The Kingdom of Tonga
Ryan Wilkes is a Canadian PhD student at the University of Canterbury. Here he describes travelling to the Pacific Islands and Tonga.
OPINION: From the moment that I moved to New Zealand, I knew that it would be a perfect opportunity to visit some of the Pacific Islands. Fiji, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Rarotonga, Vanuatu… and the list goes on.
One country that seems to get overlooked as a South Pacific travel destination is Tonga, and that is exactly why I was drawn to it.
You see, I love exploring places that others don't often go, because you tend to get a more authentic experience. No five-star resorts, no westernised society, just real, raw experiences.
We spent 2 weeks exploring Tongatapu, Ha'apai and Vava'u.
Each group of islands had its own unique vibe. The cliffs, caves and culture of Tongatapu, the serene beaches and all you can eat coconuts in Ha'apai. And of course, the whales in Vava'u. I won't lie, the Humpback whales were definitely a massive reason as to why I chose Tonga over other less-travelled destinations such as Vanuatu and Samoa.
Swimming alongside these gentle giants is an indescribable feeling. As you are going out to sea you can't help but be nervous of getting in the water with something the size of a bus. But as soon as you get in the water, and make eye contact with a Humpback - that is true bliss. That is the type of moment that I live for.