A special place is the capital - the city of Nukualofa, where there is not a single industrial enterprise, therefore it is unusually quiet and comfortable for the main city of the country, and the green coastline and beautiful landscapes add even more color and unusualness.
In a country where there is a king, the main attraction is the royal palace. The building, made of kauri wood, was built in the 19th century and, although it belongs to the Victorian style, it looks quite modest from the outside.
The country is replete with nature reserves and national parks, which are seven in the archipelago, despite its small size. For example, the Eua Reserve, located on the island of the same name, is a unique place where red-chested parrots live.
Active tourism and beach holidays
Lying on the beaches under the burning tropical sunshine is an attractive activity for which you can choose a resort in Haatafu on the island of Tongatapau. Tourists at this resort lead a rather active lifestyle: they explore the Pacific depths, coral reefs, black lava fields of underwater volcanoes, kayak or canoe around the islands. Surfers come here from April to November and gather mainly in the area of the islands of Tongatapu, Haape and Wawau. There are many centers on the archipelago where there are both experienced instructors and all the necessary equipment for surfing, diving, snorkeling, spearfishing, yachting and sport fishing.
A unique opportunity on the islands of Tonga is to drift with whales: from year to year they appear near the eastern shores of the islands of Tonganapu and Wawau. Diving near the whale families is forbidden, but swimming at a distance of 30 meters is welcome.
In Tongan culture, ancient rituals and Christianity are fantastically combined. The islanders are quite strict in observing religious commandments, so they celebrate all religious holidays. However, there are many celebrations that have nothing to do with the relatively “new” religion on the islands: the Pacific Blue Wawau Festival (Wawau Island) in early February, Haapai (Independence Day, early June), Eua Park national festival (Eua Island, June July).
Locals love to compete in canoeing, fishing and triathlon, can not do without their traditional drums and even organize golf tournaments.
The basis of national cuisine are yams, pork and cassava. The Pacific waters are rich in various types of fish, and the Tongans are very fond of it. The main dishes are: lu - meat or shellfish marinated in coconut milk and baked in colocasia leaves in special pit pockets, ufi - white yam, ota and feke - marinated in coconut milk and fried seafood. The national drink is strong “royal coffee” and no less strong kava.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a relatively inexpensive country, but many products are imported, which affects their value. There are also duty-free shops, which are much more attractive for tourists. In this state, it is not customary to bargain, and one should also be careful with tips - in some places it is indecent to leave them.
For souvenir shopping, it is best to choose a Saturday and go to the market in Talamaha, where there is a fairly large selection of local products: wooden figurines, wicker baskets, mats, fabrics, as well as bracelets, skirts, rings, ivory beads and other things, made in Polynesian style.
Large stores in Tonga are open from 08:00 to 17:00, and on Saturday - until 12:00.
Russian citizens do not need a visa to visit Tonga. But the visas of New Zealand or Australia will be needed if one of these countries acts as a transit point.
There are no car rental brands in Tonga, and there are few cars on the island. Nevertheless, car rental can be taken at the hotel and at private individuals in the capital.
The eastern part of the island is wild and deserted. These miles of deserted white shores and bays are perfect for secluded relaxation. Here, 9.5 km from Nukualof, you can find the ancient settlement of Lapaha culture and large royal graves ("langs"), reminiscent of the pyramids. Strictly speaking, these burials do not belong to the rulers of the island themselves, but Tui-Tongi - “spiritual kings” - are quadrangular mounds crowned with huge stone blocks forming terraces up to 4 m high. Scientists believe that the huge slabs of coral limestone used in the construction of this "memorial", carved around the XII century BC. e. and brought here in large canoes "lomipeau" from the Wallis Islands.
“Mua” - areas of early Tongan settlements, are scattered all over the island, but most of them are in the east. The largest and most explored of the ancient settlements, called Muu, is located on the banks of the inner lagoon, next to the plaque marking the landing site on the island of James Cook. It is believed that the first kings of Tong from the Tui dynasty, who are attributed to the divine origin, lived here. Here you can see the ancient grave hills ("langs"), whose huge slabs of coral limestone can be found even in the waters of the nearby reef. Approximately 28 such burials were also found in the Lapaha region, and the most impressive tomb in the region - Paepaeo-Telea - was built more than 300 years ago for the 28th ruler of Ulukimat I island (although the name “paepaeo” indicates that it was not a tomb, and cenotaph). Nearby are the three tiered pyramids of Namoal and the hehea burial mound.
