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Guided sea kayaking in the safe calm pristine waters of Tonga include whale and dolphin encounters, snorkeling and camping on uninhabited islands.

Gliding smoothly along in a sleek kayak is a quintessential Tongan experience, especially when you’re just centimetres above transparent waters, and your self-paddled craft is a ticket to more remote islands and untouched beaches. Most popular around the northern islands of the Ha’apai and Vava’u groups, sea kayaking tours range from five to 13 days, plenty of time to take in pods of spinner dolphins, or the even bigger prize of migrating humpback whales. Sea turtles poke their heads out of the shimmering shallows of Tonga’s reefs, while marine birds circle and dive bomb shape-shifting schools of fish. It’s a scene not dissimilar to iconic wildlife destinations like Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, and an emphatic denial that watching Animal Planet on a flat screen television is ‘just like being there’. With a drifting South Pacific breeze at your back, and shoulders aching after two hours of honest paddling, this is the real thing. A Tongan sea-kayaking tour soon displays its own languid rhythm, with smooth strokes driving paddlers through silky waters to the cavernous Swallows Cave on the Vava’u islet of Kapa, or other wild Polynesian landscapes of pristine coral atolls and aquamarine lagoons. Just 21 of the 34 islands of the Vava’u group are inhabited, so overnight camping is either on deserted beaches or in simple island villages in the company of friendly locals. Pack your spearfishing A-game and an appetite for fresh seafood to make the most of the experience. And remember, with double kayaks available, it’s also a great escape for couples.

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