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, check out an ancient megalithic trilithon in the South Pacific, 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 as in The Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga becomes a hotspot for whales between July 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 truly immerse in the Tongan culture. One aspect of the local 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 called ta’ovala, and beautifully painted tapa 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 where women perform graceful tau’olunga with their hands, while the men captivate with epic fire dancing. Check out some of the shows to experience in the 10 Best Cultural Shows in Tonga.
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, they sure make 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 certain resorts 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
That’s right, Tonga has the only monarchy in the South Pacific and was the only South Pacific Island to never be officially “colonised”. 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 this in A Brief History of Tonga) 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. What’s more, 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, meat 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 domestic flights in our guide, The Guide to Domestic Flights in Tonga.
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 ‘ofato otherwise known as the “Niuafo’ou grub” that can only be found on this island and is considered a delicacy… For more unique foods to try, check out 10 Traditional Foods in Tonga.
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 10 Most Beautiful Sunrise & Sunset Spots in Tonga, as well as more about the time zone in What is the Tonga Time Zone?
More Unique Things to Do in Tonga
That’s it for our list of the most unique things to do in Tonga. Discover more of what makes Tonga a unique destination to visit in the following guides:
- 10 Most Unique Accommodations in Tonga
- 10 Best Ways to Experience the Tongan Culture
- 20 Amazing Reasons to Visit Tonga