Islands in the Whale Season
For weather advice and tips for visiting the Cook Islands during the whale season, check out the following guides:
- Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in July
- Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in August
- Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in September
- Rarotonga & the Cook Islands Weather in October
And for more general advice on the best season to visit the Cook Islands, see The Best Time to Visit Rarotonga & the Cook Islands: A Month by Month Guide.
How to See Whales in the Cook Islands
The most common way to see whales in the Cook Islands is to simply watch them from shore. With much of the lagoon being close to shore on Rarotonga and on the western side of Aitutaki and no lagoon for many of the Southern Group and Northern Group islands, whale flukes, backs and fins can be seen emerging from the water beyond the lagoons. Humpback whales display all types of fun behaviour to watch, such as breaching from the water and slapping their huge flukes. Check out a list of the best places to spot whales from shore listed in the 10 Best Places for Whale Watching in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
Alternatively, some fishing charters turn into whale watching charters during the whale season in Rarotonga, allowing you to get a closer look and get a better chance of viewing these gentle giants. On Aitutaki, there are even dive and watersports operators offering whale swimming tours! Check them all out in the 7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands.
More About Whales in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it! That’s our guide to the whale season in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands, as well as the best time to see whales in the Cook Islands. Now, discover more about our marine mammal friends in our other guides:
- 10 Best Places for Whale Watching in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
- 7 Best Whale Watching (& Swimming) Tours in the Cook Islands
- Cook Islands Dolphin Season: The Best Time to See Dolphins in the Cook Islands
Finally, add more essentials to your Cook Islands bucket list drawing from the 101 Best Things to Do in the Cook Islands: The Ultimate List.