What To Expect

You are embarking on an adventure in a place and amongst people whose lives are very different from your own.

Many aspects of life in Tonga will seem unusual. Remember that these are often the same aspects that make an area an exotic and attractive destination. In addition to the personal physical challenges you may face, travel conditions can present unexpected obstacles, such as rough and bumpy roads and changeable weather.

To prepare for this “pack” a flexible and relaxed attitude. Bring a spirit of adventure and inquiry, a healthy sense of humour and a willingness to encounter the unexpected and you will find your trip to Tonga the adventure of a lifetime!

Travel Documents

A valid passport is required by all foreigners travelling to Tonga.

Passports must have at least 6 months before they expire.

Tongan Tourist Visa

For Australian, United States, British and European citizens, no visa is required if you are visiting for tourist purposes, you are holding a confirmed onward airline ticket and your stay does not extend 30 days. 

For the most up to date entry and exit advice, please consult

https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/pacific/tonga

For non-Australian travellers, please consult your own appropriate government advisory body.

The International Departure Tax is currently Tongan pa’anga (TOP) 25.00 (US12, AUD17).

This is usually included in your international flight ticket price.

Accommodation

In Tonga, we stay at the Matafonua Lodge.

A charming, low environmental impact resort, it is now completely surrounded by a marine reserve.

Hotel accommodation details: Matafonua Lodge
Faleloa, Foa Island, Haa’apai
Phone: +676 69766
Email: info@matafonua.com

Insurance

Emergency Medical Evacuation Insurance is required for all participants. Trip cancellation insurance will reimburse you for any non-recoverable air or land expenses should you have to cancel your trip due to personal or family illness, leave the trek early, as well as cover any emergency medical evacuation expenses should you become ill during the trip. We strongly recommend that you take out baggage loss and accident insurance. You can avail of such policies in most western countries.

In the event that an aircraft evacuation is required, No Roads Expeditions will undertake to arrange the evacuation on the condition that the expenses are reimbursed by the passenger before departing the country.

COVID 19 Insurance Disruption: COVID has affected all of us and it is no different for the travel insurance market. Providers had to deal with an unprecedented amount of claims and as a result, many of them had to undertake procedure changes.

During this process, No Roads has reviewed the insurance policies of different providers to ensure we can offer our guests the best options on the market and you are covered adequately.
We are currently in the process of finalising an alliance with a new provider and will be able to sell domestic and international travel insurance to all of our guests again soon.

For all other nationalities please explore insurance providers in your country.

Again, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask info@noroads.com.au.

Getting There And Away

Flights

International

As a remote, Pacific island nation, getting to Tonga is very much part of the adventure itself.

Fuaʻamotu International Airport (TBU) is the main international airport, and is served by flights via Fiji or New Zealand.

Domestic 

REAL Tonga is the Kingdom’s national domestic carrier. It has a varied fleet of aircraft that service all of the five major island groups in the Kingdom.
Most flights are conducted on twin-propeller aircraft.

Domestic Luggage Allowance on domestic flights:
Check-in luggage: 20kg
Carry on luggage: 4.5kg

The airline regulations for any excess luggage are strict. Prices are charged per kilogram but vary depending on the destination.

Always refer to the airline directly for the most accurate information.

Packing for Whale Watching

Personal Gear

There really isn’t much to bring on your Tonga Expeditions. Since you are snorkelling with the whales most of the days or will be out diving, it is important to be prepared for the sun exposure and windy conditions on the boat.

There will be some light trekking and optional kayaking/stand-up paddling as well.

Besides that, it is your choice of what you feel comfortable wearing around the resort. Dinner is casual on a shared table under the roofed terrace.

Please consider that it can be windy and a bit cooler in the evening.

