When British explorer James Cook landed in Tonga in 1773, he dubbed it the Friendly Islands because of the natives’ warm hospitality. Although it was later revealed that the King of Tonga wanted the captain killed, the citizens of Tonga have made it their mission to live up Cook’s claim.
Unlike the other countries in the region, Tonga was never formally colonized by a foreign power, and therefore its unique culture is very much alive. From the kava drinking ceremonies to the traditional Tongan dances, the people of Tonga are more than happy to entertain guests who are not out enjoying the many other activities that the country has to offer.
While one can relax on the beach, sail, snorkel, scuba dive, surf, hike, and deep-sea fish in Tonga, what sets it apart from other island destinations are the humpback whales that come to the area in the summer and fall to calf. Not only are the whales easily seen from certain spots, but there are many guide operators that allow travelers to jump in and swim with these gentle giants.
The best way to get to Tonga is on Air New Zealand’s ten hour direct flight from L.A. With 176 islands, getting around Tonga can be a bit slow if youre not used to “Tonga Time,” but it is easy to rent a car or hire a guide in order to see all of the hotspots at your own pace. Although there are not many tourists in Tonga, there are plenty of nice resorts where one can feel right at home in this beautiful island paradise.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or for more information about this truly remarkable destination.