Tonga is an archipelago comprised of 176 islands scattered in the southern Pacific Ocean.
What makes Tonga really special is it is one of the only two places in the world where humpback whales can be seen, the other one being Turks and Caicos. Visit the islands from July to October when the great whales come to mate and give birth before heading off to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. They are seen from the boat and brave divers can practically swim with them during lucky dives.
Various diving sites can be found in the Tongatapu area sporting breathtaking lagoon and reef. It has five marine reserves teeming with rich marine biodiversity.
Another diving site is in Ha'apai Group boasting of great reef geography. Dive in the caves, canyons, caverns and tunnels with vertical walls, and fast flowing passes with a plenitude of colourful coral gardens. Hard corals prevail in the reefs but there are also some gorgonian fans and soft corals. Marine life includes encounters with pelagic sharks, tuna, trevally Sea Snake and barracuda, turtles, eagle rays, sea snakes, and tropical reef fishes.
For the beginner, novice, and advanced divers visit the Vava'u Group sporting breathtaking drift dives along walls. There is also the wreck of the 122 metre copra steamer named the Clan McWilliam that sank over 50 years ago which is now home to small schooling fish. The excellent water visibility in the area allows seeing over 40 metres of great underwater scenery teeming with good coral reefs with lots of fire coral and large gorgonian fan grottos in some areas too.
Tonga is an active participant of marine conservation efforts. There are five marine reserves in the Tongatapu area alone protecting Tonga’s spectacular lagoon and reef. It has two island parks protected by government legislation.
Tonga has a tropical climate. Warm season is from December to May and the cool season is from May to December.
The water temperature hovers around 24°C/75F from January to March and around 21°C/69F from July to September.
The diving season is year round but diving is best between May and November.
Natural hazards include cyclones usually from October to April. There are also earthquakes because of the volcanic activity in Fanuafo'ou.
The main point of entry to Tonga is the Fua'amotu Airport in Tongatapu around half an hour from Nuku'alofa. The airlines that fly to Tonga are Air New Zealand flying five times weekly from Auckland and once weekly from Samoa and Pacific Blue that flies from Sydney and Auckland twice a week.
Inter-island flights are served by Real Tonga Airline with flights from Tongatapu to 'Eua, Ha'apai, and Vava'u and from Vava'u to Niuafo’ou and Niuatoputapu.
There are also private moorings in Vava'u for those who prefer to travel with their yachts since it is also a popular stop for the around-the-world circuit.
Cars, motorbikes, scooters and cycles can be rented in Tongatapu, Vava'u and Ha'apai. There are also taxis and buses although without regular schedules.
The general transportation system in Tonga is excellent.