Tonga

A man strips the bark from a paper mulberry tree and takes it to the village where it will be pounded into tapa cloth and painted. Women sit, quietly conversing, tightly weaving pandanus. Smiling, sunburnt whale-watchers beach themselves in a dinghy. With their wet feet dropping sand onto the thatched hut/bar floor they grab a cold beer and sit, to reflect, on what one of them has dubbed, ‘a whale of a day’.

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The Kingdom of Tonga has the tropical beauty of her Pacific neighbours but a totally different personality. It is the only Pacific nation never to have been colonised so traditional culture is very much part of the fabric of this unique destination.

The main island of Tongatapu is worth exploring for the capital Nuku’alofa (the market, Royal Palace, Royal Tombs), the blowholes that stretch for miles along the south-west coastline and the stalactite and stalagmite caves on the west coast. But, for us, Vava’u is where honeymooners should be heading. For sheer natural tropical beauty, the Vava’u group of islands are unsurpassed.

They offer unforgettable sailing, diving and sports fishing as well as whale watching from June to November (you can even swim with them!). Take a dip inside the Swallow’s Cave, dive into Mariners Cave or grab a kayak and explore the calm waterways at your own pace.

The resorts in Tonga may be a little more basic than in other parts of the Pacific (three and a half star) but the memories of the natural beauty and welcoming shyness of the people will live with you forever.

It is highly recommended to do a little reading up on Tongan culture before arriving so you will know how to go with the flow – as slow as that flow can be. In public, it is a male dominated society but, in the village, the women may have the say. In public, modest dressing is essential. Even men face a $20 fine if they don’t wear a shirt (away from the beaches). Public displays of affection are frowned upon (kissing, holding hands) but in private things can be pretty promiscuous.

To the Tongan people, physical size is a measure of beauty, education is of great importance (nearly 100% of Tongans are literate) and they have the world’s lowest death rate (moving slowly and eating heartily is good for you!). There is also a social divide between commoners and the ‘nobility’. The nobles are easy to spot – they are the overweight men in traditional costume who command an enormous amount of respect for doing absolutely nothing. When ordinary Tongans speak to a noble or member of the Royal Family they must use a special dialect. To use the English example of ‘to eat heartily’, the commoners ‘gorge’, the nobles ‘feed’ and the Royals ‘dine’.

Tonga is a little cooler than other Pacific countries (average 24°C) and is a place where you can really ‘get away from it all’ because it isn’t overrun by tourists (Fiji attracts 11 times as many visitors). Be aware that Sundays are about religion and relaxation so most shops and restaurants will be closed. Attending a local church service is highly recommended! While the Tongan dollar (Pa’anga) is the official currency, Australian and New Zealand currencies can also be used.

More Information

For more info on Tonga’s history, culture, what to do and specials on offer, just drop us an email.