TONGA ISLAND TOURIST DESTINATION
Tonga Island is one of the five largest islands in Abel Tasman National Park, located northwest of Nelson. New Zealand fur seals have been breeding on Tonga Island since approximately 1988. The island is a popular site for viewing seals by kayak and boat. The entire park attracts around 180,000 people annually, many of whom take part in the sea based tourist operations.
There are eight kayak companies which offer both guided and independent rentals, four water taxis, one ferry, one charter boat and one seal swim, which regularly view and interact with the seals at Tonga Island. Tonga Island is triangular in shape with the East side being most exposed. There are two small embayments on this side sheltered by outlying rocks. Within these embayments are small breeding groups of 10-20 seals. Observations were carried out from land and water around high tide when weather and sea conditions permitted. These embayments were termed Tonga East.
The West side of Tonga Island is more sheltered and there are substantially more rocks above high tide, housing many more seals (40-130 seals visible). This subsite was termed Tonga West.