Tonga offers one of the best places to swim with whales worldwide as it is on the migration path of the impressive humpback whales each year.
With 170 islands surrounded by turquoise water, Tonga is a stunning destination. It is one of the rare places that is on the migration path of humpback whales. Whale watching in Tonga is possible for several months of the year as they come to mate and give birth in the warmer waters.
Spotting and swimming with these giant creatures in their natural environment is the highlight of any trips in the area.
Tonga scuba diving offers warm water, varied tropical fish, and incredible reefs to attract divers. It is relatively untouched and has well-preserved waters with up to 70m visibility.
Here you can find diverse topography with stunning colonies of hard and soft corals. Large pelagics, nudibranchs and cave diving means the scuba diving has something for everyone. The humpback whales and the chance to swim with them while on the liveaboards is just one more reason to join a cruise to this fantastic area.
Take a look at the Liveaboard Cruise options below.
Tonga Whales - 1 LIVEABOARDS
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The diverse environment diving will suit both beginners and advanced divers and is at a relaxed pace. Topography features are archways, overhangs, coral bommies, caves, channels and even pirate anchors with gorgonian sea fans, hard corals and anemones covering the reef.
Marine life here is banded sea snakes, clownfish, eagle rays, stingrays, turtles, pipefish, nudibranchs as well as crustaceans like shrimps, crabs and lobster.
Best Places to Dive in Tonga
The Tonga liveaboard has no fixed schedule as it follows the migrating humpbacks for whale watching and snorkelling in the mornings so guests can swim with the humpback whales. In the afternoon the Tongan Liveaboard will moor up for the afternoon and night dives.
Ha’apai is a group of fifty mainly uninhabited islands in the central area of Tonga, offering uncrowded sites. The pace onboard is relaxed as the marine life will dictate the course of navigation.
Best Dive Sites in Tonga
Hot Spring Cavern
The site has an entrance at 25m and is a large cavern with a hydrothermal vent providing the cave with hot water in the second of its two chambers. Outside the cave, there is coral and fish life along a wall feature that depends to 30m
Arch of Ofalanga
An archway as the name suggests which is over 20m in width and 15m in height that was formed during the ice age.
A tunnel at the deepest part is home to giant lobsters on the walls and ceiling, leading to a cave chamber. The area is carpeted in hard and soft corals with good macro life.
This is a wall dive that drops off into deep water beyond recreational levels. Covered in hard and soft corals nudibranchs, and reef fish can be found along with some larger pelagic species hunting the silver baitfish, grey reef sharks, barracuda and groupers and the occasional turtle sighting.
Here you find a maze of swim-throughs and tunnels starting from the inside of the reef and ending on the outside with blue water where the eagle rays and reef sharks can be found.
The dive starts with coral bommies covered in sponge and coral life surrounded by reef fish.
There is plenty of macro life on the reef with whip coral shrimp, nudibranchs and crustaceans with an unusual find being the orangutan crabs in the bubble coral.
A macro dive site with coral blocks housing pipefish, nudibranchs, anemones and mantis shrimps, reef sharks can sometimes be found on the sandy bottom at 25m.
The Green Wall
A wall dive that has a unique ‘chimney’ in the reef. Starting at 8m and descending to 22m, this swim-through is 2-3m in width and traverses the reef vertically until it reaches the base where there is a horizontal outlet onto the wall. The wall is covered in corals with Napoleon wrasse, stingrays and sharks seen in the area.
Tonga Scuba Diving Highlights
- Common sightings – Stingrays, groupers, surgeonfish, clownfish
- Special sightings – Humpback whales, orangutan crabs
- Topography - Walls, caves, channels, drop-off and coral gardens
- Visibility - 25 to 40m+
- General information - Diving in Tonga is available for all level divers, clear water and easy dive sites
- Onboard options - Snorkelling with Humpback whales, kayaking and beach visits
Best Time to Go
Diving is possible year round but the best season is May to November.
The season coincides with the migration of the humpback whales (July and September) from the Arctic to the warmer waters to breed and give birth.
December to April is the rainy season, with the highest rainfall in February and March.
Tonga does have tropical cyclones occurring as late as May but more likely during November to March.
Water temperature is 26 to 29C, so a full 3mm suit is recommended. For snorkelling with whales vests and hoods are also a benefit due to the multiple entry and exits of the water into the zodiacs.
How to Get There
International flights are via Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand or Fiji to Nuku'alofa, then from there a connection via a local flight to Vava'u or Ha’apai.
Local time vs GMT
What to pack
Food and drink
On entry for most nationalities
Tongan and English is spoken widely
Casual but modest dress
24 - 28 C daytime, 21 - 24 C evenings
Taro, yams, bananas, coconuts and seafood