Tongatapu was a surprise. We had heard that the main city Nuku'Alofa was just a larger version of Neiafu with pigs and all and we were happy to find that it was a relatively modern city with many services and friendly and better educated locals. The harbor is small and well protected with bow anchors and stern ties on the jetty. It was crowded when we were there as we were all getting ready to head out for New Zealand but we were always able to fit one more. We were able to get film developed and connect to the internet which has become our measure of a modern port.
Nuku'Alofa is the home of the 80+ year old king. His palace and church are 2 of the most attractive buildings on the island.
On the south shore the waves from the trade winds pound the coral fringe reef at a steady pace. The coral is porous and blowholes are formed throughout. As the swell rolls down the coast the blowholes go off in sequence. It is a sight. As with many islands in the South Pacific, Captain Cook explored Tonga. I think it is amazing that he was able to meet so many different people on different islands and make a positive impression in most cases.
Fishing is an important activity but it is mainly to feed the people of the island. Little is exported and the reef still provides a good supply.
We toured the island with Buddy and Ruth of Annapurna in Edward Fakatouma'ulupe's taxi. This was better than renting a car because the roads are poorly marked. Edward was an expert guide and we had a great day. He took us to a house where we watched them make a huge Tapa Cloth.
We stopped by a bird park but it was not very impressive. We also stopped at the Flying Fox sanctuary. Hundreds of Flying Foxes hung in the trees and occasionally took a spin around the grounds. These are huge bats with wingspans of 4 and 5 feet. We had seen one that was a pet in Niue and they really change your impression of bats. They are also known as fruit bats because they eat fruit and the fruit farmers don't care for them much.
We visited the Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon. This structure looks like a mini Stonehenge. It is also an annual calendar with channels cut out in differing angles to align with the sun at the change of seasons.
On our way out of Tonga we anchored off of the island of Atata in front of the Royal Sunset Resort.
The Royal Sunset Resort is very cruiser friendly because it is run by former cruisers. It is also beautiful in the resort and on the surrounding beaches. This would be a great place for the tourist to spend a few days before continuing to Niue.
The village just north of the resort occupies land owned by the Royal Family. For this reason it is protected and may only be visited with a guide. The resort organized a visit for their guests and invited the yachties along. The village was clean and orderly but very simple.
We called on the school and enjoyed the children. There were four classrooms in two buildings but only one teacher that rotated between the classrooms. The kids took their studies seriously and they were performing well in math and English. Education is more highly valued in Tongatapu because an education can lead to a better job.
Buddy made a big impression on these kids. We broke up and talked with small groups of children about there school work and about their plans for the future. They all plan to be doctors or teachers. I was happy to see them taking school so seriously and I got a little more hope for Tonga's future.
Tonga is unique in that it is the only South Pacific nation that has not been under the flag of another nation. This has been a blessing and a curse. They are blessed with the closest ties to their roots that we have experienced so far in the islands. The curse is that they receive the least in foreign aid and support. If these kids are an indication then Tonga is heading in the right direction.