  • Passport
  • Airline tickets (international & domestic)
  • Insurance policy – 2 copies (1 for you and 1 for our Guide)
  • COVID 19 Vaccination Certificate – 2 copies (1 for you and 1 for our Guide)
  • Personal toiletries – Toothbrush and paste, sports deodorant, lip balm, etc.
  • T-shirts & Shorts
  • Summer dresses
  • Sleepwear
  • Underwear
  • Bathers (and Sarong if you like)
  • Sandals or thongs to wear around the village and beach
  • Runners or light hiking boots & socks
  • Pair of thongs to wear around camp and in villages
  • Rain Poncho (something lightweight)
  • Hat with wide rim (to keep the sun off your face)
  • Waterproof torch or headlamp with spare batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Quick-dry or light towel
  • Rash vest
  • Wetsuit or booties (optional)
  • Windproof/Soft Shell Jacket
  • Wet wipes or antiseptic hand gel
  • Tropical strength insect repellent
  • Polarised sunglasses (with retaining cord) and a spare set just in case
  • A book or kindle for reading (optional)
  • Camera, Gopro, et
  • A dry bag for the boat
  • Personal flippers and mask – we do have a range onboard our support boat for you to use (optional)

*If you have something you are particularly prone to, ear infections or sinus problems, please ensure you bring any necessary medications with you.

Personal First Aid Kit

Your personal First Aid kit will contain band-aids, blister dressings, topical cream for bites and grazes, antibiotic cream for cuts and scratches, paracetamol, Deep Heat or another muscle liniment, and the all-important insect repellent. We also recommend bringing your personal “Reef Rash Kit”. We recommend if you are traveling in a group that you share a First Aid Kit. Please note that a first aid kit will be carried by your Guide. 

Sleeping Gear

Above all, be comfortable. It can get cool in the evening, so if you need, consider some light, full-length pajamas.

Land Wear

We will be doing a little bit of trekking so just a lightweight runner will be sufficient.

Last (but not least)

Dining at Matafonua Resort allows BYO. The import allowance of alcoholic beverages per person for Tonga is 4.5 litre of lighter alcohol beverages and 2.25 litre of spirits (only for persons of age 21 years and over).

Note: If you have any questions regarding the above list or any other items that you want to ask about please do not hesitate to contact us. We can provide you with additional information at any time.

Supplied Equipment

  • Snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, suits, etc)
  • Kayaks (including personal flotation device) & Bicycles from the resort

Electricity

Tonga uses 240 Volt for its electricity. The voltage in many places is unstable.

You can use your electric appliances in Tonga if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220V – 240V (as in the UK, Europe, Australia). Manufacturers take these small deviations into account.

The electrical outlet has 2 parallel flat pins with a ground pin (the same as the Australian plugs)

Money

The currency in Tonga is the Tongan Pa’anga (TOP). 1 Pa’anga (TOP) = 100 seniti.

Notes are in denominations of TOP 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1. Coins are in denominations of 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 seniti. New Zealand Dollars are also widely accepted.

Exchange rates vary depending on the strength of a basket of currencies. As of December 2021 a US$ is worth TOP 2.28, or an Australian dollar is equal to about TOP 1.62.

Traveller’s cheques are accepted at banks and at some hotels and tourist shops. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in New Zealand Dollars, Australian Dollars.

Typically, credit card use is limited (only a couple of hundred locations across the entire country) with Visa and Mastercard most widely accepted.

Plan where you are going to withdraw cash from, as ATMs are only available at Fua’amotu Airport, Nuku’alofa, Neiafu (Vava’u), Pangai (Ha’apai) and ‘Ohonua (‘Eua). If going elsewhere, take enough cash with you for your entire stay.

For spending money while on expedition it is best to have money in local currency (TOP) or New Zealand Dollars.  

For this trip you will need cash for:

1) Meals or snacks not listed in your itinerary (Meals consumed at Matafanua Resort can be added to the room).

2) Personal items such as laundry, snacks etc. (can be added to room bill)

3) Extra Alcoholic/bottled beverages and drinks including bottled water (can be added to room bill).

4) Souvenirs and handicrafts.

5) Tips. All tipping is at your discretion. (See below)

Tipping

In case you would like to show your appreciation to a particular guide for a job well done, do so at your own discretion.

Also, remember to mention the good service provided to a member of the tour operations management and/or the hotel management to be used as an example to encourage better staff performance and excellence.

A week’s pay for staff is around 250TOP per week (160AUD/175NZD ).

So a reasonable weekly tip is 30TOP/20AUD or 21NZD for one staff member or approximately 100TOP/65AUD or 70NZD for the group.

