Tonga is an archipelago located within the Polynesian group of islands in the South Pacific. Due to the geographic location of this archipelago, it is known as a popular diving destination. Many tourists who come to Tonga do not miss the opportunity to encounter humpback whales, which is only one of two dive destinations where that is possible.
Diving in Tonga offers a variety of opportunities in terms of marine life encounters. But Tonga is probably best known for the humpback whales that pass through its islands from the months of July to October. Most of them can be spotted by boat but if you are lucky, you might be able to see them up-close during your dive.
Humpback whales are not the only attraction you can expect when you dive in Tonga. Eagle rays and manta rays are also common sightings among the islands’ top dive sites. The shark species in Tonga are also known for their diversity.
The marine life is not the only thing known for its diversity as far as diving in Tonga is concerned. You can also find a variety of diving ecosystems that range from drop offs, reef systems, swim throughs, caves, walls, and chimneys.
Wreck diving is also sought after by diving enthusiasts who come to Tonga. The Clan MacWilliam (a 140-meter ship) is one of the most famous shipwreck dives. Meanwhile, night diving is a common activity in Tonga.
BEST DIVE SITES
Arch of Ofalanga
If you go to Tonga for diving, the Arch of Ofalanga is a must. This dive site is 20-meters wide and 15-meters tall. This arch offers great opportunity for divers to explore. However, this site is only suitable for experienced divers.
Clan MacWilliam Wreck
Located on the island of Vava’u, the Clan MacWilliam Wreck is among the most coveted dive sites in Tonga. This dive site is known for its rich collection of tropical fishes, crustaceans, and soft corals. This is a freighter ship that sits intact about 30 meters from the water surface.
The water visibility at this wreck dive is quite impressive. On average, you can expect good visibility up to 40 meters deep.
If you are looking for accessible dive sites in Tonga, you need to start in Tongatapu. The main island in Tonga is home to a variety of dive sites that includes reefs and lagoons. There are also five marine reserves and two island parks that are highly protected.
Hot Spring Cavern
This cavern is one of the best dive sites in Tonga for those who are looking for something new to explore. The entrance to this cavern is located 25 meters below the water surface. It is impressive in size wherein you will encounter a hydrothermal vent inside. This is responsible for supplying the cavern with hot water.
Tonga is best known for its humpback whales. If you want to have the chance to encounter with them, it is best to book a dive trip to this site. Make sure to dive from July to October to increase your chances. A licensed tour operator will be required before you can dive this site.
WHEN TO GO
The cool and dry season are noted as the best times to dive in Tonga. When planning your diving trip to Tonga, book from the months of May to November. If you want to catch humpback whales during your dive, they gather in large numbers to calve during the months of July to October.
Tonga’s wet season is from December to April. While it is not as pronounced as the wet season on neighboring islands of the South Pacific region, there are threats for cyclones.
HOW TO GET THERE
To get to Tonga, you must book a flight through the Fua’amotu Airport (BTU). This airport is located approximately 30 minutes from Nuku’alofa (the capital of Tonga).
Tonga is one of the most beautiful archipelagos in the South Pacific. Scuba diving is one of the reasons behind its popularity but with over 160 islands available to explore, there is more to do here than diving.
Due to its geographical setting, you can expect to do plenty of water activities while in Tonga. One of the highlights would be the chance to swim with humpback whales. If you are not into diving, there are many tour operators that give you a chance to swim with them up-close. Make sure to book with licensed whale operators to ensure sustainable practices and equipment.
For the adventure-seekers, you can also explore other water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, kite surfing, and surfing. If you want something a bit more relaxed, sailing is another must-try activity in Tonga.
There are also plenty of gorgeous beaches in Tonga for those who want a leisurely swim or the opportunity to unwind at the shore. Aside from those accessible from resorts, you can also find private, deserted beaches on many islands in this archipelago.
Tonga is an archipelago that are scattered in the southern Pacific Ocean. This Polynesian country consists of 169 islands, although only 36 of those are inhabited. The archipelago spans a total land area of 750 square kilometers. About 70% of Tongan nationals live on the island of Tongatapu.
The island nation of Tonga is surrounded by other famous tourist destinations like Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia. It was once under the protected state status of the British government until Tonga decided to become a constitutional monarchy in 2010.
The 36 main islands of Tonga that is inhabited are divided into three main geographical regions: Vava’u, Ha’apai, and Tongatapu. These three main groups of islands span a total land area of 800 kilometers on a north-south line. The capital city of Nuku’alofa is located on the main island – Tongatapu.
In terms of geology, the islands of Tonga are identified into two types. The first one is made up of a limestone base that was formed due to the uplifted coral formations. The second one is limestone that is overlaid with a volcanic base.
Travel information about Tonga
Tonga, also known as “Friendly Islands” is a Polynesian kingdom of 170 South Pacific islands lined with white beaches, coral reefs, and tropical forests. These islands are full of wonder and spectacular beauty. The total population is 107,122 which are mostly Polynesians. Total land area is 748 sq km of arable, pastures, forests and woodlands. Tourism here is a good source of income.
Capital city of Tonga: Nuku?alofa
Best times to visit Tonga: The climate here is tropical maritime. There are 2 seasons of Tonga, the cooler and less rain between May and November and a warm and rainy season between December and April. The best time for a travel to the islands of Tonga is dry and cool months between May and November.
How to get to Tonga: You have to connect flights from the US to Auckland daily then 5 times a week to Tonga. You can take direct flights from Australia to Tonga daily.
Visa requirements for Tonga: US citizens and other selected countries can obtain a free visa upon arrival valid for 1 month and extendable to 6 months.
Currency of Tonga: Official currency of Tonga is Tongan Pa’anga.
Official Language of Tonga: Official languages are English and Tongan.
UNESCO World Heritage sites in Tonga
There are 2 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Tonga’s tentative list.
- Lapita Pottery Archaeological Sites (A National Serial Site for consideration as the Kingdom of Tonga’s contribution to a transnational serial site listing)
- The Ancient Capitals of the Kingdom of Tonga