The Top Nature Tours and Wildlife Experiences in Tonga
Travel is not just about seeing different landscapes, immersing in the local culture, and, especially in Tonga’s case, soaking in the sun. It’s an opportunity to witness some new and interesting creatures, from flamboyant birds to majestic whales. Large fruitbats, a dizzying array of coral and fish, and beautiful birds also call Tonga home, so see how you can encounter Tonga’s amazing mammals, birds, fish and reptiles with this list of wildlife experiences in Tonga.
1. Swimming with Whales
The most famous wildlife experience in Tonga, swimming with whales is a unique and life-changing activity. Available between July and October each year when humpback whales migrate from Antarctica, swimming with whales in Tonga allows you to have one of the closest encounters possible with some of the world’s largest mammals. Learn more about this experience in detail in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
Location: All over Tonga! See Where to Swim with Whales in Tonga to compare island groups.
2. Snorkelling in Caves and Coral Reefs…
Snorkelling opens up a world of stunning coral gardens harbouring hundreds of reef species. There are options for many kinds of snorkelling in Tonga, whether you want to snorkel from shore, with a boat tour to outer reefs to experience tropical aquatic life or as part of whale swimming tours which also often stop by alternative snorkelling reefs and islands. Find out more about incorporating some snorkelling into your Tongan adventure in The Guide to Snorkelling in Tonga.
Location: All over Tonga! See the 10 Best Places to Snorkel in Tonga for recommendations and their locations.
2. … Or Scuba Diving into the Depths
Scuba diving pretty much anywhere in Tonga will uncover amazing marine life. Vava’u has the largest number of dive operators and established dive sites, famous for its coral displays and ecosystems. Ha’apai is a less-visited destination but still has plenty of options to admire its uncrowded dive sites with some interesting coral formations. Tongatapu’s outer reef and drop-off is an amazing example of Tonga’s biodiversity, while ‘Eua is home to the South Pacific’s largest sea cave. Find out more about diving in The Guide to Scuba Diving in Tonga.
Location: Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai, as well as freediving in ‘Eua. See the link above to learn more about each destination.
3. See the Flying Foxes of Kolovai
On the main island of Tonga, Tongatapu, the village of Kolovai is a hotspot for the protected Pacific flying fox. The eastern-side village is considered a sanctuary for this large bat species that can be seen in colonies hanging from the trees all around the village. You can simply drive there or take a sightseeing tour to check them out.
Location: Kolovai, west side of Tongatapu.
4. Bird Watching on Islands and National Parks
While marine life tends to take all the limelight in Tonga, there are some interesting bird species to admire too. One of the best places to go for bird watching is the island of Maninita in the northern Vava’u Group. Boat tours from Mounu Island Resort and Treasure Island Eco Resort can take you out to the island to possibly see around 19 different species of birds, including the endemic Tongan whistler. The ‘Eua National Park is also a must-visit for birders. See the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga for more information about The Kingdom’s birds.
Location: All over Tonga! See the link above for recommended locations.
5. Hiking and 4WD Tours in the ‘Eua National Park
Tonga’s largest national park, ‘Eua National Park on the island of ‘Eua, is home to an interesting array of forest bird species, including red shining parrots, Pacific pigeons, crimson-crowned fruit-doves, Polynesian trillers, wattled honeyeaters, Polynesian starlings and more. Either enjoy this area on foot for a better chance at spotting birds – see the 5 Best Hikes on ‘Eua, or join guided land tours as listed in The Best Guided Island Land Tours of ‘Eua.
Location: ‘Eua National Park, east side of ‘Eua.
6. Watch Seabirds and Wild Horses on the South Coast of ‘Eua
Speaking of ‘Eua, the island also has another birdy hotspot on the south coast. Seabirds nest around the Lakufa’anga Cliffs where a self-guided walk allows you to admire all sorts of birds flying to and from the cliffs, including brown boobies, brown and grey noddies, white terns and white-tailed tropicbirds. If you’re lucky, you may well spot the herd of wild horses that famously roam the rugged terrain of this area. Again, check out the 5 Best Hikes in ‘Eua for information on how to get there.
Location: Lakufa’anga Cliffs, south coast of ‘Eua.
7. ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden Tour
Join the former Director for Agriculture and Forestry, Haniteli Fa’anunu, for an insightful nature tour of his beautifully curated ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden. Culture meets nature on his guided walking tours of a tropical garden. On the standard Garden Tour, learn about Haniteli’s interesting life story, as well as about tropical plants from across the South Pacific and their many benefits. The tour is opportunistic when it comes to wildlife, as Haniteli is happy to teach you more about any birds or insects spotted on the tour. Learn more about the tour, as well as a longer version known as the “‘Ene’io Grand Tour” in the 15 Best Culture Tours & Experiences in Tonga.
Location: ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden, east side of ‘Utu Vava’u (the main island), south of Tu’anikivale. Keep left at the fork in Tu’anikivale and ‘Ene’io is approximately 900 m (980 yards) down this road. If no one is waiting for you at the gate entrance, continue down to the beach.
8. Medicine and Cultural Walk with Katea Retreat
Katea Retreat might be more known for its cultural shows and umu buffets, but the beach resort also offers a unique guided nature walk. The walk begins on the resort’s breathtaking beach backed with caves before delving into the forest where you’ll learn about the vegetation and how they are used in traditional Tongan medicine. Along the way, you’ll also check out sacred landmarks and learn more about Tonga’s unique history from your knowledgeable local guide. The experience concludes with a fabulous lunch.
Location: Katea Retreat, Nakolo (access road off Liku Road, just south of Nakolo village), southeast coast of Tongatapu.
9. Self-Guided Nature Walk at the Toloa Rainforest Reserve
Well-maintained forest trails wind their way through the 6 ha (14-acre) Toloa Rainforest Reserve on Tongatapu. Located on the grounds of the Tupou College near Fua’amotu Airport, the rainforest is one of the last remaining natural forests in Tonga. The interpretation panels along the trail indicate particular plant species, making this a fantastic self-guided nature experience in Tonga. You’re also likely to see butterflies and flying foxes along the trail. See more walks across the islands in the 10 Best Walks & Hikes in Tonga.
Location: Follow signs for Tupou College from Tuku’Aho Road between Fua’amotu Airport and Nuku’alofa, Tongatapu.
10. Check Out the Fishing Pigs
Pigs! There are so many pigs in Tonga, whether they are roaming the streets or, well, crackling on a spitroast. The most famous pigs, however, are the Fishing Pigs in the village of Navutoka. The pigs in this village on the eastern side of Tongatapu can be seen in the mudflats sticking their heads in the water to “fish” for food. For more unusual sights, check out the 10 Most Unique Things to Do in Tonga.
Location: Signposted along Tahi Road, Navutoka, east side of Tongatapu.
More Nature Tours and Wildlife Experiences in Tonga
That’s it for the best nature tours and wildlife experiences in Tonga. For more about experiencing Tonga’s wonderful flora and fauna, check out the following guides:
- 20 Animals & Birds Found in Tonga
- A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga
- 10 Best Natural Attractions in Tonga