Diving in Tonga
Every year divers from around the world head to
Tonga for the unique opportunity to spend time in the water with humpback whales and their calves. The whales come to the Vava’u, and Haapai group between June and October, with the best months being July to September. Special permits are required to get in the water with these majestic animals, so you’ll need to make sure your live-aboard or local dive resort has the government license. Because the waters are so clear and encounters take place in relatively calm water, Tonga is considered to have the world’s best humpback whale encounters.
If you can tear yourself away from the whales, or if you visit after whale season, Tonga is no less spectacular. Diving is available year-round, and the vivid, soft corals and healthy hard coral substrate that define the South Pacific underwater experience are especially prolific here. You’ll find zippy passes with sharks, spectacular caverns and caves with sleepy sharks, clownfish, swim-throughs, tunnels, and steep and dramatic walls. The sites in open water bring in the pelagic animals and encounters with spotted eagle rays, schools of jacks or barracuda, tuna and dolphin are common. Smaller critters such as mandarinfish and seahorses are often found right under the dock.
There are only a few dive operators, so venturing to this corner of the dive globe will not include large crowds.
The water temperature in Tonga varies between 75°F and 84°F, and the visibility averages 80-100 feet. Check out Tonga’s current weather
Passport and/or Visa Requirements
ENTRY/ EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
All U.S. citizens are required to present a passport, and do not need to obtain a visa. All persons leaving Tonga, pay a Government Departure Tax.
Vaccinations are not required for entry into Tonga. Check with your doctor and the Centers for Disease Control on recommended vaccinations for travel at
Culture and Customs
Tongan culture has evolved as their contact with other cultures has spread their sphere of influence. Traditionally, women have greater rank in society than men. But chiefs rule the strongly stratified culture seen throughout Polynesia, and on Tonga rank is obtained from one’s mother. Interestingly, in pre-missionary Tonga, men were heavily tattooed except the king, who was considered too high ranking for anyone to touch. Although today, the Tui Tonga, the hereditary king, rules with absolute power. Traditionally, men cooked and worked in the fields, while women improved the social status of the house by weaving mats. Men also carved wood bowls, war clubs, and canoes, among other woodcrafts. Men were also responsible for building the traditional home called a fale. Some Tongan men and women will still wear the tupenu, similar to the sarong. Tongans have adopted rugby as their national sport and have developed some notable players on the international level. And they are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever encounter. Read more
Electricity, Telephone and Internet Access
Electricity in Tonga is 240 volts, 50 cycles, so an adapter will be needed for US visitors. The country code for the Tonga is 676 and direct dial service is fast and clear. Check with your service provider for long distance/roaming information and costs.
Internet service is sporadically available at the larger hotels and resorts, and at Internet cafes in the larger cities.
Water is safe to drink in the main towns, elsewhere bottled water is recommended.
Language & Currency
Tongan and English are the official languages and the local currency is the pa’anga (TOP), check the current exchange rate
Tonga utilizes Tonga Time, TOT which is 13 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. They do not observe Daylight Savings Time.
History, Art, and Culture
The island we now refer to as the Kingdom of Tonga was first settled by Polynesian seafarers perhaps as early as 1500 BC. The first Europeans to encounter Tonga were the Dutch in 1616. The early Tongan empire encompassed Samoa and Niue, and ruled as a great seafaring nation. A large shift occurred when the Wesleyan Methodist missionaries came, which virtually eliminated traditional dancing, tattooing and passages of life rituals. However, the Tongan Kings and their lineage remained as the key governors of the island nation until 2008, when the current king, George Tupou V had to step down from the day-to-day work.
Location and Size
Tonga is located in the Pacific Ocean and is comprised of 169 islands (36 inhabited). The total land area is approximately 289 square miles. The main island of Tongatapu is approximately 100 square miles.
The population of Tonga is approximately 106,326 (2016).