Tonga Scuba Destination Info:
GMT +13 hours
Phone Code: +676
Tonga comprises three main Island groups, Tongatapu, Ha'apai and Vava'u. Nuku'alofa in Tongatpu is the capital city. You can dive in any of the Island groups, Nuku'alofa has one operator, Ha'apai has two and Vava'u has four or so. Diving in Tonga is characterised by warm, clear water and tropical coral reefs. Thdere are many caves and tunnels in Tonga, particularly in the Ha'apai group. There is a good diversity of marine life including fish, reptiles and mammals. Humpback Whale visit the Kingom of Tonga from July to November. Diving in Tonga is a splendid option for the budget traveller.
Courtesy Brian Heagney - Fins 'n' Flukes Ltd, Ha'apai. www.finsnflukes.com
Getting to Tonga
There are several airlines that fly to Tongatapu´s international airport Fua'amotu (TBU).
Air New Zealand flies from New Zealand, Australia and London (via Los Angeles and Samoa).
Pacific Blue and Virgin Blue fly from New Zealand and Australia.
Air Pacific flies from Australia, Fiji and Los Angeles.
Getting to Ha'apai or Vava'u
Chathams Pacific connects Tongatapu´s domestic terminal with Salote Pilolevu Airport, Ha'apai every day (except Sundays) for T$170 one way. You´re best advised to take a taxi from international to domestic terminal in Tongatapu. Flights to Vava'u go twice a week, Wed and Sat, the cost is $T260 (approx)
For the more adventurous or those travelling on a limited budget, there are also two ferries going from Tongatapu to Ha'apai once a week and take about 8 to 10 hours. A trip on the MV Pulupaki (Phone: 23855) costs T$68 one way. The Princess Ashika (Phone: 23853) is a bit more comfortable, has a canteen and you can even watch movies in the passenger lounge. The Princess costs T$58. Schedules are often changed at short notice and departure times can be in the early hours. Swimming is always another option...
Try to make it from Nuku'alofa to Ha'apai or Vava'a as quickly as possible, the diving opportunites in both are substantially greater than what is available from the capital.
Diving is such a subjective thing that is difficult for me to tell you what you will think it will be like. There are great reefs, a good diversity of fish life plus reptiles and mammals, the water is warm 21 degree c minimum and there is usually excellent visibility, 20 meters plus. At first abundance or biomass may seem low, especially if you have come from Indonesia recently. There is not much current/drift diving, limited wreck diving opportunity, great caves, tunnels and generally photogenic topography. Invertebrate life is good with nudies, starfish, crustaceans and crinoids. The numbers of people are low, groups are normally small and dives take a pacific approach being long and easy. I have heard Tongan diving referred to as Sunday Afternoon Diving. The majority of my own Tongan experience (600+ dives) has been in Ha'apai and these comments are based on the diving in Ha'apai. Dining Tonga is a very rewarding experience and has much to offer for thr novice and more experienced alike.
The Clan Mc William in Neiafou Harbour, Vava'u is the best wreck dive in Tonga.
Bigger species likely to be encountered in Tonga include Grey Reef Shark, White Tip Reef Shark, Nurse Shark, Black Tip Reef Shark, Leopard Shark, Napoleon Wrasse, Dogtooth Tuna, Great Barracuda, Eagle Ray, Giant Reef Ray, Porcupine Ray. Mammals that may be spotted include Spinner Dolphines, Pilot Whales and Humpback Whales (Jul to Nov). Sea Turtles are common and mostly Green or Hawksbill.
The coral quality in Tonga is really superb (2009), hard coral cover is growth is extensive and abundant in highly varied forms i.e. Branching, Plate, Foliose, Massive, Sub-massive and Brain. Sort corals and Gorgonian fans are common and can be seen on most dives. Ha'apai has some of the most pristine reefs in Tonga that are very easily accessible and the great number of dive sites exist in the Ha'apai group. Luxurious reefs can be found in just minutes from Lifuka Islands, coral reef health increases the further South one explores correlating (excuse the pun) with the decreasing populus on the islands.
All year round is good but Jul to Nov offers the opportunity to see Humpback Whales. It is illegal to intentionally dive with these giants but they have been known to visit divers already on a dive, when it is on their own terms like this an in water encounter is always possible. Definitely one to cross of the list. Winds can be stronger in Feb, Mar and Apr but not so much as to deter diving on the most part.
Sun cream, Sun Hat, Wind and water proof Jacket, Sunnies, vegetables, spares kit, desired spirits or wines as range is linited in the islands, mosquito repellant (a must have), camera, underwater camera, swimmers, snorkeling gear, flash drive, friends, multiple currencies, ear plugs. Do not bring batteries, they are freely available, sea sickness meds if you need them, presents for your friendly dive operators, good chocolate, pack of cards, few books, the latest dive mag, binoculars for whale watching.
Big Blue Planet knows about the following locations in Tonga: