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Thursday 01st December 2016 Kingdom of Tonga Holiday Page 13


V i s i t o u r T o n g a

NUKU’ALOFA (TTA/ SPTO): Nested in the South Pacific, the Kingdom of Tonga is the ‘True South Pacific’. With over 170 islands, there’s plenty to do for every traveller. From historic tours around Tongatapu, to adventure activities and water sports like diving and whale watching, to staying in a boutique hotel on the stunning islands of Vava’u, you’ll find it all here. Journey back in time to experience the Kingdom of Tonga’s authentic and compelling mix of centuries-old culture, history and traditions. Understand why Tonga’s relaxing combination of uncrowded, unhurried and undiscovered represent the “True South Pacific”. If relaxation is more your thing, take some time out on one of Tonga’s beautiful beaches to unwind under the tropical sun. Tonga is further away from the equator than islands such as Samoa, so the climate is cooler but still tropical. Maximum temperatures average 27°C (80°F) with only moderate humidity.

Attractions and Activities A relaxing holiday lay-

ing on a beautiful beach, a thrilling fishing trip, an exhilarating dive trip, or one of any number of wonderful island experiences: Tonga has it all. The main island of Tongatapu is rich in culture and traditions. It is home to the capital Nuku’alofa. Among the major attractions of the capital are the Royal Palace as well as the Royal Tombs, and the many colonial houses still in use, the churches and the colorful markets. The Victorian whiteframed Royal Palace, surrounded by massive Norfolk pines, dominates the seafront in Nuku’alofa. The Royal Palace was completed in 1867 and has remained unchanged except for a second storey verandah added in 1882. It had over the past few years undergone a major renovation. Other attractions on Tongatapu are the magnificent blowholes on the southwestern side of the island, the ancient capital of Mu’a, with its fascinating Terrace Tombs in the east, and the mysterious Ha’amonga Trilathon, the Stonehenge of the South Pacific, which was erected around 1200 A.D. The Trilathon is 16 feet high, and each coral-lime stone weighs more than 40 tons. A must for bush walkers

and bird watches is a trip to ‘Eua National Park with its rugged and wild natural beauty. The island lies just a few miles off the southeastern tip of Tongatapu. ‘Eua is Tonga’s premier nature destination and provides one of the best full-day treks in the Pacific through the native forest. In addition, between June and November, humpback whales swim past ‘Eua en route to their breeding grounds. The Ha’apai group to the north is an ideal relaxation destination with magnificent coral reefs and caves. Snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, or horseback riding along a beautiful white sandy beach as well as walks around the sleepy capital of Lifuka are popular activities. Further north is the Vava’u group of islands. With her sheltered harbor, Vava’u is

a yachters heaven and one of the world’s best sailing destinations. From June to November share Vava’u’s truly magnificent warm waters with gentle Humpback whales, harnessing the islands’ sustaining environment to care for their newly-born calves and breed for another generation. Tonga offers many good dive and snorkel spots, and it is most renowned for its caves, drop-offs and pinnacles, as well as the opportunity to dive near whales. The island of Eua is especially popular for its interesting cave diving sports. The main island of Tongatapu has some nice corals and coral heads in the Tongatapu lagoon including some excellent walls around the offshore islands with an abundance of marine life. The Ha’apai Group offers the most colorful coral while Vava’u features some excellent drift dives along walls and drop-offs as well as the wreck of a copra steamer right off Neiafu. One of the best spots for surfers is Ha’atafu Beach on Tongatapu, where surfers can actually swim out from shore without any boat transfers required.

Culture and Events Archaeological evidence shows that the first settlers in Tonga arrived as part of the Lapita migration which originated from South East Asia some 6,000 years ago. Tonga, as well as Samoa and Fiji, are described by anthropologists as the cradle of Polynesian culture and civilization. The first Europeans arrived, beginning with Dutch explorers Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire, in 1616. Abel Tasman visited Tonga in 1643 followed by Captain Cook in 1773. The

first missionaries arrived shortly thereafter. In 1845, a Polynesian kingdom was established by an ambitious young warrior, who was baptized with the name King George Tupou I. In 1875, he declared Tonga a constitutional monarchy. In 1900, Tonga became a British protected state and later a part of the British Western Pacific Territories. Tonga’s protectorate status ended in 1970. Although exposed to colonial forces, Tonga has never lost indigenous governance, a fact that makes it unique among the islands of the South Pacific. Tonga’s traditional culture and its people are as unique as its history. Tongans represent more than 98% of the inhabitants. The rest are European, mixed European, and other Pacific Islanders. There also are several hundred Chinese residents. Everyday life in Tonga is heavily influenced by Polynesian traditions and Tongans are particular welcoming and relaxed. In Tongan life, the family is of utmost importance, while religion closely follows the family in importance. Almost all Tongans are churchgoers and Sunday is a day of rest across the nation. Tonga is said to have the highest proportion of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) of any state or country outside of Utah. Village life and kinship ties continue to be important throughout the country, although more and more people move to the capital Nuku’alofa, where European and indigenous cultural and living patterns have blended. The largest annual festival is Heilala (usually held around July to celebrate His Majesty’s birthday) when Nuku’alofa celebrates weeks of dance, beauty, and sporting competitions, parades, concerts, regattas, and parties..

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