The Kingdom of Tonga consists of over 170 islands stretching from Niuatoputapu in the north down to Nukualofa the capital in the south, 300 miles away.
The country is controlled by the king whose rule is absolute.
Generally the people are quite poor, noticeable by the very poor selection of goods in the shops and subsistence living on the islands.
We arrived in Vava’u the main tourist area for the country, where all the businesses are run by expats. There is a wide selection of restaurants and cafes all offering good western tucker.
Penny and I got quite excited when we discovered Toohey’s New and VB on the menu (we must be getting close to home!!). One of our first experiences was attending the Sunday church service on a small island, which has a population of 16 adults and 16 children. The singing was sensational, beautiful harmonies. Although there were only 12 Tongans in the church it seemed that they were a choir of fifty. Afterwards the village put on a Tongan feast consisting of suckling pig, yams, sea snails marinated in coconut and a variety of other local dishes. The head of the village didn’t want to charge us anything for the meal in case we didn’t like their food, but if we felt inclined we could donate some money towards their jetty which was in need of some serious refurbishment.
All the yachties gave generously. The chief of the village said they had never had so many visitors on his island. WE numbered about 30.
The Vava’u Group is a cruisers dream – lots of great anchorages and sheltered waters to sail with a plethora of marine life. It is the berthing ground for the humpback whales, which migrate here each year from the Antarctic. The whale watching business has become quite big and it is the only place in the world where they let you swim with the whales.
Yesterday we took our friends Barry and Maryanne off Toroa and Jim and Pam off Delicado out whale watching. We saw lots of whales, some just cruising on the surface with their calves and others showing us their tail salute. Despite having the camera poised at all times, we still failed to get the ultimate photo of them throwing themselves right out of the water which we witnessed many times.
Sadly, our time here is nearly over as we intend to head off to Fiji on Monday. It’s hard to believe that after four and half years we shall be home in 8 weeks!!