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A Secret Paradise
The Kingdom of Tonga
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 coral and volcanic islands, with around 52 that are inhabited, these islands are scattered over 700,000 square kilometres of ocean.
Tonga, one of the most scenic and unspoiled of the Pacific island nations, with it’s dramatic and still active volcanic landscapes, tropical rainforests, pristine coral atolls and coral reefs, white sandy beaches and landscapes.
Nuku’alofa, is the capital of Tonga, on the main island of Tongatapu, this island is also the home of the Royal Family, the Tongan Government and the majority of the Tongan population.
While visiting in Nuku’alofa be sure to check out Tonga’s archaeological sites; Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, the Langi which are terraced tombs, and the moats on the Eastern side.
You can see the Royal Palace and the Royal tombs or try a traditional Tongan dinner and catch a cultural show to learn about Tongan dancing, then head to the markets on a Saturday morning to try local delicacies or buy traditional weaved baskets and tapa.
For those that like a little adventure head to the rugged ‘Eua, just off the South-Eastern tip of Tongatapu, the ‘Eua National Park is the place to experience nature, you will never run into hordes of tourists on this quiet, peaceful, mostly undeveloped space and getting there is easy with the ferry that leaves most days from Nuku’alofa and takes about two hours or you can enjoy one of the shortest passenger flights which is just 8 minutes.
‘Eua has the best trekking in Tonga, thickly forested with spectacular high cliffs at its northern end, numerous caves and sinkholes, the rocky southern coastline, trek through the rain forest to the sea, catching the seabirds that swoop past on the thermal currents. The park is a birdwatchers paradise, with caves, chasms and waterfalls with pools to cool you off.
Divers can also explore the underwater marine caves on the northern shorelines. The ‘Cathedral cave’ is carved into a natural sepulchre, filled with fish and coral with the bright colors reminiscent of a stained glass window.
For sailors Vava’u is one of the world’s great sailing centers. It is also regarded as a water nature lover’s paradise and the most scenic region in the Kingdom of Tonga.
If you visit from July to October, you can catch the humpback whales that come to the warm waters to mate and there are even opportunities to swim with these giant creatures.
Snorkeling, diving, sports fishing and sea kayaking are all available here, swim inside Swallows Save, dive into mariners caves or discover the calm waterways by sea kayak. For a day on land, take a stroll through Neiafu or climb to the top of Mt. Talau with vistas that should not be missed! There are 72 islands and only 20 of them are inhabited in the Vava’u Group.
When you reach Ha’apai, you will find that time has stopped. There are no traffic jams, no crowds, no cars, no mobile phones, just peace and tranquility.
Many travelers consider the Ha’apai group to be Tonga’s best-kept secret and hope it will never be discovered. With its amazing wildlife and pristine beaches, Ha’apai is a wonderful eco-tourism destination, and a paradise for divers and snorkelers.
It was on Lifuka Island that Captain Cook landed, he later described the Kingdom of Tonga as The Friendly Islands. It was also in the waters of Ha’apai, near the volcanic island of Tofua, that the famous Mutiny on the Bounty took place and Captain William Bligh was set sail in a small boat.
A stroll around the sleepy capital of Pangai on the main island of Lifuka is a must, as well as a visit to the Shirley Baker monument in the European cemetery and the site of the Velata Fortress.
Hire some snorkels and flippers or diving gear and investigate the magnificent coral reefs and caves in Ha’apai, or try sea kayaking or horse riding along a beautiful white sandy beach.
Hire a boat for a day and explore one of the many other islands in the Ha’apai group. Some are inhabited but you may get lucky and find you own deserted South Pacific Island!
Across the North of the Kingdom of Tonga’s lie the two Niuas, the volcanic islands of Niuatoputapu and Niuafo’ou.
Niuatoputapu lies about 240km north of Vava’u with a population of about 1400. Far away from Nuku’alofa, tradition is still a way of life here with conservative dressing and behavior.
Niuatoputapu is surrounded by amazing beaches with the best beaches on the North West side of the main island.
Niuafo’ou is the northernmost island in the Kingdom of Tonga. Almost 350 miles separate Niuafo’ou from Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu. Niuafo’ou is actually the tip of an underwater volcano, which was created by sub-oceanic eruptions years ago, with the centrer of the island taken up by Vai Lahi, a large lake measuring some 5km.
While there is not the hustle and bustle of western life influencing this pacific paradise, the Kingdom of Tonga offers visitors the cultural experience of a lifetime.
The Secret Paradise - Tonga