At 32 km east of Nukualof, in the most northeastern part of the island, stands the impressive ancient megalith of Haamong-Maui (“The Burden of the God Mo”, dated approximately XIII century AD) - two vertical columns of coral limestone weighing 40 tons each support a central jumper weighing about 9 tons. It is believed that this building once served as the gateway to the old royal palace and an astronomical landmark, and now it is the entrance to the territory of the recently created archaeological reserve. Also, legends are attributed to the ruins of the ancient palace, a large vertical plate towering nearby, which supposedly served as the back of the throne of Thuytatuy, who ruled the island in about 1200 AD. e. A little north, 24 km from the capital, you can find the Anahulu cave with numerous stalactites and stalagmites, as well as the beautiful beaches of Anahulu and Oholei.
Plantations to the west of Khufangalupe, which once exported vanilla and other spices, are now given to melons. The Tongan Center for Wildlife and Birds is located here, which contributes to the protection and reproduction of rare and endangered species of birds, including red parrots.
Nearby, near the village of Kolovai, there is a road lined with large casuarines, in whose crowns live foxes - the largest endemic mammal on the island (the wingspan of these bats reaches 1 meter). Bats on the island are sacred animals (“tapu”, not to be confused with “taboo”), so this is one of the few places in the Pacific where they are not exterminated (only members of the royal family are allowed to hunt these animals). Here, near Kolovai, there are beautiful protected coasts of Masiat, Keleti and Haatafu with coarse white sand and several small beaches (this area is not bad for snorkeling and surfing).
The south coastline is even more wild. Khufangalup has a beautiful coastal trail that runs along the cliffs and the famous Coral Bridge. Another scenic trail runs from the Tongan Wildlife Center (a small bird sanctuary and a botanical garden, open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday to 6 p.m.) along the sharp boulders of the southern coast, between which there are small bays with snow-white beaches. A little to the west, near the village of Houma (14.5 km from Nukualof), a whole series (about a hundred) of surf caverns and reef gorges stretches, where sea waves rise up to a height of 18-30 meters on a windy day, forming majestic "sea geysers". This coast is known as Mapu-Vaea (“Whistle of the Leader”) due to the whistling sound made by jets of ocean water soaring up to the sky.
The northern part of Tongatapu is rather inexpressive, and the coast is often “occupied” by domestic pigs, literally fishing and crabs in shallow coastal waters. Most of the beaches on this coast are virtually inaccessible due to the poor quality of the only road along which almost all local villages are concentrated.
Eua Island, located 40 km south of Tongatapu, is a hilly and quite picturesque coral atoll, crowning the top of an underwater volcano. The second largest in the Tongatapu group, the island is quite strikingly different from its northern neighbor - rugged and mountainous, with the largest areas of natural shrubs and rainforests, it is ideal for hiking, trekking and even, in some places, for climbing. Almost the entire island has been turned into one large reserve - here is the largest array of natural forest on the territory of the archipelago and the most diverse bird community lives. In addition, the island is easily accessible - numerous ferries from Nukualof go here (travel time is about 2 hours), planes fly (a flight from the capital takes 8 minutes - probably the shortest air route in the world), as well as numerous sightseeing ships from all over Great ocean.
In addition to the protected area, the island's attractions are countless caves and karst wells in the central region (many of them are hidden under a canopy of vegetation, so you should be very careful when moving around the island), the ruins of the once majestic Anokul Palace on top of a 120-meter cliff, which offers a beautiful panorama Eula and surrounding waters, excellent Tufuvai beach with white sand and rich coral reef, as well as the best beach on the island - Haaluma, lying on the south coast.
Haapai Group consists of 68 small islands that form the geological and geographical center of Tonga. Most of the islands are small, low-lying coral atolls, with the exception of the volcanic islands of Tofua (whose volcano is still active) and the sleeping volcano of Kao Island in the west. The main island of the group, or rather, the vast atoll, uniting three relatively large islands and about fifty small ones, also called Haapai, is famous for its ancient city of Pangai and the famous rebellion on the ship "Bounty", which happened precisely in its waters in 1789. James Cook used these islands as a resting place, making stops on Namuka in 1774 and 1777, and on Lifuka in 1783. In 1995, the entire Haapai group was declared a protected area in order to protect the fragile ecosystems of coral reefs.
Isle Lifuka occupies the central part of the Haapai Atoll and is almost completely occupied by agricultural land, surrounded by fantastic beauty beaches. Swimming and snorkeling are especially good off the west coast, while the east coast is wild and constantly subjected to the blows of ocean waves. At the southern end of the island is the tomb of Olovehy (XVIII century) - a cult place for every islander, since Nanasipauu is buried here - the beloved heroine of local legends and a relative of the ruling royal family. To the south is the Ahau-Bating Vell basin and the famous archaeological site of Lifuc, where pottery from the Lapita culture was discovered dating back to the 1st millennium BC. And in the sleepy capital of the island you can enjoy the leisurely pace of life, see the monument to Shirley Baker and Velat Fortress.
