The Natural Beauty of Tongatapu Island, Tonga

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Looking at Tongatapu Island from the water, showing the flat topography with the capital Nuku’alofa in the foreground. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

By Nicole Anderson

Part of the Kingdom of Tonga, the island of Tongatapu (pop. 70,000) is also home to the nation’s capital, Nuku’alofa.  It is one of 40 inhabited islands of the total 176 Tongan islands located in the South Pacific.

Tongatapu Island 1
Image credit: image – digirev.us

 

Tongatapu 2
Image credit: Destination World.

 

Given its geographical position at 20° 00’S and 175°00W, Tonga is actually the very first country in the world to see the dawn every day.

This island of Tongatapu is indeed a very beautiful place in the Pacific.  Tonga itself is quite unique compared to other island nations.  It dates back to the arrival of the Polynesians 3,500 years ago and today it is the world’s only remaining Polynesian monarchy.

The monarchy itself is said to be one of the most important elements of Tongan culture and Tonga is the only South Pacific country never to have been colonized by a foreign power.

 

 

Tongatapu: A beautiful historic treasure trove

The island of Tongatapu is just 257 square kilometers (99.2 square miles) in size.  The topography of the island is very flat as it is built of coral limestone.  Tongatapu is literally covered with thick fertile soil consisting of volcanic ash from volcanos found on neighboring islands.

This has resulted in the island having lush, beautifully thick green vegetation, contrasting so well with the blue hues of the South Pacific Ocean.

 

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Palm trees all throughout the island. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

The following are the main highlights of our exploring Tongatapu island:

 

Haʻamonga ʻa Maui

Haʻamonga ʻa Maui (Burden of Maui) is a stone trilithon located on the north of the island and near the village of Niutōua, in the Heketā district.

 

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James and I with Haʻamonga ʻa Maui in the background. Photo: A friendly local.

 

This stone trilithon has been referred to as the ‘Polynesian Stonehenge’.  The trilithon is constructed from three coral limestone slabs, and is up to 5.2 metres (17 ft) high, 1.4 m wide, and 5.8 m long. The weight of the visible part of each upright stone is approximately 30–40 tons!

There are two theories as to how this structure came about.  The first was that it was built at the beginning of the 13th century under the 11th Tuʻi Tonga Tuʻitātui (king) and the high chief Loʻau, most likely as a gateway to a royal compound at Heketā.  The second theory is that it was constructed by the deified ancestor Maui in the 6th century, most likely as an astronomical observatory. In Tongan tradition, the Haʻamonga is believed to have been made by the god Maui, as the stones would be too huge for mortals to handle.

 

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James standing up against the coral limestone trilithon to appreciate the scale of it. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

In the same way we don’t know the means by which the Moai were transported and positioned (or why) on Easter Island, no one knows for certain the Haʻamonga ʻa Maui’s origin or purpose.

 

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Explanatory sign at the site. Photo: James Visser.

 

While Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains in the UK may have been an archaeo-astronomical observatory, as claimed by Gerald Hawkins in 1963, the king of Tonga Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV stated something similar in 1967.  The king offered a theory that the Haʻamonga had an astronomical significance telling the position of sunrise at solstices and equinoxes. This theory was also supported by the research of Tongan historian Tevita Fale.  According to Tevita Fale, there is a V-shaped mark on top of the lintel that aligns with the rising of the sun during the solstices and equinoxes.  All very interesting theories providing plenty of food for thought.

 

Maka Fa’akinanga

There is also a large stone slab known as “Maka Fa’akinanga” about 100 metres from the trilithon, which served as the King’s throne. It is said that the King sat here alertly to ward off assassination attempts on his life. The stone has an evident indentation of a large head, shoulders and back.

 

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Maka Fa’akinanga. Photo: James Visser.

 

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Explanatory sign for the Maka Fa’akinanga. Photo: James Visser.

 

Ancient Royal Tombs of Lapaha

These Royal Tombs have also been referred to as the pyramids of Tonga, although obviously nowhere near the size or scale of those found on the Giza plateau in Egypt.  Lapaha itself is a village of about 2,200 people, also found in the district of Hahake in the eastern part of the island.

