Stretching back over 3000 years, the Kingdom of Tonga first originated after the migration of the Lapita people, who came from the mainland and South Asia islands. Years later their traditions are continually being honoured and practiced throughout the Kingdom. The authenticity and culture that shines out of each island makes the Kingdom of Tonga or otherwise called ‘the friendly island’ one of the best South Pacific destinations to visit.
In 1616, Dutch navigators; Wilhelm Schouten and Jacob Le Maire discovered Niuas, a small group of islands in the most northern part of the Tongan archipelago. The only contact they received at the time was due to a small altercation with a canoe. In 1643, another Dutch explorer; Abel Tasman visited ‘Ata’, ‘Eua and the largest island; Tongaputa. This time Tasman’s contact with the locals was much more interactive when his fleet stopped off for fresh water, food and replenishments, and to trade with the local community.
In 1773, British Explorer Captain James Cook first visited the southern islands of Tonga; Tongapatu and ‘ Eua. He then returned in 1777 and spent two months exploring each island. As he reached the village of Ha’apai, a lavish feast was presented to Cook and his men. Impressed by their warm hospitality, and unbeknown of their foiled plans to raid his boat and kill his men he dubbed the Kingdom of Tonga ‘ the friendly islands’ before venturing on his with his journey. His complementary name for the islands still remain to this day.
Tongatapu, known as the ‘Sacred South’, is the main island of Tonga and the launch pad for exploring many of the other islands that surround the Kingdom. Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tongaputa, and the hub for international arrivals, is located on the north coast, and is filled with long stretches of white beaches, charming cafes, and ancient churches. You may even see a few pigs roaming around if you’re lucky.
Hilly and covered in lush rainforest, ‘Eua’s combination of breathtaking beauty and rugged, idiosyncratic landscapes is the perfect destination for travelers. A concise seven-minute flight links Tongatapu to the island of ‘Eua on its southeastern tip, world’s shortest commercial airline flight.
If you’re looking for off-the-beaten-path experiences, then look no further then Ha’apai, a central island group consisting of 62 islands. Isolated, uninhabited and undiscovered, this tropical paradise is filled with shallow lagoons, deserted beaches, vibrant reefs, giant volcanoes and breaching whales. Travellers can fill in their day with endless activities such as hiking, snorkelling, kayaking or even horseriding along the white sandy beaches.
Truly unspoiled, this remote group of islands are dotted along the Kingdom of Tonga, and offer year-round climate suitable for snorkelling, swimming, sailing and diving. Surrounded by crystal clear water, these 61 islands offer an abundance of activities in and out of the water. For those sailing around the South Pacific, Neiafu, is a popular spot to dock your yacht, allowing you to explore more of Vava’u Islands natural beauty.
Niuatoputao is a flat coral island situated furthest north within the Kingdom of Tonga. Located between Vava’u and Samoa, this ‘sacred island’ is mostly remote and underdeveloped with a noticeably warmer temperature than the other parts of the Kingdom, especially in the southern end.
Niufo’ou, located about 100km west of Niuatoputapu, is one of the world’s most remote islands. From a birds-eye view, this volcanic rimmed island could be compared to a floating donut. The coastline is rocky and steep, with few black sandy beaches. Niuafo’ou, together with Tafahi & Niuatoputapu island are referred to as the Niuas.