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Discover the Kingdom of Tonga

Officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga, this small Polynesian country really has a lot to offer.

An archipelago comprising 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited, the total surface area is about 750 square kilometres scattered over 700,000 square kilometres of the southern Pacific Ocean.

The main island of Tongatapu is where your journey begins in Tonga as most travellers fly into the capital, Nuku’alofa. Tonga stretches across approximately 800 kilometres in a north-south line. It is surrounded by Fiji to the northwest, Samoa to the northeast, Niue to the east, and New Caledonia and Vanuatu to the farther west.

Tonga is perfect for well-travelled people who have already visited more traditional destinations in the Pacific like Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa, and are looking for a more unique experience. Tonga is a great combination of amazing nature and strong authentic local culture.

The only direct flights from Australia to Tonga are with Virgin Australia, from Sydney into Nuku’alofa, (TBU) the capital of Tonga, twice a week. Alternatively, you can connect via one stop in Nadi, Fiji, with Fiji Airways or Auckland, New Zealand, with Air New Zealand.

Top things to do in Tonga

Majestic Whale Encounters will take you swimming with humpback whales in Tonga. Image – Grant Thomas Photography

The Kingdom of Tonga has a multitude of adventure holiday activities whether you want to be active from morning to night or prefer relaxing on a private beach soaking up the sun. Enjoy a variety of activities on every island group in the Kindom. Explore the sheltered and uncrowded lagoons and atolls, getting a unique perspective on Tonga’s pristine landscapes. Here are the top 10 things to do in Tonga.

Swim with Whales

After a long journey north from the icy krill-laden depths of Antarctica, southern humpback whales take shelter in the tropical reef-protected waters of Tonga to give birth to their young. The arrival of the whales from July to October completes a remarkable cycle, as the new calves return to where they were conceived 11 months earlier. The high number of whales visiting Tongan waters at this time of year means there are plenty of opportunities to see and swim with them. Tonga is one of the few places in the world where you can still swim with the whales. As most of the whales are mothers with calves, our operators take great care not to intrude too heavily on these wild animals. Companies like Majestic Whale Encounters offer Whale Swim Packages with licenced operators.

Kitesurfing & Surfing

Shallow, warm, uncrowded lagoons coupled with steady, dependable trade winds make Tonga a paradise for the exhilarating sports like kitesurfing and surfing. These offer a great opportunity for the more adventurous traveller to explore the warm waters and stunning coastlines of Tonga in an entirely different way. Most kitesurfing activities are based in the outer island groups of Vava’u and Ha’apai, where the southeast trade winds provide ideal conditions from May to late October. Professional operators offer kitesurfing holidays, including lessons tailored to the individual, equipment hire and everything that novices through to pro-kiters need to have the ultimate kitesurfing experience. The west-northwest facing coastline of the main island of Tongatapu is the home of some of Tonga’s best surfing.  This coastline is perfectly situated to take advantage of the huge groundswells from winter storm activities in the southern Pacific. The steady east-southeast offshore trade winds create perfect surf conditions. The other two main island groups of Ha’apai and Vava’u also boast great surfing. However much of this is only accessible by specialist charter vessels.

Diving & Snorkelling

The Tongan archipelago consists of 176 islands, roughly the same number of marine species divers encounter in their first hour exploring the Kingdom’s coral reefs, caves and crystal-clear waters. With sea turtles, manta rays, tuna, marlin and wahoo combining with even bigger creatures like whale sharks, Tonga is a destination with underwater thrills on a truly grand scale. Pristine coral gardens shimmer amid the ebb and flow of tropical currents, while spectacular coral reefs include amazing caves and arches. Tonga’s volcanic past, present and future are showcased in the unique underwater tunnels.

Snorkel off one of the many islands. Image – Grant Thomas Photography.

Kayaking

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. See kayaking guided tours range from one to 13 days. There is always 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.

Sailing

With 176 islands scattered across over 700,000 square kilometres of Pacific Ocean, Tonga’s protected coral reefs and atolls, safe anchorages and reliable marine breezes makes it one of the planet’s finest locations for sailing. With a maritime heritage stretching back to the ocean-spanning double-hulled kalia canoes of the Kingdom’s ancient mariners, this is a land that truly understands the simple and unadorned appeal of harnessing ocean breezes for adventure and exploration. Nei’afu Harbour on Vava’u is one of the Pacific’s key sailing hubs, an essential and social destination for an increasing number of Pacific marine adventurers on extended sailing holidays through the far flung nooks and crannies of the planet’s biggest ocean.