Lapaha close to the town of Mu’a is the place where an estimated 22 ancient royal tombs (or langis) are situated, spread over an estimated 400 x 500 square metres of land.

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One of the Ancient Royal Tombs of Lapaha with a bicycle in front for scale. Photo by Nicole Anderson.

 

 

The langis are platforms of earth with a stepped pyramid effect supported by stone slabs as surrounding walls. It is said that the construction of these massive tombs was a way to demonstrate the spiritual and political power of the Tu’i Tonga. These tombs and the rituals that surround the burial of the descendants of the Tu’i Tongas in the same tombs are still a living part of the Tongan culture to this day. It is believed also that Tu’i Tongas constructed these tombs as a symbol of their respect for the Heavenly Fathers that became Kings of Tonga.

 

 

The vaults and the construction were an enormous and highly engineering feat that the people of Tonga achieved at a time the Tongan empire was at its peak. The corners of the slabs used to construct the tombs were very well and neatly joined as if the hard coral slabs of rocks were like pieces of timber and there was little evidence of mechanical tools available at that time.

Here is a video that I found on YouTube on the Tombs:

 

 

By contrast, here is a modern cemetery fairly closeby:

 

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Modern day, non-royal cemetery. Photo: James Visser.

 

And a shot of where Tongan Royalty has been buried in more recent generations:

 

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Tongan Royal Cemetery. Photo: James Visser.

 

The landing site of Captain Cook

The famous Captain James Cook’s time in Tonga is commemorated by a plaque at the site of his landing on Tongatapu Island in 1777.  At this point it is said that he rested under a great banyan tree before journeying to the (then) capital, Mu’a, to see the King. The banyan tree of yesteryear is no longer there, however a younger tree, said to be a descendant of the original, stands at the site. The name of the tree, Malumalu ‘o Fulilangi, means “shading under the sky”.

 

The commemorative plaque reads:

‘Here stood formerly the great banyan “Malumalu ‘o Fulilangi” or Captain Cook’s tree under the branches of which the celebrated navigator came ashore on his way to visit Pau, the Tu’i Tonga (sacred king of Tonga) on the occasion of the ‘Inasi (presentation of the first fruits) in the year 1777.’

The site was recently overhauled and interpretive signage was put up, and you can see a small souvenir and craft shop has been established. Visitors can now gaze out into the lagoon from a cement platform and imagine Cook’s ships sailing into the waterway more than 230 years ago.

 

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Looking out over the lagoon where Captain Cook once sailed to land on Tongatapu. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Looking out over the lagoon to other parts of Tongatapu island with the palm trees swaying to a gentle breeze amidst the lush greenery, looked and felt pretty great.  You could understand why many people would regard the island as a paradise.

 

Other things you can do while on Tongatapu Island

There are so many activities you can do while exploring Tongatapu island including:

Check out the Royal Palace (from the outside) which is located right on the waterfront just to the side of where cruise ships dock.

 

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James and I outside the entrance to the Royal Palace. Photo: Friendly local.

 

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Royal Palace from the side with hibiscus bushes dividing the property boundary. Photo: Nicole Anderson.
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Sign outside the Royal Palace. Photo: James Visser.

 

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The front garden of the Royal Palace looks out to sea and directly off to the side is the cruise ship docking area. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

Shop for island souvenirs such as their arts and craft comprising bone carvings, tapa products, wood carvings and weaved baskets.

 

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One of many stalls offering local handicrafts for sale. This one was set up at the waterfront, close to the cruise ship. Photo Nicole Anderson.

 

Explore the capital Nuku’alofa.

 

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Downtown Nuku’alofa. Photo: James Visser.

 

You can also:

Visit the Blowholes

Go Kiteboarding, surfing, diving, snorkelling, kayaking, swimming with the whales (June to November with the Humpbacks), sailing, fishing, birdwatching or take tours across the island and the country.

Explore further by visiting other islands within the Tongan group by boats or plane.

 

Culture

The great explorer Captain James Cook named Tonga the ‘Friendly Islands’ during his voyages in the South Pacific.  Today, it is easy to see why he did this as I found the Tongan people to be an extremely welcoming, friendly and humble.

