A French administered territory
The South Pacific's only Kingdom, Tonga is also the only island nation in the region to have avoided formal colonisation and therefore may have preserved a little more of its indigenous spirit than other island nations. Most Tongans live on the main island of Tongatapu with an increasing number now living in the only urban and commercial centre of Nukuʻalofa.
Only 3-4 hours flight time from Auckland, Tonga offers unique experiences for visitors. Some say the snorkelling and diving are far superior than most Pacific Islands and the arrival of the southern humpback whales between June to November to give birth to their young are the most popular attractions. I
With over 170 islands of which many are uninhabited, a great deal of time can be spent exploring. The Ha'apai Group offers deserted white beaches, vibrant reefs with few tourists while the Vava'u Group and Eua are more popular for sea kayaking, fishing, surfing and diving.
- Tongatapu is an island surrounded by coral reefs and the largest island in Tonga where you find over two-thirds of the country's small population. The capital, Nuku'alofa is on the north coast where you can find accommodation, restaurants and internet cafes.
Fua'amotu Airport (TBU) is on Tongatapu a half hour drive from Nuku'alofa.
- Vava’u is a group of more 50+ islands some 150 miles north of Tongatapu. The main island of the Vava'u archipelago is 'Utu Vava'u which has a distinctive flat topped, 131m high Mt Talau. Here you also find Neiafu, the second-largest town in Tonga, with a population of about 6,000, Neiafu is the administrative centre of the Vava'u group with local government offices, banks, schools, a police station and a hospital. Chathams Pacific, Tonga's Domestic Airline flies to Vava'u from Tongatapu twice a day except Sunday.
- Eua Island is the highest island in Tonga with a substantial tropical rain forest which is interesting to walk in. Geologically unrelated and much older than other islands in the region, it has beaches on the western and cliffs on the east. Located only 17.5km east-southeast from Tongatapu with daily transport - except on Sundays.
- Ha'apai consists of about 60 islands halfway between Vava'u and Tongatapu. This is where you really go to relax and get away from the rat race, but if you must, there are a few internet cafes. Tofua, in the west of the group is where the Mutiny on the Bounty occurred in 1789. The main island of Pangai is where 2,500 of the approximately 5,500 Ha'apai residents live. There are plenty of sandy beaches, good diving, snorkelling and whale watching.
Air New Zealand has daily flights to and from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne to Fua'amotu Airport (TBU) Tonga, 5 flights per week from Auckland, a connecting flight from Los Angeles and well as a weekly flight between Nuku´alofa and Apia Samoa.
Virgin Australia flies Tuesdays & Thursdays from Sydney.
Air Pacific also flies Tuesdays & Thursdays from Brisbane and Sydney to Nadi with connecting flights to Tonga while the Pacific Forum Line moves vehicles and freight.
Cover image; Miss Brittne Fuimaono, a Miss Tonga winner.