The Ultimate Tonga Scuba Diving Guide
Tonga: its underwater world has everything you want from a tropical destination and more. Dive with the rays, sharks, colourful reef fish and then some. Encounter majestic humpback whales and explore coral archways, vertical walls, pinnacles and caves and the list continues… What’s more, the visibility averaging at around 30m (100ft) makes the experience all the more vivid. So if you’re dreaming of diving in Tonga, start seeing how you can make it a reality with this guide to scuba diving in Tonga.
Before we jump into this ultimate guide to scuba diving in Tonga, be sure to bookmark the 101 Best Things to Do in Tonga: The Ultimate List for even more amazing experiences.
The Best Time to Scuba Dive in Tonga
Although there are two distinct seasons in Tonga, summer (December to April) and winter (May to November), the difference in diving conditions between the two is often minimal. This makes Tonga an ideal destination to scuba dive all year round.
In winter, the air temperatures are typically 19-29°C (66-84°F) and sea temperatures are around 21°C (69°F). In summer, the air temperatures are typically 23-31°C (74-88°F) and sea temperatures are around 24°C (75°F). For more information, see The Best Time to Scuba Dive in Tonga.
When to See Whales in Tonga
Let’s be honest, many divers choose Tonga for the chance to see humpback whales. They migrate from Antarctica each year, arriving in Tonga between June and July in order to mate and calve. They then leave Tonga back for Antarctic waters around October and November, depending on the island group.
Can You Scuba Dive with Humpback Whales?
No, you don’t typically scuba dive with whales in Tonga but there are dedicated whale snorkelling tours available. Learn more about snorkelling with whales in our The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
The Best Places to Dive in Tonga
Tonga is a nation of 170 islands, where the waters just about anywhere reveal amazing dive sites. For visitors, however, the best places to dive is where some of these vibrant dive sites also have proximity to scuba diving operators and rentals, as well as accommodation – ensuring an effortless dive holiday.
Scuba Diving in Vava’u
The island group of Vava’u has by far the widest range of dive operators and dive sites to explore in Tonga. Some 50 islands are tightly packed together to create some amazing underwater seascapes, from caves to tunnels to coral formations shaped like Chinese architecture (at least in the case of the China Town dive site). There’s also one of Tonga’s best wreck dives sitting upright just 30m (100ft) deep in the Neiafu Harbour.
The best dive sites in Vava’u include:
- China Town
- The Clan McWilliam
- Hunga Magic
- Split Rock
- Swallows Cave
- Shark’s Tooth Cave
- Sea Fans
- Mariner’s Cave
- No Worries
- Whale Reef
Learn more about the dive sites in the 10 Best Dive Sites in Vava’u.
Scuba Diving in Ha’apai
The Ha’apai group sits between Vava’u and Tongatapu, a scattering of around 62 islands. Much less visited, Ha’apai’s dive sites remain pristine and uncrowded with interesting sites including a cave with a hydrothermal vent and an ancient coral archway formed during the last ice age. What’s more, visibility tends to be better than anywhere else in the Kingdom.
Some of the best dive sites in Ha’apai are:
- Hot Spring Cave
- Arch of Ofalanga
- Eden Rock
- Benny’s Place
Check out some of the dive sites in the 5 Best Dive Sites in Ha’apai.
Scuba Diving in Tongatapu and ‘Eua
Sitting in the southern reaches of Tonga, the main island of Tonga, Tongatapu, and the neighbouring island of ‘Eua have some dive sites worth checking out. The must-do is Cathedral Cave underneath the island of ‘Eua. It’s one of the largest sea caves in the world at 100m (330ft) long and 50m (165ft) wide at 30m (100ft) deep. The surrounding lagoon and outer reef of Tongatapu also have some interesting features and an array of life to admire.
The best dive sites across Tongatapu and ‘Eua include:
- Cathedral Cave
- Outer Reef
Learn more about the Tongatapu and ‘Eua dive sites in the 10 Best Dive Sites in Tonga.
For more information on the best islands for diving in Tonga, take a look at the 5 Best Places to Scuba in Tonga.
What to See When Diving in Tonga
Tonga’s marine life is so diverse that listing everything here would be an impossible task. It’s thought that there are around 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral in Tonga’s waters alone. However, there are certainly more common species to see in Tonga’s tropical waters, from the tiniest nudibranchs to the largest whales.
Whales in Tonga
One of the highlights of Tonga’s waters is the humpback whales that migrate to Tonga between June and October. Snorkelling with the whales is a popular and regulated activity in Tonga, which you can learn more about in The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
Fish, Turtles and Sharks in Tonga
Reefs in Tonga are home to a gargantuan variety of species, such as barracuda, butterflyfish, clownfish, tuna, manta rays, eagle rays, marlin, reef sharks, turtles, crayfish, shrimps, nudibranchs and much much more.
Coral in Tonga
Dives in Tonga also often feature amazing coral formations with a variety of hard and soft coral to admire, as well as sea fans.
Dive Resorts and Operators
Unlike other South Pacific nations, Tonga is not typically a holiday destination of “dive resorts”, although it does have at least two. However, there are plenty of operators that are either PADI or SSI affiliated that offer safe and enjoyable recreational dives and courses. They also often work with nearby resorts offering pick-up for guests.
Dive Operators in Vava’u
- Dive Tonga
- Beluga Diving
- Dolphin Pacific Diving
- Tongan Expeditions
- Riki Tiki Tours
Learn more about these operators in the 5 Best Scuba Diving Tours in Vava’u.
Dive Operators in Ha’apai
- Matafonua Lodge
- Ha’apai Beach Resort
Learn more about these operators in The Best Scuba Diving Tours in Ha’apai.
Dive Operators in Tongatapu and ‘Eua
- Deep Blue Diving
- Blue Water Explorer
Learn more about these operators in The Best Snorkel & Scuba Dive Tours on Tongatapu and The Best Scuba Diving Tours in ‘Eua.
More About Scuba Diving in Tonga
That’s it for the ultimate guide to scuba diving in Tonga but by no means the end of our scuba advice: Check out the following guides for more tips:
Finally, get even more advice for planning your trip in The Complete Travel Guide to Tonga and the 31 Tips for Travelling in Tonga.