History

The Kingdom of Tonga’s history stretches back over 3000 years, beginning with the migration of the Lapita people from the mainland and islands of Southeast Asia. Tongan culture and customs began with these earliest of Polynesians, and many ancient traditions have continued respectfully through to the present day. The arrival of European explorers and navigators from the 17th century saw the introduction of Christianity, now an integral part of the modern Kingdom of Tonga. Experiencing the beautiful harmonies filling Tongan churches every Sunday is an essential experience for all visitors to the Kingdom. Across the ensuing centuries, Tonga’s authentic culture has continued to be respected and maintained across the pristine islands of this Polynesian archipelago.

Discover some of the country’s history. Image – Kate Webster

Culture

Tongan society is guided by four core values, all of which combine to ensure a genuine welcome to visitors to the Kingdom. The four core values are Fefaka’apa’apa’aki (mutual respect), Feveitokai’aki (sharing, cooperating and fulfilment of mutual obligations), Lototoo (humility and generosity) and Tauhi vaha’a (loyalty and commitment). Expect to be well fed on your travels. Traditional Tongan favourites to try include ‘ota ‘ika (raw fish marinated in lemon and coconut cream), and lu pulu (corned beef and coconut milk wrapped in taro leaves). Food and feasting are an integral part of Tongan society, and the feasts of the Kingdom are renowned throughout the Pacific for their size and diversity. A vibrant and colourful experience for many visitors to Tonga is the dignified and graceful dancing of the Kingdom. Dance movements visually enhance subtle melodies of sung poetry, culminating in a style of dance that is uniquely Tongan.

Fishing

Tonga has a reputation as a hot game fishing destination – a paradise all-year round. Troll Vava’u’s crystal clear waters for Blue, Black or Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi-mahi, Big Yellow Fin Tuna and Wahoo. Cast jigs or poppers for predators like Blue Fin and Giant Trevally. Virtually all species of tropical fish frequent Tongan waters, and with its vast areas of reef structure, drop offs, canyons and seamounts, as well as several offshore F.A.D’s, every angler can experience a smorgasbord of tropical fishing. Salt water fly-fishing is also becoming popular. Most Marlin, Mahi-mahi, Spearfish and Tuna are caught fishing the 100-fathom drop-offs, which are located between a quarter and three quarters of a mile off shore.

Bird Watching

Rare, endemic, and unusual are all pretty special words to the twitchers or birdwatchers of the world. In the Kingdom of Tonga, millennia of isolation and many untouched remote islands conspire to make it one of the South Pacific’s best locations to observe unique avian species in the wild.

Beaches

Forget about everything for a while and enjoy the diversity of the Kingdom of Tonga’s 176 islands with even more beaches. Private, deserted beaches or beaches full of life – in the Kingdom of Tonga you choose what you want. There are family friendly beaches with activities for the whole family to enjoy. Or perhaps you are looking to escape just that and want to watch the sun sink into the ocean with sand between your toes and nothing but happy thoughts. There is plenty of relaxation on offer but if you look a little further, you’ll also find adventure, stunning scenery, fascinating history and some of the friendliest, warmest people you are likely to come across.

Tonga has miles of secluded beaches. Image – Grant Thomas Photography.

To discover more about Tonga, visit http://www.tongaholiday.com

 

Kate Webster

About Kate Webster

Kate Webster is a travel journalist - travel writer and photographer who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate's inspiration behind her writing and photography. When she’s not bouncing around the world on ramshackle buses, overcrowded trains, or on the back of a rickshaw, you can find her based in Sydney or the Gold Coast, Australia eagerly planning her next adventure.
Kate Webster
Kate Webster
Kate Webster is a travel journalist - travel writer and photographer who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate's inspiration behind her writing and photography. When she’s not bouncing around the world on ramshackle buses, overcrowded trains, or on the back of a rickshaw, you can find her based in Sydney or the Gold Coast, Australia eagerly planning her next adventure.
http://www.captured-travel.com