A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com
A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga

(c) tongapocketguide.com

What Wildlife Can You Find in Tonga?

There’s an astonishing array of wildlife to be found on and in between the 170 islands of Tonga. From migrating Humpback Whales to thousands of fish and coral, the underwater world is well worth exploring. While most of Tonga’s original tropical rainforest has been lost, there are still small tracts where you can observe interesting land birds, as well as wading and seabirds on the coast. There’s not much diversity when it comes to land mammals, but who can complain about seeing a Flying Fox? Learn more about the species found across the islands in this traveller’s guide to the wildlife in Tonga.

5 Ways to Encounter Wildlife in Tonga

  • Do a whale swimming tour to snorkel with Humpback Whales
  • Hike in the ‘Eua National Park to look out for birds like the Red Shining Parrot
  • Snorkel or scuba dive among the diverse coral reefs
  • Do a bird watching tour to the bird sanctuary of Maninita Island
  • Check out the flying foxes in the village of Kolovai in Tongatapu.

For more information and extra ideas, take a look at the 7 Best Wildlife Experiences in Tonga.

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Marine Life in Tonga

Tonga’s most extensive and diverse range of wildife can be found in its waters. It’s thought that there are around 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral in Tonga. Most famously, Humpback Whales frequent Tonga’s waters during their mating season, but there’s a lot more to discover when it comes to marine life in Tonga.

Fish Species in Tonga

Some of the fish species in Tonga include Surgeonfish, Clownfish, Sailfish, Pufferfish, Butterflyfish, Grouper, Barracuda, Yellowfin Tuna, Dogtooth Tuna, Spanish Mackerel, Mahimahi, Parrotfish, Yellowfin Goatfish, Wahoo and Lionfish.

Encountering fish in Tonga can be done through snorkelling and scuba diving. Check out The Guide to Snorkelling in Tonga and The Guide to Scuba Diving in Tonga.

Other Marine Species in Tonga

Many more species can be found in Tonga’s waters, including Shrimp, Krill, Crabs, Manta Rays, Reef Sharks, Eagle Rays, Moray Eels, Green Sea Turtles, Hawksbill Sea Turtles, Starfish, Seastars, Urchins and hundreds of hard and soft coral. Marine mammals include Humpback Whales and Spinner Dolphins.

Learn more about whale interactions in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

Birds in Tonga

On land, the most prevalent type of wildlife is birds. Tonga has only a small handful of surviving endemic birds, while most other bird species can be found across the South Pacific. For visitors, visiting the national parks and bird sanctuaries on uninhabited islands are the best way to admire the birdlife.

Land Bird Species in Tonga

Some species found in the forests and coast of Tonga include the Pacific Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Tongan Megapode, Junglefowl, Pacific Harrier, Banded Rail, Spotless Crake, Pacific Golden Plover, Friendly Ground-dove, Pacific Pidgeon, Many-coloured Fruit-dove, Crimson-crowned Fruit-dove, Blue-crowned Lory, Red Shining Parrot, Long-tailed Cuckoo, White-rumped Swiftlet, White-collared Kingfisher, Pacific Swallow, Polynesian Starling, Jungle Mynah, Tongan Whistler, Polynesian Triller and Wattled Honeyeater.

Seabird Species in Tonga

Tonga is home to nesting grounds and feeding habitat for a wide range of seabirds, including the Brown Booby, Brown Noddies, White Terns, White-tailed Tropicbirds, Black and Brown Noddies, White Terns, Black-winged Petrels, Red-footed Booby and much more.

Learn more about seeing birds in Tonga in the 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga.

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

Reptiles in Tonga

Tonga has several reptiles, including sea turtles, kraits, geckos, skinks and more. The Banded Iguana was once naturally found in Tonga but has since been reintroduced from Fiji, while sea turtles are a source of cultural and natural conflict. These reptiles are traditionally eaten in Tonga, but today, the Green and Hawksbill Turtles are on the endangered species list making them a key species for conservation.

Reptile Species in Tonga

Some reptile species in Tonga include the Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill Sea Turtle, ‘Eua Forest Gecko, Tonga Robust Tree Skink, Banded Iguana, Azure-tailed Skink, Copper-tailed Skink, Tonga Ground Skink, Mourning Gecko, Banded Sea Krait, Brown-lipped Sea Krait and more.

Marine reptile species can be seen on snorkelling and scuba diving excursions in Tonga, while other species can be found in the forested areas of Tonga.

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) tongapocketguide.com

Land Mammals in Tonga

Tonga’s only native land mammals are the Pacific Flying Fox, locally known as Peka. These large bats can be found across the islands and are protected as they are considered the official property of the King.

Other land mammals on the islands have been introduced, including dogs and pigs which are commonly seen on the roads and streets in Tonga’s populated areas.

Marine mammals in Tonga include Humpback Whales and Spinner Dolphins.

A Traveller’s Guide to Wildlife in Tonga(c) Tonga Ministry of Tourism

Vegetation in Tonga

Many plant species have found their way to this island nation over millions of years, many representing the common landscape of the South Pacific. Hibiscus, frangipani, bird of paradise and other flowers add a touch of colour to the coconut groves, banyan, pandanus and banana plantations. There are tracts of rainforest, particularly in ‘Eua and Toloa in Tongatapu, as well as mudflats of mangroves making the ideal habitat for many of the species already mentioned.

The only endemic species in Tonga are Aglaia heterotricha, which is in the mahogany family, and Podocarpus pallidus, which is in the conifer family.

More About Wildlife in Tonga

That’s it for our traveller’s guide to wildlife in Tonga. Inspire yourself with more experiences with the 101 Best Things to Do in Tonga: The Ultimate List. Plus, get even more tips in The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga.


Laura S.

This article was reviewed and published by Laura, editor in chief and co-founder of Tonga Pocket Guide. Since arriving solo in the South Pacific over 10 years ago with nothing but a backpack and a background in journalism, her mission has been to show the world how easy (and awesome) it is to explore a paradise such as Tonga. She knows the islands inside-out and loves sharing tips on how best to experience Tonga’s must-dos and hidden gems. Laura is also editor of several other South Pacific travel guides.

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