I learned that Tongan society is guided by 4 core values, which are;

  1. Fefaka’apa’apa’aki (mutual respect);
  2. Feveitokai’aki (sharing, cooperating and fulfilment of mutual obligations);
  3. Lototoo (humility and generosity); and
  4. Tauhi vaha’a (loyalty and commitment).

Family is regarded as the central unit in Tongan life.  Older people command the most respect and each member of a family knows their role.  These values were certainly extremely evident, even from the perspective of a visitor that just came across so strongly.  I found them to be a warm and caring people who really love and respect their Royal family.

 

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Signs and respectful images of the Royal Family are found in many places across Tonga. Photo: James Visser

 

Tonga is also a nation entwined with Christianity.  As the guide book I was given states: ‘Sundays are devoted to church, family and rest.  Beautiful clear harmonies, the ringing of church bells and the rhythmic beat of the Lali (wooden drums) are all familiar sounds drifting on the tropical breezes.  From the days of the early missionaries until modern times, Christianity has been a vital and influential aspect of Tongan life, second only to the respect for family.’

 

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One of many churches on the island. Photo: James Visser.

 

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Another church within the capital of Nuku’alofa. Photo: Nicole Anderson.

 

While my time in Tonga was relatively short, the people, the beautiful Tongatapu Island and its very interesting history made me so glad I visited.

 

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128 thoughts on “The Natural Beauty of Tongatapu Island, Tonga

  • April 29, 2019 at 12:44 am
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    A friend of mine just visited this place and yes, both of you have similar thoughts about it. I can’t wait to experience it too!

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  • April 28, 2019 at 3:51 am
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    What an amazing glimpse into the culture! Thank you for this fascinating expose.

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  • April 26, 2019 at 12:10 pm
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    I’ve been to Stonehenge, so the Polynesian Stonehenge intrigues me. I had never even thought about this as a travel destination before reading your post. The pictures and descriptions sound like a fabulous place to visit. It’s definitely going on my travel bucket list!

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    • April 29, 2019 at 12:14 am
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      Thanks so much Erica. While it may not be the size of Stonehenge, it still offers a great deal of fascination around why and how it was constructed. I do hope you get to check it out for yourself and cross this off your bucket list.

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  • April 26, 2019 at 11:46 am
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    I had a friend who visited Tonga who also had such great things to say. Bucket list trip for sure!

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  • April 26, 2019 at 2:24 am
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    What an interesting place to visit! I always wonder about the people who set the monoliths and other rock structures in place so many years ago. What were their lives like? Why did they place them that way? We probably will never know.

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    • April 29, 2019 at 12:09 am
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      The evidence to properly answer those questions is unfortunately not around at this stage Tracy. Indeed we might never know for sure but only guess accordingly to the available information we have at hand. Still, it is interesting to speculate on the various theories.

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  • April 26, 2019 at 1:57 am
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    Well, this is a refreshing change from the sea, sand and sun type of post you usually see for places in this part of the world. They have such a rich heritage – the only remaining Polynesian monarchy, and never colonised. It looks like such a peaceful place with beauty at every turn. Would be a very interesting place to visit.

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    • April 29, 2019 at 12:07 am
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      Absolutely Tessa! While they do have the beautiful sea, sun and sand, there is a lot more depth to the wonderful people there. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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  • April 25, 2019 at 11:19 am
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    What a fantastic write up! Tonga sounds like it is very rich in history and looks like a beautiful place to visit. I really liked how you added in the maps for a better idea of where it is exactly located.

    Great post!

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  • April 25, 2019 at 8:52 am
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    Reading your account of the trip to Tongatapu island, made me feel as if I am on an exotic trip, sharing a unique experience. I am taking the four core values defining their culture. I appreciate the focus being on community building and trust.

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    • April 29, 2019 at 12:04 am
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      Thank you for such a lovely comment Joanna. The four values are definitely something I think we can all learn from with regard to building a beautiful culture.

