Where to Snorkel in Tonga
Things like humpback whales, historical sites and game fishing take most of the limelight in Tonga. But taking the time to put on a snorkel mask and discover the underwater world is beyond rewarding! If you know where to go, you can find yourself floating over valleys of coral, exploring clusters of coral bommies which look like cities for fish, and into amazing caves carved into the sides of islands. In short, snorkelling in Tonga is amazing, so get an idea of what you could be in for on a snorkelling experience in the Kingdom with this list of the best places to snorkel in Tonga.
1. Swallows Cave, Vava’u
Possibly the most popular snorkelling spot in the Vava’u Group, or in the whole of Tonga for that matter, Swallows Cave is an outstanding snorkelling spot. At the entrance of this huge sea cave, look out for colourful reef fish before you swim into the cave to find hundreds of fish swirling in a school creating magnificent patterns in the water. This snorkelling spot can be reached with most snorkelling boat tours in Vava’u.
2. Matafonua Lagoon Reef, Ha’apai
Easy to discover thanks to a buoy set up of Houmale’eia Beach in Ha’apai, Matafonua Lagoon Reef is the house reef of the Matafonua Lodge. Guests can borrow snorkelling equipment to explore this 400m reef or casual visitors are welcome to make the most out of this beautiful marine reserve. Learn more about this snorkelling spot and others in Ha’apai in the 5 Places to Snorkel in Ha’apai.
3. Japanese Coral Gardens, Vava’u
Located just off Mala Island in the Vava’u group, the Japanese Coral Gardens or just “Japanese Gardens” is another spot that many Vava’u snorkelling tours will take you to. Swim along the many coral bommies with its little communities of fish species including clownfish among the anemone. Check out more snorkelling spots in the area in the 10 Places to Snorkel in Vava’u.
4. Ha’atafu Beach, Tongatapu
A marine reserve and spectacular snorkelling straight off the beach, Ha’atafu Beach is well worth checking out on Tongatapu. The beach is backed with accommodations that offer snorkelling gear for guests or you can just rock up with your own gear and enjoy this popular beach. Find it on the northwestern tip of the island. See more snorkelling spots on Tonga’s main island in the 7 Best Places to Snorkel in Tongatapu.
5. Outer Islands and Reef, Tongatapu
Speaking of Tongatapu, snorkelling boat tours are well worth hopping onto in this part of Tonga, whether it’s an island-hopping boat tour, a whale swimming tour, or an island day trip. Either one will take you out to some stunning islands and snorkelling spots to swim with a variety of tropical fish and see some amazing coral.
6. Coral Gardens, Vava’u
More gorgeous coral gardens are waiting to be explored at this snorkelling site in Vava’u aptly named Coral Gardens. Some snorkel tours in Vava’u will take you to this wonderful snorkelling spot where you will drift with the current over the valleys of coral.
7. Uoleva Island, Ha’apai
Uoleva Island is a large island in Ha’apai with a few boutique resorts and fales, snorkelling spots, beaches… and not much else for a true Robinson Crusoe vibe! Many of the accommodations here have good snorkelling outside or within walking distance, such as Sea Change Eco Retreat, Captain Cook’s Hideaway and Taiana’s Resort. Check out the 5 Places to Snorkel in Ha’apai for more details.
8. Kanokupolu Beach, Tongatapu
Another beach for snorkelling in Tongatapu that happens to be next to Ha’atafu Beach (see #4), but is often overlooked, is Kanokupolu Beach. The beach is not only a good spot for surfing after a short paddle, but the snorkelling here is pretty good too. A few accommodations are backing the beach too, should you want to spend some extra time here at the Vakaloa Beach Resort or the Blue Banana Beach House. Check out other beaches on the island in the 10 Best Beaches on Tongatapu.
9. Mariner’s Cave, Vava’u
Another popular cave for snorkelling and scuba diving in Vava’u is Mariner’s Cave. With a short underwater tunnel to swim through to get into the cave, snorkelling at Mariner’s Cave is only recommended for seriously strong swimmers/snorkellers. Those who make the dive will be rewarded with emerging in an airtight chamber known for making a strange fog due to the wave action and the pressure in the cave.
10. Nuku Island, Vava’u
Finally in Vava’u and Tonga, Nuku Island is a small picturesque island with a quaint beach and some good snorkelling. Those on some of the snorkelling tours in Vava’u are likely to stop by, as it’s a popular lunch stop. Have a snorkel around the edge of the island and look out for elusive eels hiding in the sand.