Tonga is very different from its neighbouring island nations. It is the oldest and last remaining Polynesian monarchy and the only Pacific nation to have never been under foreign rule. It is made up of Tongatapu in the south, Ha'apai, Vava'u and the Niuas in the far north.
The kingdom's 170 islands are sprinkled over 700,000 square kilometres of ocean. Fewer than 50 of them are inhabited, and the entire population numbers less than 100,000. So close to the international dateline, the kingdom is the first country on earth to welcome the dawn of each day.
You know you are in for a sunny holiday with lazy days as you smell the air, heavy with the aroma of rich vanilla pods.
Vava'u and the 40-odd islands making up the group is a paradise, easily accessible from Tongatapu, Fiji and Samoa but still remains off the beaten track of mass tourism.
Visitors explore the archipelago by water or a scenic flight. There are almost too many white sand beaches, protected by colourful coral reefs. Reefs supply an amazing array of Pacific shells, and it's perfect for swimming, snorkelling and diving. There are diving tours to shipwrecks and caves, and the clear water gives a visibility of over 30 metres.
Discover beautiful places such as Mariner's Cave, Swallow's Cave, the Japanese Garden and thick forests are pleasant for long walks and views are breathtaking.
Fishing is a traditional way of life in the kingdom and visitors to Vava'u are able to participate in fishing trips.
Its main street runs parallel to the harbour. It has a few shops and a handful of places to eat. Tonga is renowned for its handicrafts, the Pacific's finest, and the choice on Vava'u is superb.
The village of Toula offers bungalow accommodation at Toula's Harbour View Resort. The Canadian owners offer five bungalows with private facilities, verandah and plenty of hot water.
The resort has a private jetty and offers scuba diving, sea kayaking, deep sea fishing and island hopping. Between July and November there are whale-watching expeditions.
Pierre's Table serves breakfast and dinner every day. Chef Pierre Pernot has cooked in resorts and hotels around the world and his creations are mouth-watering. Tongan feasts are prepared in an umu, an underground oven. Meals are taken in a longhouse by the beach as the sun sets.
Dolphin Pacific Diving and Whale Watching offer years of experience. Their aim is to give fun, safe diving, all under the watchful eye of fully qualified PADI dive masters and instructors. They also offer training and progression.
Their boat Phillia is Tonga's roomiest dive boat and full of character. It can carry fifteen divers, tanks and gear and has a toilet, dry area, hot bucket shower and protection from weather. Between dives you can enjoy a sausage sizzle and cup of tea.
Makaira takes groups of twelve in comfort and has easy access in and out of the water, ideal for swimming, snorkelling and whale watching trips.
Dolphin Diver is a bit of an ugly duckling, but she performs perfectly. Great for small dive groups going to distant sites, it has weather protection and toilet.
This year they are adding five Zegos to the fleet. Perfect for island exploring, they have diving platforms and will give the ultimate diving experience.