Tofua - one of the largest and most beautiful volcanoes in Tonga. The almost perfect cone of the volcano rises above the idyllic waters of the sea in the western part of the Haapai group, being the place of growing the best cava on the islands and the location of unique beaches of volcanic sand. A characteristic feature of this island is a freshwater lake located in the central caldera almost at sea level. It was here that Captain Bly and his associates hid in caves on the protected northwest coast, it is here that you can see, though a small but very ancient tropical forest full of birds and giant ferns. And it is this land area that is considered one of the most active volcanoes in the region - the last eruption was recorded here in May - June 2006.
Isle Nomuka It has always been famous among sailors as one of the most reliable sources of drinking water among the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean. Most of it is occupied by a brackish lake surrounded by low hills. The island is ideal for hiking, but local villagers, due to an understandable deficit of land, are not very helpful with trampling their crops, so most excursions here are carried out by sea.
30 km west of Nomuk is located the underwater volcanic massif Falcon, which is one of the most active sections of the earth's crust on the planet. Over the course of its turbulent history, islands have repeatedly risen from this abyss in this place, which then disappeared without a trace. The last of these ghost islands, which had reached a length of 2 km by 1949 at an altitude of 320 m, disappeared in just a week. However, even today, in clean local waters, you can see several underwater calderas and still active fumaroles.
Lying 240 km north of Tongatapu, the islands of Vawau (Vavuka) consist of 50 atolls densely covered with trees, which the locals say: "one hotel, one motel, one resort and four guests." And indeed - despite the beautiful beaches and unique conditions for sea fishing and diving, these islands are little known to foreign tourists. At the same time, you can find unique conditions for studying marine life - water transparency exceeds 30 meters year-round, and excellent diving sites stretch along the entire perimeter of the islands. You can also visit the royal residence of Fangatongo, a viewing platform on Mount Talo or the lively and cheap market of Sailoame in Neiafu.
The large calm lagoon formed by the islands of Hung, Kalau and Fofoa resembles a huge volcanic lake and is one of the best marinas in the region. The cliffs on Hung are an ideal place to observe the migratory herds of humpback whales (from June to November). Lying south of the Foyat Atoll has excellent white shores and fantastic snorkelling conditions. There is the Mariners Cave Cave on Nuapapu Atoll, and the Swellows Cave Cave, inhabited by hundreds of Salangans (Collocalia), which nest under the arches of the grottoes (this cave leaves its base in the sea, and the transparency of the water here reaches a fantastic 50 m, on Cape) this place is very popular among divers).
Niua Islands (Niuas)
To the north of the Wawau group, about 510 km from Tongatapu, lie the islands of Niua — Niuatoputapu and Niuafou — lost in the ocean (total area 18 sq. Km). Even local residents know much less about this land than about New Zealand or England, these islands are so far from their usual world. However, this piece of land is considered one of the last strongholds of the “pure” Polynesian culture, where the most ancient skills and traditions of the “peoples of the sea” are still preserved. The locals are very friendly and welcoming, and the small size of the islands allows you to freely explore them on foot or in a light canoe.You can climb the perfect volcanic cone of Tafahi, take a tour around the barren streams of frozen lava, swim in the beautiful Wai Lahi Lake on Niuafou, visit the sleepy capital of Niuatoputapu - Jihio (Iajo) or relax on the magnificent white shores of the islands.
People of Tonga
And people look special in Tonga, they are not as large as the Fijians and not as thick as the Samoans. Their main distinguishing feature is a large fleshy nose. There are of course exceptions and, apparently, these very exceptions are considered or consider themselves extraordinary beauties and beauties.
Try to guess which of them is just beautiful and who is fluent in English. :)
The Tongay people are not as open as the Fijians or Samoans, but you always get a return smile and they are also happy to take pictures and do not hide, unlike the Australians and Europeans. Always allowed to take a picture.
And always with a smile!
We met fancy peppers of advanced age with dreadlocks, in a decent straw cover (for a few days in Tonga and a one-time visit to the local market, we learned to distinguish between the quality and cost of straw clothes), with some pocketful of some pieces of paper, apparently important. Importantly, a man came out of the jaguar, though not very new, he went to buy tomatoes. And here we are with cameras. He noticed that we took a picture of him, came closer and just posed for us, having a simple secular conversation with us. Lovely man, probably the local "oligarch",))
A dear man, probably a local "oligarch",) (photo by the Great Master of the Mirror A. Krestyaninov)
These amazing people, having nothing, live their own lives and enjoy life. They make woodwork, weave clothes from leaves, go to church on Sundays (twice a day at 10.00 and 17.00). They grow vegetables, bananas, papaya and coconuts (but the coconut industry is not developed at all here).
