Kingdom of Tonga - Things To Know Before You Go

January 22, 2009 · Print This Article

Tongan lady weavingMAJOR CENTRES
Nuku’ alofa is the capital and home of the Royal Palace. Other major centres are Eua island, an ideal retreat for hikers, adventurers and naturalists, and Vava’u island which has two beautiful beaches on the main island and a scenic drive around the west coast with stunning views of Port of Refuge Harbour and the numerous outer islands.

Ha’apai island is a favourite with visitors who are invited to stay in the village and participate in all aspects of village life from ‘kava’ ceremonies, feasting and dancing to hunting ‘feke’ octopus with village fishermen in outrigger canoes.

The majority of Tonga’s 96,000 people live on Tongatapu. Polynesians by race, they speak Tongan and English.

Archaeologists claim Tonga has been inhabited since the 5th century BC. It was first discovered by two Dutch navigators in 1616. They were followed by Tasman, Wallis, Captain Cook, Bligh of the Bounty whose sailors mutineered in Tongan waters, and the missionaries.

Today the Kingdom of Tonga is ruled by King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV who reigns as a constitutional monarch. Formerly a British protectorate, Tonga gained its independence in 1970 and is now part of the British Commonwealth.

Vegetation is typically South Pacific with masses of hibiscus and frangipani, coconut groves, pandanus palms and banana plantations.

Not far from Nuku’alofa hundreds of flying foxes cling to high trees at Kolovai. Frigate birds are common, as are the Pacific golden plover, the Pacific black duck, swiftlets (Pacific swallows) and the blue crowned lorikeet.

Tonga was the first Pacific island country to create marine parks or sanctuaries. Four such parks now exist, rich in fish, coral and marine life.

A warm tropical climate exists throughout the year. There is a mild, dry season May through October, with a hotter, humid season November through April.

The Tongan dollar or pa’anga equals 100 seniti (cents). Notes are in 50 seniti, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 p’anga denominations. Coins are in 1, 2, 5, 10 and 50 seniti, also 1 & 2 p’anga. Foreign currency exchange is available at most major hotels and the Bank of Tonga. Banking hours are 9:30am - 3:30pm Mon - Fri, 9:30am - 11am Sat. The Bank of Tonga has branches on Tongatapu, Vava’u, Ha’apai and ‘Eua.

Tonga offers duty free items, Island handcrafts and Island wear such as mumus and the Tongan “Pulisami”. Regular shopping hours are Monday-Friday 8:30am - 4:30pm. All main stores close on Saturday at 12 noon and do not reopen until Monday. There is no trading of any manner on Sunday.

Piped water supplies are chlorinated, and are satisfactory for drinking. There are comprehensive medical and dental facilities available. Copyright © Goway 2009

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