Tonga

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Tonga, the "Friendly Islands", is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean.

Population: 106,322 people
Area: 747 km2
Highest point: 1,033 m
Coastline: 419 km
Life expectancy: 75.60 years
GDP per capita: $7,700
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About Tonga

Background

The archipelago was united into a Polynesian kingdom in 1845. It became a constitutional monarchy in 1875 and a British protectorate in 1900. Tonga acquired its independence in 1970 and became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. It is one of the few indigenous monarchies in the Pacific. Tonga is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world and is based upon an essentially feudal system where the king disburses land and positions without recourse to any elected body. Although Tongan royalty is largely loved and revered by Tongans, younger people have an appetite for stronger accountability and a more modern constitution. An election was held in November 2010. This was planned to lead to a major reduction in the powers of the King and the land-owning nobility in favour of a more democratic form of governance. However, of the 26 seats in Parliament only 17 are elected, with the rest being allocated to the nobles. After some horse trading, it was a noble who emerged as the Prime Minister.

Tonga has an economy with none of the corporate chain stores and with local small businesses providing all necessary goods and services. Tourists were not a target during the riots and you will find Tonga a friendly and appealing place to visit although don't expect the same level of infrastructure as in more developed countries.

There were pro-democracy riots in Nuku'alofa in November 2006 which left 8 people dead and large portions of the town centre burnt out. Rebuilding after the riots in Nuku'alofa has been more or less completed and there are abundant tourism facilities.

Activities

Apart from a few historical sites on Tongatapu most things to do in Tonga reflect its island nature. Diving, snorkelling, fishing, boat trips, kayaking and kite surfing are all possible. There are some lovely beaches if you just want to laze around. Tonga has some good restaurants and this is the place to come if you like lobster.

Take time to learn a little about Tonga's fairly feudal culture and its many traditions. Go to church. Even if you are not religious the singing can be very moving. Watch tapa cloth being made from mulberry bark and try a drink of kava, the traditional drink, which is a mild narcotic.

Food

Tongan feasts are a must-do. Tour companies and hotels organize feasts, together with traditional dancing, on several nights of the week on Tongatapu and in Vava'u.

Drinks

Tonga is lively well into the evening, generally becoming suddenly very quiet at around 11PM. Expect to see people walking around until late. Beer and liquor are available from many outlets, including Fijian, Australian and New Zealand imports to complement the local brews. If you are keen to check out native drink, try Kava (something like liquid novacaine) at least once.

The local beer is called Ikale and is sold in 330 ml bottles in most restaurants and bars (4.50-5 Pa'anga). Or you can buy the same bottles from one of the many 'Chinese' roadside shops or a supermarket for 2 Pa'anga or less. Imported beers are mainly from Australia although there are also some from Europe. Most are sold in 330 ml cans or bottles.

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The national currency is the Pa'anga, or Tongan dollar. Denominations are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 seniti coins and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 Pa'anga banknotes. Although Tonga is a developing country, prices for many things are comparable to or slightly greater than New Zealand or Australia. Most of what you eat, apart from fish, lobsters, roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables will have been imported. A good meal out will cost 30-50 Pa'anga, a beer in a restaurant or bar costs about 5-6 Pa'anga, hiring a car is about 50-60 Pa'anga a day and cigarettes are 7-8 Pa'anga for a pack of 25.

  • Tapa. Tapa cloth is made from the bulk of the paper mulberry tree. Although tapa is found throughout Polynesia, Tonga is the only country where it is still a part of daily life. The bark is stripped from the tree trunk and the outer bark is then scraped off from the inner bark and discarded. The inner bark is first dried in the sun before being soaked. It is then beaten into strips of 25cm using wooden mallets. The continuous beats of the tapa mallet are still a common sound in Tongan villages. The narrow strips are then beaten together into a wider sheet and decorated.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Tonga on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Tonga

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Tongatapu is Tonga's largest island with over two-thirds of the country's small population. It is a coral island surrounded by coral reefs. The capital, Nuku'alofa, on the north coast, has a relaxed air, despite the troubles of a few years ago (see article on Tonga). There are some interesting ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Royal Tombs
  • Mapu\'a \'a Vaca Blowholes
  • Flea Market
  • Ha\'amonga a Maui
  • Royal Palace of Tonga
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Tonga

  • Tongatapu. Tongatapu is Tonga's largest island with over two-thirds of the country's small population. It is a coral island surrounded by coral reefs. The capital, Nuku'alofa, on the north coast, has a relaxed air, despite the troubles of a few years ago. There are some interesting places to visit, such as ancient tombs and coastal blowholes, and some nice beaches with good snorkelling. Tongatapu also provides a good opportunity to view a unique culture. There are several small islands to the north of Tongatapu that have been developed into resorts. Nuku'alofa has good quality accommodation as well as guest houses within range of the backpacker.
  • 'Eua. 'Eua Island is located only 17.5km east southeast from Tongatapu. It is the highest island in Tonga and is not related geologically to the other islands, being much older. It has beaches on the western side but dramatic cliffs on the east coast, with Tonga’s largest tropical rain forest, which is a great place to go trekking. There are a few small guest houses.
  • Vava'u. Vava’u is a group of more than 50 islands, about 150 miles north of Tongatapu. They are either raised coral limestone or coral atolls. The beautiful harbour opposite the main town of Neiafu is a common destination for yachties sailing the South Pacific, attracting about 500 yachts every season. The waters of the islands are known for their clarity. The area attracts many humpback whales between June and November and there are organised tours to see them. Other things to do include diving, renting a yacht, kayaking; game fishing and kite surfing. There are some good walks on the main island. There are many places to stay both in the capital Neiafu and on the outlying islands.
  • Ha'apai. Ha'apai is a group of about 60 islands, south of the Vava'u group and north of Tongatapu. Only 20 islands are constantly inhabited. This is where the Mutiny on the Bounty occurred in 1789. The total population is approximately 5,500. There are plenty of sandy beaches plus good diving and snorkelling and the opportunity to see some whales. Ha'apai offers the whole range of accommodation, from budget to upmarket resort.
  • The Niuas. The Niuas are reachable by weekly flights from Vava’u. Niuatoputapu is 240km north of Vava’u and has a population of around 1400. It has beautiful white beaches, particularly on the north-west side of the island. Niuafo’ou is the northernmost island of Tonga. It is known as Tin Can island from the fact that in earlier times mail was delivered and picked up by strong swimmers who would retrieve packages sealed up in a biscuit tin and thrown overboard from passing ships. Niuafo’ou is the tip of an underwater volcano. The last eruption was in 1946, after which the whole island was evacuated for ten years. Accommodation on both islands is limited.

Royal Tombs - Nuku Alofa

Vava\'u Harbor - Neiafu

Eua National Park - Eua

Mapu\'a \'a Vaca Blowholes - Nuku Alofa

Flea Market - Nuku Alofa

Mt. Talau National Park - Neiafu

Ha\'amonga a Maui - Nuku Alofa

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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