Ota Ika – Traditional Tongan Fish Recipe

Delicious traditional Tongan fresh fish recipe with coconut, lime and vegetables
Delicious traditional Tongan fresh fish recipe with coconut, lime and vegetables

Ota Ika is a Polynesian coconut based fish dish which is very similar to the Latin American ceviche. No wonder that this recipe is so popular among the visitors and was one of my favourite during our trip in Tonga, the nutritious fresh fish caught by the local fishermen combined with refreshing lime, the creamy slightly sweet coconut milk and fresh vegetables picked up directly from the market is a delicious mix of all the goodies this country has to offer.

We had it over and over again throughout our travel. In Tonga they normally serve it as a starter but it is also perfect as main course combined with fresh salad. Thanks to the short preparation time this could be an ideal meal to have guests over or an easy dinner after a long working day.

Ingredients for 2:

  • 200g fresh high quality snapper or tuna skinned and filleted
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 red paprika, deseeded and diced to small cubes
  • 1/2 cucumber (or 1 small one), seeded, peeled and diced to small cubes
  • handful of cherry tomatoes diced
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • juice of 1 to 2 limes
  • 1 fresh chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ground black pepper


Dice the fish fillets into small 1cm cubes and marinate it in the lime juice for about half an hour. Take the marinated fish and discard some of the juice if necessary, then mix it together with the paprika, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, chilli and coriander. Add the coconut milk to the mixture and season it with salt and pepper. Serve it immediately and do not leave any for the next day!


Why travelling to Tonga? The kingdom of the humpback whales

Amazing underwater adventure with humpback whales in Tonga
Amazing underwater adventures with humpback whales in Tonga

Imagine a world without traffic, advertisements, hotel chains and fast food restaurants…instead genuine people, breathtaking nature and infinite tranquility. “Wake up now, you are not dreaming”, says the flight attendant, “welcome to the Kingdom of Tonga”.

Day 1:

After 30 hours flying, 10 Hollywood movies and 5 times airplane food I was longing for finally setting foot on this exotic faraway land which called Tonga.

What does an average European know about Tonga, not much. “Is it close to Africa? “False. “Are people wearing Thong all year around?” False (but good one). Well, to be honest I did not know much about it either, but what I did know is that one of the most amazing encounter is waiting for me, let’s just say between 2 mammals, and one of them weight more than 40 tons.

I could not sleep that night, even though our “Robinson Crusoe” like beautiful beach bungalow did not leave any wishes open. Neither our great hosts who were waiting for us with local fresh organic food, what a relief after all the junk food you get on your journey across the world.

Day 2:

Finally the day has arrived, such an excitement. Fins (check), snorkel (check), mask (check), wet suit (check), cameras (check), sickness pill – after a long debate – (check). All on board, it is getting real now, it was so long on my bucket list and finally it is happening.

Our boat is cruising along picturesque tiny islands surrounded by white sandy beaches and coral reefs, but my eyes are fixated on the horizon. Holding myself on my GoPro instead of the boat (not very clever), when it happens. I can see from far a couple of meter high water jetting up from the surface and then a huge fin. It was the sign that we found them, the humpback whales are HERE.

“We all wish for friendly whales”, as our tour guide explains, the ones who do not mind the company of humans and might be even a bit curious. Well, I’m damn curious I know, fully geared up to jump into the water and start the encounter right here and right now, but it was not yet our time to go. Instead the whales started to deliver an amazing acrobatic show, full body splashes and incredible screw driver movements. Mother and her calf simultaneously jumping out of the water, and with the power of 40 tons landing on the surface over and over again. Can whales really do that? Well, they can and with the lightness of a feather, breathtaking.

Humpback whales breaching out of the water in Tonga

Days 3-5:

“Let the luck be with us and bring us a friendly whale” – become our mantra for the next days, and if the universe was listening to our request the miracle happened. We got the sign from the captain and within seconds we were in the water with our guide and 2 other guests, feeling very excited. After some paddling the shadow of a giant emerged in the deep blue right in front of our eyes. Did not take much to realise that there are not only 1 but 3 whales around, under, above us. Small hesitation and evaluation of the survival chances of being in a way of one of biggest animal in our planet, hoping my humble presence would hold them back being just to much jolly to launch their famous triple flip me on the top. But my instinct took over the control of my body and I was with full speed approaching the head of the mother whale. What a majestic animal. With its tiny eyes, one is fixated on her calf at all times and the other following my movements. I kept just enough distance to be able to observe her but respect her territory, I do not want her to be scared and swim away, I do not want this moment to end. My eyes start slowly to wander over to the calf, playful creature with no fear and full of energy. Balancing around its mother, if it would just learn right now how to become a real whale. I would love to play with it but I do not want to stress its mother, who knows what her motherly instinct would do to me. Instead I just enjoy this moment, take it all in…and I know this will not be the last time.

Every time we were in the water during the 3 days, it felt like the first time. Every day brought a new experience, a new whale, new discovery and great interaction both below and above the water. I’m very thankful that I was given the chance to see them in their natural habitat and swim side by side with these wonderful creatures.