Swim with Whales as You Sail Around Tropical Islands

Written by  //  December 28, 2012  //  Travel  //  23 Comments

swimming sperm-whaleLearning to sail can be an enjoyable holiday experience when combined with spectacular tropical scenery. Belize, Costa Rica and Tonga all offer safe sailing and anchorages around atolls and coral reefs where you can enjoy the marine wildlife.


Belize is famous for its cayes, over 200 white-sand islands along the length of its coast. Some are inland of the coral main reef that extends along the coast, while others lie on the ocean side. Sailing on the land side of the reef is calm and serene. You will be able to stop over to see coastal caves, rain forests and Mayan ruins, as well as explore the different cayes. Experienced sailors will enjoy the exhilarating water on the other side of the reef.

Ambergris Caye is the largest of the islands at the north end of the reef. This is a world-class diving and snorkelling centre and home to the Hoi Chan Marine Reserve. You can take a boat charter and send your time sailing, windsurfing and kite surfing. The Snake Cayes in the south of Belize are part of a growing coral ridge that is isolated from the main coral reef. There are mangrove swamps in this area and enough high ground to support coconut palms. This is the part of Belize where sailors can take time to look out for manatee as well as hundreds of varieties of seabirds.

Costa Rica

Most of Costa Rica's islands are located within the Gulf of Nicoya, a sheltered inlet on the Pacific coast. The capital, San Jose, lies about 60 kilometres to the east of the Gulf of Nicoya. The area is a magnificent mixture of wetlands, rocky islands and mangrove swamps, offering a varied landscape and seascape for those enjoying a boat charter. The Tempisque River flows into the Gulf from the north.

The sailing environment changes sharply around the Gulf. To the north, the waters are shallower and there are mangrove swamps, while the southern part has many promontories, secret bays and forested hills. The most popular islands for sailors are in the south, especially Tortuga Island. It is really two uninhabited islands with white-sand beaches and turquoise waters that are excellent for snorkelling and diving. This area has some of the best varieties of large marine life in the world, with many hammerhead sharks and manta rays. Guayabo Island nearby is a nesting site for brown pelicans.


With over 170 islands, coral reefs, atolls and safe anchorages, Tonga   the Friendly Islands   is one of the best locations anywhere for sailing. The sailing season here is year round. You can sail in a modern craft or try a double-hulled kalia canoe that was once used to cross the Pacific Ocean.

The main sailing centre and South Pacific sailing hub is Neifau Harbour on Vava'u. It is wholly sheltered and resembles a fjord. You can sail around the reefs or watch the whales between June and October. There may even be a chance to swim with humpback whales. Between July and November, huge pods of humpbacks swim alongside the yachts and are accompanied by their newborn offspring. The sea around the Vava'u islands ranges from shallow lagoons to deep-water drop-offs.

Whether you are chartering your own boat or just learning to sail, a cruise around tropical coral islands in Belize, Costa Rica and Tonga is a relaxing and enjoyable holiday.

Jane Tailor writes regularly about tropical-island sailing holidays for a range of travel-related websites and blogs. She has a particular interest in helping people who want to learn to sail and provides a lot of helpful information on the subject.

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