From water sports like diving and fishing to land-based activities like trekking and camping, Tonga’s got it all for the traveler who’s looking for some fun in the tropical sun. Located just west of the International Date Line, Tonga brands itself as the land where time begins. However, holiday-makers on this South Pacific group of islands can just as well call it the land where time stands still, as they savor the idyllic pace of life in the Pacific Ocean’s sole remaining kingdom.
Located to the east of Fiji, Tonga, while not as popular as its neighboring island nation, is easily accessed by plane from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii or Los Angeles. Once there, sit back and relax with some kava while you choose from the wealth of things to see and do in the kingdom.
Diving and snorkeling
With pristine blue waters offering impressive visibilities of thirty to forty meters, Tonga has some of the best diving in the world. Located just off the equator, Tonga’s water temperatures usually hover in the balmy mid- to high twenties (Celsius). Tonga is known for its spectacular cave diving. Steep drops and high pinnacles are also part of Tonga’s interesting underwater landscape. Dive sites are typically on the barrier reef, with some sites offering encounters with sharks, turtles, rays, barracuda and more.
If you don’t have your license, you can easily get one within a few days on the island. However, if you feel safer closer to the surface, you will also get to enjoy the breathtaking coral reefs by snorkeling at some of Tonga’s shallower sites. Keep an ear out for whale songs during the humpbacks’ migratory season.
Whale watching and swimming with the whales
One of Tonga’s main tourist attractions are the humpback whales that migrate to the kingdom in the southern hemisphere’s winter months. Home to more than seven types of whales and dolphins from July to October, Tonga runs several expert whale watching tours. While swimming with the whales isn’t guaranteed, Whale Watch Vava’u, which first pioneered the concept in 1993, recommends that enthusiasts allow three days to ensure an encounter. Visitors should note that scuba diving with whales is banned in Tonga, as is the use of jet skis and other motorized swimming aids.
Other water sports on Tonga include fishing, sailing, surfing, kayaking, and outrigger canoeing. Of course, you can also just work on your tan while lazing on Tonga’s famous white, sandy beaches.
Trekking and camping
Land lubbers, should head to ‘Eua, which offers some of Tonga’s best trekking. Visitors can opt to walk the island’s rugged coastline while enjoying panoramic sea views from the clifftops. Alternatively, a walk through the pristine tropical rainforest, will reveal hidden caves and cool waterfalls. Guides are recommended to ensure you won’t get lost. Be sure to bring good running shoes or hiking boots, especially if you plan to walk through the Lokupo Forest.
If you’re looking to get away from civilization for a bit, get in touch with the Mariners Guided Camping tours in Pangai, in the Ha’apai Group of islands. Campers have the option of visiting a volcano or simply relaxing on a deserted beach.
Tonga has plenty to offer for the history buff. The historical city of Mu’a is home to 28 langi or royal tombs, and is one of the islands’ most interesting archeological sites. Once the capital of Tonga, Mu’a remained the capital of the Tu’i Tonga, or Tonga kings, until the 19th century. The langis of Mu’a are large, artificial hills, surrounded by large slabs of coral rock, which were precisely cut and fitted so that the joint is scarcely visible. The best preserved langi is that of Paepae-o-Tele’a, known for its L-shaped corner slabs.