Try Something Different in Tonga
Just when you thought you’d done it all, Tonga comes along and shows you that you can swim with humpback whales, can check out an ancient megalithic trilithon in the South Pacific, you can experience the unique Tongan culture, and even take the world’s shortest commercial flight. That’s right there are some pretty unique experiences in Tonga, which you can learn a little more about in the list below.
1. Swim with Humpback Whales
Ok, so technically you can swim with humpback whales elsewhere but nowhere has as much choice or successful whale swims than the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga becomes a hotspot for whales between June and October each year where it’s possible, through strict regulations, to join these gentle giants in the water on special snorkelling tours. Swim with playful juveniles and see whale mothers and their calves resting on the shallow ocean floor! Learn more about this amazing experience in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
2. Learn Tongan Handicrafts
Only in Tonga can you really immerse in the Tongan culture. One aspect of the Tongan culture that can’t help but impress visitors is the handicrafts. Tonga is a nation of skilled craftspeople who make all sorts of practical woven items, clothing such as their distinct waistmats, and beautifully painted tapa cloths – cloths made from the beaten bark of a mulberry tree. Not only can you browse an array of amazing handicrafts are various markets around Tonga, but you can even learn how to make some unique souvenirs for yourself. Find out how in Where to Learn Tongan Handicrafts.
3. See a Lakalaka Performance
Another aspect of the Tongan culture to experience in Tonga is a Lakalaka performance. Traditionally, these performances of cultural singing and dancing were only reserved for special occasions, but today, a few of the resorts on the islands offer special cultural shows where you watch such performances. Check out some of the shows in The Best Cultural Shows on Tongatapu.
4. See the South Pacific’s Only Megalithic Trilithon
Dubbed “The Stonehenge of the South Pacific”, the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is an interesting megalithic structure and the only trilithon found in the South Pacific. It is thought to have been constructed in the 13th Century under the rule of one of Tonga’s early kings. However the 30-40 ton blocks were constructed, it sure makes for a unique sight to see in the islands of Tonga. Check out more interesting sights in the 10 Fascinating Historical Sites in Tonga.
5. Look out for the Tongan Whistler
Tonga has a few unique endemic species, with one of the slightly more likely species to see being the Tongan whistler. Bird enthusiasts or just general nature-lovers have a good chance of spotting the yellow-breasted bird in the islands of Vava’u, where resorts such as the Mounu Island Resort, Mandala Island Resort and the Tongan Beach House can help you find the bird on their bird-watching tours. Learn more about birding here in the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga.
6. See the Palace of the Pacific’s Only Monarchy
Yes, Tonga is home to the Pacific’s only monarchy, where one iconic symbol of this is the Royal Palace in the capital, Nuku’alofa. The palace was built in 1867 for the first King in the Tupou line (you can learn about the interesting history of Tonga here) and is still used as the official royal residence of the King of Tonga to this day.
7. Try Traditional Tongan Cuisine
As Tongans were early colonisers of the South Pacific, you can find influences of their cuisine in other South Pacific countries but many would argue that nothing compares to Tongan feasts where up to 30 different dishes are served on a pola or long tray made from plaited coconut leaves. One of the staple dishes of Tonga is lu pulu, corned beef and coconut milk wrapped up in parcels of taro leaves. Learn more about Tongan cuisine in The Guide to the Food in Tonga.
8. Take the World’s Shortest Flight
That’s right, Tonga has claimed the world’s shortest commercial flight with their seven-minute flight between Tongatapu and ‘Eua. During the whale season, keep an eye on the ocean to see whales from above for a unique perspective! Learn more about the domestic flights in Tonga here.
9. Try the Niuafo’ou Grub
If you manage to make it to this extremely remote island in the northern reaches of Tonga, you can pat yourself on the back. You can also pat yourself on the back if one of the locals of Niuafo’ou manages to convince you to eat the Niuafo’ou grub, a grub only found on this island which is considered a delicacy.
10. Be in One of the Very First Countries to See the Sunrise of the New Day
This is an honour that Tonga shares with the countries of Samoa and Kiribati: being the first countries in the world to see the new day due to its position directly west of the International Date Line. Find a good place to watch the sunrise with our 8 Most Beautiful Sunrise & Sunset Spots in Tonga.