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  • April 25, 2019 at 4:09 am
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    Wow! The church will all the stairs looks exhausting but I bet it was a beauty on the inside.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 9:06 pm
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    I really enjoy reading about history and culture. Thank you for your great post all about Tonga – one to add to the travel bucket list! ?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 9:00 pm
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    It’s good to always find posts like this, very nice of you to have explained this place in detail. Makes it easier for someone to know what they expect and to look forward to the future planning of their own trips.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 5:25 pm
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    I am not familiar at all with any of these islands in a specific way. They have never peaked my interest in visiting there until now. Your photos and tour through the island has made this most intriguing. I would love to see the “Polynesian Stonehenge” as well as the other places you went. I really enjoy sites of historical significance, too.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:49 pm
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      Thank you so much Melody. Hopefully, Tonga is now a place on your radar to visit at some point in the future. It is all so much better if you can see it in person. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 5:09 pm
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    I am contemplating visiting Tonga sometime this year and I’m confident your guide will come in handy. Thanks for sharing.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 3:46 pm
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    To be honest I had not come across this place. It must have been such a thrilling experience. What a lovely place to spend a holiday. Loved knowing the history of the place.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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    Now I am checking if my passport allows me to visit this island. I think it is also a must-visit and learn from their heritage. This looks peaceful and far from any issues.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:42 pm
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      The feel of the whole place is very peaceful Blair and I’m sure your stress will melt away once you arrive. The locals are very friendly and happy to share their history and culture. Have that passport ready!

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  • April 24, 2019 at 2:09 pm
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    You have made add another beautiful historic place to my travel list. Would like to explore the kingdom of Tonga in future ?

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  • April 24, 2019 at 1:43 pm
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    I’ve never heard of Tongatapu Island, thanks for sharing all of this information and photos it looks like a great place to stop for a visit!

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  • April 24, 2019 at 12:16 pm
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    What a great, comprehensive overview of Tonga! It’s always fascinating to learn about other cultures, their history, and their values, as you’ve clearly laid out in your post.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 10:54 am
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    The Polynesian style cultures are fascinating to me and Tonga is no exception. I had heard of this beautiful island but being in the US it seems to be quite a journey to get there. I also had no idea they were a country of Christians. Regardless of the size of those pyramids compared to Giza it still confuses me on how cultures that are so old were able to build as they did. Those stones look incredibly heavy to move with no modern tools. Very interesting read.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:36 pm
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      How the stones were moved is certainly a mystery Scott and part of what makes this island so interesting. You should consider visiting if you are ever in the South Pacific region as I’m sure you would enjoy it. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  • April 24, 2019 at 3:47 am
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    Living in New Zealand, Tonga and other South Pacific island nations are relatively easy to get to. I’ve been debating over Samoa, Raratonga, Cook Islands, Tonga etc but your post has helped me decide! Tonga looks amazing.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:32 pm
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      You are indeed lucky to live in relatively close proximity Trish and I’m stoked that this post has made you want to spend some time there to see it for yourself. I hope you have a wonderful trip.

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  • April 23, 2019 at 7:56 pm
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    Ancient cultures in such remote locations are so fascinating, hard to imagine how they even made it there and started thriving in the first place. Thanks for such an in-depth, interesting read.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:30 pm
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      You’re very welcome Paul and thank you for making a great comment. The history just gives a whole new depth and perception to understanding this wonderful country.

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  • April 23, 2019 at 2:08 pm
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    Tonga is an exotic and unique country. A country that we were frankly unaware of. Geographically the country seems to be so ideally located with being the first to see the rising sun. Another aspect that is really fascinating is the fact that it has never been colonized. And of course, the presence of pyramids here increases the intrigue of this unique country.

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:28 pm
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      I couldn’t agree more Sandy N Vyjay! There are so many things that make Tonga unique and quite special. It’s beautiful, fascinating and very friendly. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment.

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  • April 23, 2019 at 12:52 pm
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    I have heard about Tonga before but never realized it’s this pretty. I think your article made it climb a few spots on my bucket list. I would definitely love to visit some day!

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  • April 22, 2019 at 1:20 pm
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    Do you know I actually met the prince and princess of Tonga a few years ago when I worked for Parliament. That said, I can definitely agree about the country being known as the friendly islands. Tongatapu Island looks so pretty yet remote, but this is something that draws me to the Pacific. I can only dream about reaching this part of the world one day!

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    • April 24, 2019 at 11:23 pm
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      Wow Lisa! That’s pretty cool to have met the Prince and Princess! From what you have said, it sounds like they were pretty friendly as well. I hope you do visit their home country and enjoy the beauty it has to offer.

