The South Pacific kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, 36 of them inhabited. Three main groups cover 800 kilometres north-south, and the capital city Nuku'alofa is on Tongatapu, the largest island. They are made up of volcanic islands rising from the ocean and seismically uplifted coral limestone islands. A new volcanic island broke the ocean surface in the 1990s.
Known as the Friendly Islands, Tonga became a constitutional monarchy in 1875, a British protectorate in 1900 and acquired independence in 1970. It remains the only monarchy in the Pacific.
The island of Vava'u is 300 kilometres north of Nuku'alofa. Its population of around 1200 lives in small, sleepy villages.
Entering a village is like walking back in time. People do what they have done for centuries, living off the sea and the land. Villages are simple, tidy and traditional and those who live there are very friendly and generous.
Every village has a house for meetings and formal kava ceremonies. Chiefs sit on an elevated platform, and the lower section is for commoners.
There is a work house where women weave and make cloth from the inner bark of the paper mulberry tree.
Getaway visited the Fa'anunu family in Tu'anikivale Village in the eastern district of Vava'u. Eighty families live there around 300 people and they have six churches of differing denominations and one government primary school.
The Fa'anunus own the only Botanical Garden in Tonga. It features all plants indigenous to Tonga and a few extras. They also own a restaurant on the beach and have recently opened their home to visitors who wish to experience a traditional island stay.
Tongan cuisine is delicious and imaginative. They prepare yams, taro root, plantains and breadfruit, coconut products, taro leaves, fresh fruit, pork, chicken and seafood.
After attending church each Sunday, Tongans enjoy a hearty feast, usually using an underground oven for baking. Suckling pig and shellfish are favourite dishes.
Vava'u in the Tongan Islands.
Gateway to Paradise has home-stay accommodation starting at around $44 per person a night.
Pacific Blue has flights to Tonga.
- Sydney $349*
- Melbourne or Brisbane $399*
- Adelaide $429*
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares are one-way on the Net. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at February 7, 2008 and are subject to change.
For more information
Gateway to Paradise
PO Box 63, Fatafehi Road,
Neiafu, Vava'u, Kingdom of Tonga
Ph: 676 874 0241
Ph: 13 6789
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