The family came to the service of the church
In Tonga, it seemed to me that the tourism industry was completely undeveloped. Although, all the days spent here, we were taken to local attractions and.
Here, on this very spot, Cook moored for the first time. And, I’ll tell you, so many of these Cookies traveled around the islands :), as they used to be affectionate mays across the USSR :)
A stone with a commemorative inscription and a lagoon with mangroves - that’s the whole attraction
And here the three-headed coconut is growing. An ordinary palm tree has one straight trunk and a ball of foliage on top, and this one has one trunk that is undeveloped. So what, the top broke off, and the palm grew in different directions. There is nothing surprising for us here, but for them a miracle! :).
A miracle of the kingdom of Tonga is a three-headed coconut. Neither this nor later we have not met such a palm tree on the islands
. mangroves, fish market, local Stonehenge (it is not clear who and why erected these stone blocks, having folded them in such a shape, but these stones stand and delight a few tourists).
Local Stonehenge. Anyone can climb onto it :)
Churches of Tongatapu Island
Tongay people can endlessly show their churches, and the local children almost by the hand took me under the arches of the cathedral. I had never climbed into the attic of a church; I climbed into Tonga - nothing interesting, ordinary unfinished.
Local children almost by the hand took me under the arches of the cathedral
Local churches, so different and so distinctive, and in such quantity, do not leave indifferent. People, unlike Samoans, dress in the church in a colorful and peculiar way. Products from hay, dry palm leaves, traditionally encircle all men, and women, and children, and adolescents. We even had a special tour called the Sunday Church and Historical Tour.
Local churches do not leave anyone indifferent: they are so different!
The church is so new.
. And so, old, founded in 1885
Colony of flying foxes
They also showed us the place where flying foxes live. How do you imagine such a place? Do not even try! What we saw was completely unexpected. It was a real attraction. Here in Tonga, foxes do not live in the wild. They live in only one place. Because people brought them here, here their people feed and cherish.
A miracle for our eyes - a flying fox
In one of the many villages among the yards of the local population, a huge tree grew, the same as hundreds of others on this wonderful island! And it was nothing remarkable at a cursory glance from the car window, but it was worth getting out of the car and getting closer.
A completely ordinary tree, but look at its top!
Dozens of foxes soared into the sky! The squeak rose so that if I screamed with delight, it seems to me that no one would have even heard me :) Therefore, everyone as if on command grabbed their cameras and let's click.
Port and Fish Market
The fish market is located in the port area. And rightly so, where else should he be. From the sea to the counter is the sure way of successful sales,) From here, from the port, small yachts daily sail off in the direction of the quiet, sparsely populated islands. Tiny fishing schooners with a morning catch come here:
Port of Nikualof
If you are not too lazy and come to the fish market before 9 in the morning, then. Have you thought that you will see such a variety of fish that your head will spin? And no! So soon you will not see anything! ,) The market starts somewhere around 10.00. And from 9.00 at the opposite end of the port, make fires and begin to smoke chickens :)
You can buy on the market, then see the captions for the photos:
Mackerel is the only fish that I recognized :) Directly from the sea to the counter
Mackerel is sold in bulk - packages
Krabov - also wholesale - knitted
Octopuses are sold in pairs, but you can piece by piece :)
Probably ocean mussels - wicker coconut baskets
And completely incomprehensible creatures packaged in used plastic containers
And in general, incomprehensible greens wrapped in beautiful leafy bags (thanks for the photo to the Great Master of the Mirror A. Krestyaninov)
Unconditional, my personal shock experienced in the Kingdom of Tong, turned out, do not believe it, cemeteries! What a horror! I always avoided this matter, wherever I was, but here. I wanted to walk around this quiet place, it was so unusual for my understanding.
But, the guides, guessing my intentions began to shout together and call me back. Our men, seeing the excited Tongan girls in earnest, also began to wave their arms and shout "Do not go." I, listened to all at once and returned. "Why not?" - "Bad, not good, you can offend:" And such horror crept through me from the sight of the faces of the alarmed girls: Brrr!
With such stretch marks, the Tongans adorn the graves of their relatives.
Nature of tonga
And the final chord of my story about the sights of the Kingdom will be an ode to the nature of this wonderful state. On completely not endless expanses of land, wild plantations of coconut palms bursting into the sky. And the ocean. Ever warring with the reefs of the Pacific Ocean.
Wild coconut tree plantations