Scattered amongst the aquamarine expanse of the southern Pacific, Tonga offers both a taste of eccentric island culture and the chance for memorable aquatic adventures. These warm, reef-dotted seas hark back to a time of classical antipodean exploration – rich in both colourful wildlife and romantic, desert-island intrigue. Nowadays, the region’s largest visitors are also its most fascinating - humpback whales make these waters their playground, mating and calving far away from their frigid Antarctic home.
why we like tonga
For millennia humpback whales have made the long journey north from Antarctica to the balmy, reef-protected waters of Tonga. It is here that they take advantage of the sheltered conditions to reproduce – both conceiving and giving birth amongst this subaquatic coralline landscape. These majestic titans of the deep – weighing up to 36 tonnes and growing to 16 metres in length – dwarf the inquisitive humans that choose to swim beside them. But in spite of the whales’ fearsome size, only the very smallest ocean creatures, krill, need fear them. Littered with colourful sea life, the Tongan waters offer unparalleled opportunities to spend time amongst playful humpbacks, with both old and young whales happy to entertain visitors to their idyllic reef-scattered playground.
what to expect on your tonga holiday
Tonga is an archipelago nation that incorporates more than 170 islands, of which fewer than a third are inhabited, Tonga was originally referred to as the Friendly Islands, due to the warm nature of the local people. But this welcoming facade masks inner grit – the fiercely independent Tongan people have managed to remain uncolonised throughout the ages – a feat unique amongst Pacific nations. For more than a millennium, the Tongan monarchy has ruled uninterrupted over its scattered kingdom. Today, democracy is in fledgling form in Tonga, but the old feudal ways still dominate, reinforced by a healthy dose of conservative Christianity – a gift from the Northern Hemisphere.
Beyond the Ordinary
If snorkelling alongside one of the world’s largest mammals is not extraordinary enough, then visit the world’s youngest island. Formed in March 2015 as a result of the Huna Tonga volcano erupting, this 500-metre-long mass of volcanic rock lies around 45 kilometres north-west of Nuku’alofa, Tonga’s capital.