Chard and I had the opportunity to visit Fiji Islands and The Kingdom of Tonga recently! I think these two countries are not what immediately pops into your head when you think of vacation destinations. However, it should be part of your adventure bucket list because these amazing islands are guaranteed to give you priceless memories.
Fiji and Tonga are two island countries that are located in the Pacific Ocean. Literally in the middle of the ocean. These island countries are home to some of the most pristine beaches in the world and are havens for scuba divers, sailors, and surfers.
We were able to do things in these places that we’ve never experienced before! We swam with humpback whales in Tonga and dove with sharks in Fiji.
Island life in Tonga
Getting to Tonga from the Philippines wasn’t all simple. It took us three planes, crossing different time zones and a car ride to get to our final destination. Once we got there, we were picked up by our tour leader. During the car ride, we got a glimpse of how simple and laid back life is in Tonga. Just what we like.
The following day was the beginning of a six-day expedition of swimming with humpback whales. Our first day was more than what we could have asked for from our moments in the water with the whales to chilling with locals and other tourists over sunset and beers.
Seeing humpback whales up close in Tonga is an out-of-this-world experience. Swimming with them and hearing them sing was a dream come true. It left me feeling mind blown and as if they took me in an out-of-body experience. The size of a calf (that’s basically a baby whale) is as big as a car, so do the math for the mums! Each year, they visit the pristine waters of these Pacific islands to nurture their young and prepare them for a migration across the globe.
Our days consisted of being on the boat from morning to late afternoon to look for these beautiful creatures without chasing them away and respecting their space. It takes patience and gentleness to approach them and to earn the trust of the mums & calfs.
Keep in mind that the waters are mostly choppy and very cold. However, given the chance, I would do this over and over again.
Natural wonders in Fiji
If you watch the video, you’ll see how truly amazing nature can be. It was such a breathtaking yet poignant experience to see the sharks in Fiji. We didn’t just see one kind of shark, either. We first saw lots of reef sharks, then we saw lemon sharks that were so curious and went close to us.
After that came the big guys. We finally saw huge male and female tiger sharks, and the bull sharks! I learned that bull sharks are pretty much like the gangstas of the sea–but not in a bad way! Bull sharks swim so fast and appear in front of you out of nowhere that they startle you a little bit. When the bull sharks are around, the tiger sharks take it as their cue to leave, and they come back once the bull sharks are gone.
While they were so majestic, there were a couple of things that stood out to me that made me see the experience in a different light. While we were underwater appreciating this slice of natural wonder, Chard and I noticed that the mouth of one of the tiger sharks was wounded or town because of large fishing hooks. It was a hard realization to see wildlife suffering because of our collective actions.
Marine life suffering
We all know that in many parts of the world, our natural resources have been suffering at the hands of modernization. Specifically, our oceans have also been severely affected by climate change. Natural coral reefs which help life underwater thrive are rapidly diminishing. There are many reasons for this, including pollution, reef bleaching, irresponsible fishing practices, and irresponsible tourism. Did you know that even something as simple as warmer waters due to global warming can kill coral? Without these natural reefs, it becomes a lot harder for marine life to sustain itself.
We are so lucky to be able to visit these beautiful countries rich in nature, animals, and corals. To live here in the Philippines is another blessing. We are very lucky to live in a country that’s rich in natural resources and marine biodiversity. But what if we don’t take care of what we have now? What if we continue to abuse our oceans? What will happen to us in 50 or 20 years from now if we keep closing our eyes to all these damages caused by humans to nature?
It’s a humbling feeling to be able to see these humpback whales and sharks up close. I only hope that future generations will still be able to see these beautiful species.
A very interesting Netflix documentary called Chasing Coral discusses the importance of sustaining coral reefs to sustain marine life. As the documentary says, without a healthy ocean, we do not have a healthy planet. We can see that this is slowly being true. When you look at NASA’s earth photos each year, what do we notice? From all the greens and blues of before, the earth has become duller. It has less nature.
Let’s take action
But the good thing is that we can still do something about it. I really want to do whatever I can to give more attention to this important issue that’s happening in front of our eyes. Collectively, we can make an impact if we know what we should do to help, and what we should stop doing so that we are no longer abusing nature.
Everyone in Tonga and Fiji is so nice, friendly and warm. These two vacations are truly my favorite ones and my most memorable trips. Life is simple on the island: eat the fruits and vegetables that you plant, drink coconut water, help each other, swim with these animals, and take care of nature. What I noticed in these countries is all the locals really make an effort to preserve their country, and try not to pollute or just throw away trash everywhere.
Of course, the locals are aware that tourism is their only way of living and that’s why they take care what they have. But taking care of what we have is a mentality we can try to adopt ourselves. There are small things that we can do that can make an impact in the long run.
Here are just a few resources that will give you a better idea on what you can do. Leonardo DiCaprio’s website, for example, is an incredible source of information on climate change and marine life conservation. Sea Legacy is another site that allows you to be part of a community that helps our oceans.
If you are a diver, you may even want to initiate activities to help clean up affected areas. My dad is a certified PADI scuba instructor. He has a yearly activity with scuba diver friends wherein they clean up the lake of Geneva in Switzerland. Yes, this means that they are collecting trash underwater. Some of us do it in Anilao, Batangas, as well.
There’s this old saying that when you visit a new place, you should take nothing but photographs, kill nothing but time, and leave nothing but footprints. Well, I feel like I left part of my heart back there because I fell in love with Fiji and Tonga. I would like to thank everyone who made our stay there so memorable. All the locals were so kind and we hope that we will be back soon.
If you want to visit Fiji or Tonga sometime and want more tips on how you can maximize your trip, then please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment! I hope you get to experience the beauty they have to offer, and I’d be glad to offer you a few tips along the way.