Where are the Best Places to See Wildlife in Tonga?
Wildlife lovers, don’t forget to pack your binoculars, mask and snorkel because Tonga has all sorts of wildlife to encounter. Most famously, the humpback whales of Tonga can be seen in a unique underwater encounter, while some of the nation’s uninhabited islands provide sanctuaries for South Pacific birds. Learn more about where to see wildlife in Tonga in the guide below.
Top Tonga Destinations for Wildlife
- ‘Eua – An excellent island for bird-watching, specifically in the ‘Eua National Park and the southern coast
- Mananita – An uninhabited island in Vava’u that has become a bird sanctuary
- Kolovai – A village in Tongatapu with a flying fox sanctuary
- Mu’a – Home of the “Fishing Pigs” in Tongatapu
- Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai & Vava’u – All excellent for whale watching and swimming during the whale season.
Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
The most diversity you’ll find when it comes to wildlife is in Tonga’s surrounding ocean. It’s thought that there are around 1,500 species of fish and 700 species of coral in Tonga’s waters, including the famed humpback whales. With that in mind, the best places for visitors to see marine life in Tonga is anywhere where you can join snorkel and scuba diving tours. These can be found in the island groups of Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua.
Snorkelling in Tonga
Snorkelling opens up a world of stunning coral gardens harbouring hundreds of reef species, as well as the unique opportunity to swim with humpback whales. 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 join a specialised whale swimming tour in the whale season. The best places for snorkelling among coral include Ha’apai and Vava’u, while whale swimming can be enjoyed in Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u. Find out more in The Guide to Snorkelling in Tonga and The Guide to Whale Swimming in Tonga.
Scuba Diving in Tonga
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 their 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 where to dive in the 5 Best Places to Scuba in Tonga.
Aside from snorkelling and scuba diving tours, other types of tours in Tonga which allow you to have encounters with amazing Pacific wildlife include whale swimming tours and bird-watching tours.
Whale Swimming Tours
Swimming with humpback whales is one of the most popular things to do in Tonga, as it is one of the very few countries where you can legally swim with these majestic creatures. They migrate to Tonga’s waters between June and October every year to mate and calve. Whales can be seen in every island group in Tonga, but whale swimming tours are only available in the island groups of Tongatapu, ‘Eua, Ha’apai and Vava’u. Learn about where to swim with whales in The Best Place to Swim with Whales in Tonga.
Bird Watching Tours
While birds can be observed in the forests, wetlands and coastal areas around Tonga, bird watching tours take you to the best places to see birds and increase your chances for a successful viewing while enhancing the experience with in-depth information about Tonga’s fauna.
The Vava’u Group is a particularly good destination for bird-watching tours with the Mounu Island Resort and Mandala Island Resort offering trips to Maninita Island, a bird haven where you can see the Tongan whistler, boobies, fairy turns, egret, tevake and more. ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden also offers bird-watching tours in their tract of forest on ‘Utu Vava’u (the main island of Vava’u) on request. Learn more in The Best Places for Bird Watching in Tonga.
National Parks and Conservation Areas
Tonga has a number of national parks, marine reserves and other conservation areas providing some of the best conditions and habitats for watching wildlife.
‘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. On the southern coast of the island (admittedly, not in the national park), is also good for bird-watching, specifically for seabirds like brown boobies, brown and grey noddies, white terns and white-tailed tropicbirds.
The village of Kolovai in Tongatapu is not only a place where you’ll find some excellent tourist accommodations and beaches nearby, but it’s also home to a flying fox sanctuary. Just a walk down the road of this small village, while looking at the trees will reveal colonies of flying foxes in the trees.
Marine Reserves in Tonga
There are a number of established marine reserves in Tonga where fishing and touching any form of marine life is prohibited. That way, life here thrives, making for exceptional places to snorkel and scuba dive. Marine reserves are added to the list often, but some include:
- Hakaumama’o Reef Reserve, Tongatapu
- Pangaimotu Reef Reserve, Tongatapu
- Malinoa Reef & Island Reserve, Tongatapu
- Ha’atafu Beach Reserve, Tongatapu
- Monuafe Island and Reef Reserve, Tongatapu
- Fanga’uta and Fangakakau Lagoons Marine Reserve, Tongatapu
- Matafonua Lagoon Reef, Ha’apai
- The Clan McWilliam Wreck, Vava’u
- The coral gardens between Nuapapu and Vaketeitu, Vava’u
- Hunga Lagoon Giant Clam Reserve, Vava’u
- Neiafu Harbour Giant Clam Reserve, Vava’u
- Ano Beach Giant Clam Reserve, Vava’u.