Safety in the Water in Tonga
Let’s be honest, trips to Tonga are all about the water. Whether it’s snorkelling or scuba diving among an array of vibrant coral and tropical fish or swimming with whales, you’ll find yourself in the Pacific Ocean a fair few times in Tonga. However, the ocean always comes with a few risks that land lubbers like us humans need to avoid. We go through a few tips for water safety in Tonga in this guide.
Tips for Water Safety in Tonga
- Swim inside of lagoons away from rips and channels
- Avoid swimming alone
- Check whether boats have safety equipment before jumping onboard
- Bring kids their own lifejackets
- Avoid touching coral
- Scuba dive within your abilities, following strict depth and timing precautions
And if you were wondering more about drinking water, see Can You Drink the Water in Tonga?
Swimming in Tonga
Even the strongest of swimmers can get caught out in strong rips and currents in Tonga. It’s best seek out local advice if you are unsure where is safe to swim. Some beaches in Tonga, especially in front of resorts, have signs indicating where is safe to swim from beaches.
Many of the beaches in Tonga lead into sheltered lagoons inside protective reefs that offer safe swimming and snorkelling. However, currents can be strong around passages that drain lagoons, especially at falling tide so be aware.
Don’t swim alone. Keep an eye on kids.
Sea Life Hazards
One of the most common injuries that swimmers and snorkellers confront are coral cuts. Live coral stuck in a wound can cause prolonged infection, so it’s important to remove live coral from cuts as soon as possible. As soon as you’re cut, get out of the water and clean the wound with water that’s as clean as possible. Remove any debris or coral from the wound and wipe with an antiseptic wipe. Dress the wound up with an appropriate bandage and change once a day or after bleeding.
There are no real dangers when it comes to sea life in Tonga. Venomous sea snakes are unlikely to attack and, even if they did, their teeth cannot puncture human skin or wetsuits. The man ‘o war jellyfish can be found in Tonga on occasion which can cause a painful sting but are not deadly. Sharks are present in Tonga’s waters but are highly unlikely to attack unless provoked. Avoid touching sea urchins, stonefish, cone shells and lionfish. Wear reef shoes.
While getting in the way of a 33-ton whale is not a good idea, swimming with whales in Tonga is safe, as they are done with whale swimming regulations and with experienced guides. Find out more in Is it Safe to Swim with Whales in Tonga?
Scuba Diving Safety in Tonga
While safety is taken very seriously among scuba diving operators in Tonga, extra care and responsibility need to be taken by the diver’s themselves as there is no decompression chamber available in Tonga. Do not neglect the strict depth and timing precautions of scuba diving, which if not done correctly can result in decompression sickness, otherwise known as “the bends”.
Check out the Guide to Scuba Diving in Tonga for more advice.
Safety on Boats
Tonga has a lower standard of safety when it comes to boat transport than what’s experienced in more developed countries. While most tour operators have all the expected safety equipment: lifejackets, first aid box, flares, radio, etc. some tours and locals with personal boats might not take the same precautions. If in doubt, ask what safety gear is on board before deciding to hop in.
Tonga has a history of using old and unsafe vessels, resulting in the sinking of the passenger ferry, Princess Ashika, in 2009 which took 70 lives. However, since then, there have been vast improvements to the standards of ferries, especially with the introduction of the MV Tongiaki that runs between Tongatapu and Vava’u. This ferry is advised over the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa which is known to be sometimes overcrowded. Take your own lifejacket, especially when travelling with kids where child-size lifejackets are a little harder to comes by.