The same applies to Whale Watching or Diving. A typical daily tip is approximately TOP 4.50/3AUD or 3.20NZD. This is per traveller not per support staff member.

Thus on a 7-day trip a reasonable tip would be AUD65 or NZD per traveller.

The Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales come to the warm waters of Tonga to breed and calve. The gestation period for a Humpback is 11-12 months. The calves weigh between 1.5 and 2 tonnes when born and as long as 4 meters. The calf will consume between 400 and 500 litres of milk per day. During the time in Tonga, the mother does not feed at all as their diet of mainly krill is not available.

The Humpback Whale is quite a distinctive looking whale with ahead approximately one third the size of its’ body and enormous pectoral fins. 

Each year between July and October, Humpbacks arrive in Tonga after a 3000 nautical mile journey. The trip can take up to 2 months.

Humpback whales do not have teeth, but rather have a series of baleen plates hanging from their upper jaw that they use to filter water through. The plates are made from keratin the same substance used for hair and nails. They gulp for their food and you may see the young practising this on your journey. They also use a technique known as bubble netting whereby they swim around their prey blowing bubbles, essentially trapping them inside the “bubble net” and then consuming them with large gulps.

Humpbacks use sound to communicate. You may hear songs underwater that can last as long as 20 minutes. Singing is usually exclusively a male thing. 

Humpbacks can stay underwater for up to 30 minutes while their young can stay beneath the surface for approximately 4 minutes.

We will see many Humpback mothers with their young. Occasionally we will see an escort whale with them which may be another female.

For relative sizes please see below. A calf is usually around 4 tonnes and a mother around 40 tonnes.

The Boats

Mohe Vai (that’s the boat) is a purpose-built 28ft fibreglass dive vessel with easy access in and out of the water, powered by eco-friendly and very quiet Yamaha 4-stroke engines.

Pulú Vai (another boat) is identical to her sister with large cushion covered benches and plenty of shade, the perfect whale watch boat with speed and comfort in mind.

Both boats are very simple but well equipped with comfort and safety insight: VHF radio, depth sounder, GPS system, life vests, and 1st aid kits. The crew includes a Skipper and a WWS guide or diving Guide.

Each snorkeller will be provided with a wet suit, flippers, mask, and snorkel. A floatation help for not-so-strong swimmers is available if needed.

Health And Safety

We will do everything we can to support guests that have disclosed a medical condition, allergy or anaphylaxis, by informing all in-country personnel and ensuring reasonable provisions are made. We do, however, suggest and encourage all affected guests in this situation to assist us by reconfirming this information in situations or instances where it may be required to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable adventure experience.

General Travel Advice

All No Roads staff and teams consider guest safety and wellbeing an absolute priority and always follow the travel advice and guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Smartraveller. To further maintain the safety of our travelers, we promote good personal and hand hygiene along with adherence to safe food preparation practices.

Dietary Requirements

We are able to cater to all common special dietary requirements. Whilst on the expedition most of your meals will be Tongan-based meals and please advise us prior to your departure if you have any food allergies we should be aware of.

Women’s Health and Issues

The swimming with the whales requires guests to be on the boat for 6 hours per whale swimming day with no real toilet facilities except the big blue sea.

For women in their menstrual cycle, we suggest that you either:

  • Choose an expedition date that is compatible with your menstrual cycle
  • If you are on a contraceptive pill, skip your period while on the expedition

On top of the normal health consideration, women are advised to bring a tube of Canesten.  The Canesten is used for the treatment of thrush (which can be very painful if left untreated) and can be applied to both internal and external thrush.

Medicines and First Aid

All Whale watchers are recommended to carry a personal first aid kit with medicines for common ailments, cuts, and bruises, pain killers, etc (or have one to share within a group of family or friends).

Anyone using any prescription medicines regularly should carry a supply for the whole duration of their expedition.

Please consult your doctor and include items and medicines that may be required for you or for the area you are traveling in. No Roads does not supply any medicines and takes no legal responsibility for any medical treatment or professional medical support to our clients.

