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Best New Trips in the World: Sea Kayak, Snorkel, and Swim with Whales in Tonga

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For our annual Adventure Travel issue, we scoured the globe to find the 25 Best New Trips in the World for 2010, complete with a Best Trips photo gallery. Today, we present Tonga. The world’s far corners are now well within reach.

TONGA: Whale World

Each June, some 450 humpback whales arrive in the shallow waters off Tonga’s Ha’apai Islands to mate and calf, transforming the archipelago into an oversize nursery until September. The Ha’apai are one of the only places in the world where you can snorkel with the 50-foot-long mammals—and starting next year, Wilderness Travel will be the only tour operator to bring clients here to do it. “They’re really curious and let you get very close,” says the outfitter’s Barbara Banks. Just don’t expect a Sea World encounter. “It’s done with the absolute strictest guidelines about behavior around the whales,” adds Banks. “There is no contact.”