COVID 19

Unfortunately, COVID is the “New Normal” and we all have to follow certain guidelines to ensure the safety of ourselves, our fellow guests, our team, and the local communities. 

Please click here for more information.

Immunization

COVID 19 – To protect other fellow guests and our team a full COVID 19 vaccination status is a mandatory requirement to participate in any of our expeditions.

Yellow Fever vaccinations are required for travellers arriving from a yellow-fever-infected area in Africa or the Americas for entry to Tonga. However, you should consider cholera, typhoid, and hepatitis vaccinations and make sure your tetanus cover is up to date.

Plan ahead for getting your vaccinations. Some of them require an initial shot followed by a booster, while some vaccinations should not be given together. This also applies to some malaria prophylactics, which have to be begun at least a week before you leave home.

Typhoid: Recommended for Tonga. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.

Hepatitis A: Recommended for Tonga. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.

Cholera: Recommended for Tonga. Ideally 2 weeks before travel.

Tuberculosis: Recommended for Tonga. Ideally 3 months before travel.

Hepatitis B: Recommended for Tonga. Ideally 2 months before travel.

Yellow fever: Certificate of vaccination required if arriving from an area with a risk of yellow fever transmission for Tonga. Ideally 10 days before travel.

Tetanus-Diphtheria: Revaccination recommended every 10 years

Fitness

All participants must make special efforts to get to an above-average physical condition for the trip they have signed for.  Every participant should consult a physician well before the expedition date and make sure that they do not suffer from any chronic heart, lungs, cerebral, physical, or any other serious illness.

No Roads is not a medical adviser and we take no legal responsibility for medical or other emergencies that may arise on the course of a trip. As the service provider and hosts, we will take all necessary steps needed to evacuate injured or ill clients on the understanding that all costs involved will be paid to us before leaving the country (see Insurance).

Participants for this expedition should be competent swimmers. While not everyone has access to the sea we suggest one does try snorkelling in a similar environment, maybe a lake or otherwise a pool. Due to the windy weather conditions in Tonga, the Sea might be a bit rougher sometimes and it is good to get acquainted with snorkelling in such conditions. If you have not been swimming with flippers before, try to get used to that as well.

We hope this helps you all enjoy your time on the expedition.

Sustainable Travel

We believe strongly in low impact or rather a positive impact from tourism. Broadly speaking, this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please see our online policy for more details on our social and environmental approach and commitment.

The Environment

Many of the places you will visit are pristine. As travelers, we should try to have as little impact on these natural environments as possible. As such we recommend the following:

1. We discourage the use of soaps when washing both body and clothes. Vigorous scrubbing is usually sufficient. Even biodegradable soap is not good for any watercourse and as such is harmful to the eco-system.

2. Please do not dispose of plastic bags and wrappers in either pits or in fires. These take years to degrade or let off toxic fumes when burnt. Simply put them in your pack until you return home (they can be discarded in waste bins before going through customs and immigration).

3. Please do not dispose of batteries in country. They are extremely harmful to the environment and usually, local governments do not have any means to dispose of them correctly.  Return old batteries to your home country for disposal there.

4. If you are in the remote and ‘nature calls’, walk off the track and dig a small hole, approximately 15cm deep and at least 100m from any watercourse. If safe to do so, burn used toilet paper in the hole (toilet paper takes a long time to degrade). Once the fire is out, cover with soil. In rocky and icy mountain terrain (where a hole cannot be dug), cover the waste with rocks. Tampons and sanitary pads should be placed in a plastic bag and placed in the rubbish bin back at the hotel.

By abiding by these simple guidelines, you will be protecting the local environment for the people who live there and for your children’s children.

Gifts

If you feel like handing out gifts to local children we encourage items that will last like footballs, tennis balls, books, pencils and sharpeners as well as writing paper.

We discourage the handing out of balloons and the like (they’re just bad for the local environment), as well as lollies. Dental facilities are often lacking, or expensive for local families.

We Are Here To Help!

We have tried hard to provide you with a greater insight into this expedition but we ain’t perfect!

If you do have further questions please contact our expert team members through one of the below channels. 

No Roads Expeditions Support Hub

Australia HQ: +61 (03) 95988581

Email: info@noroads.com.au