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  • April 21, 2019 at 8:36 pm
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    Tonga sounds interesting. Its the country that gets the first ray of sunlight??? That itself is enough reason to head there.
    A pre-historic observatory? Now, that’s super interesting & intriguing.
    Hope I can get there and see this myself soon.

    Reply
  • April 6, 2019 at 12:03 pm
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    The island looks perfect for a long relaxing holiday. Loved your narrative style of writing and the details of your post. Seems like you really had a fabulous time.

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  • April 5, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    Wow,
    The Island is really cool. I’m really curious how Tongapatu looks during summer. How many days you recommend to visit the Island for first timers ? Do you think Tongapatu is a good destination to go with family ?

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    • April 5, 2019 at 10:20 pm
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      Hi Andrew. Tonga is certainly a destination that many families choose to spend their holidays (large numbers particularly from Australia and New Zealand) with numerous tourists choosing to stay for a couple of weeks or even longer. To answer your question about how Tongatapu looks in the summer; it really doesn’t change that much during the year given its location in the South Pacific. Tonga, like most island nations in this region, does not have the large differences between the seasons and winter certainly doesn’t get really get cold at all compared to other places. Therefore the natural scenery pretty much remains mostly unchanged throughout the year.

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  • April 4, 2019 at 12:28 am
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    I never knew this place existed until now. Now I’m intrigued and want to know more. I may even add it to my travel list.

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    • April 5, 2019 at 10:14 pm
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      Hi Takara – there are plenty of ways to research Tonga as a travel destination with so much of this being online and easily accessible. Once you have had the chance to look through it, you will no doubt be in a solid position to decide if this would be a great trip for you. Thanks for reading and for leaving your comment.

      Reply
  • March 25, 2019 at 12:11 pm
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    This sounds so unique, so unheard kind of place. I did not knew the name of the main island in Tonga is called Tongatapu. It was so good to learn about its history and attractions. The fact that Tonga is actually the very first country in the world to see the dawn every day, makes it more exciting. Also, its interesting to learn that it was never colonised by foreign power.

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  • March 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm
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    Wow. These historic sites look so beautiful.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 6:11 am
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      It is definitely a plus when you come across a place that has beauty as well as interesting history. Thank you very much for reading and commenting Jessica.

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  • March 25, 2019 at 4:10 am
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    I never heard of this island, but is looks like one of the peaceful and gorgeous island in the world. I bet living here would be humble far from stressful life in the main city. If I will visit this place, I would like to explore their local heritage and learn from them.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 6:09 am
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      I think the Tongan people could teach us a lot about peace, harmony and life devoid of stress Blair. Their culture certainly has many elements to be admired. Thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

      Reply
  • March 24, 2019 at 4:57 pm
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    Never heard of Tongatapu island before and I must say I am so intrigued after reading your post. Such a natural beauty this is . Plus those beautiful churches! I love the Captain cook’s memorial. You did really well in exploring so much on a short trip.

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    • March 29, 2019 at 6:06 am
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      Thanks very much, Sinjana. We all generally have limited time in any place and I like to make the most of it while I’m there to see, enjoy and learn as much as I can. I’m so pleased you found what I had to share here to be of interest.

      Reply
  • March 23, 2019 at 1:24 pm
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    I never knew about Tonga but got fascinated by this little idea after reading your post. The concept of Maka Fa’akinanga is interesting and I love such local belief. The swaying of palm trees and lush green vegetation makes this island very photogenic.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 11:12 pm
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      That is so true Yukti – and I should know because I am not a very good photographer! Nevertheless, it is hard not to take a lovely photo in some places without even trying. The history is certainly as interesting as the geography there.

      Reply
  • March 22, 2019 at 6:19 pm
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    Interesting read. I’ve only knew about Tonga, but never heard of Tongatapu Island. Their civilization seems very similar with that of Hawaii, which is not surprising considering they share the same ancestors. I didn’t know Captain Cook sailed here as well. He has a monument on the Big Island of Hawaii also.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 11:08 pm
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      There are certainly similarities between the Tongan and Hawaiian cultures Anda, but by the same token there are many differences also. Captain Cook definitely got around didn’t he? The Pacific is a massive ocean to cross and explore – full of beautiful places.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 7:37 am
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    An island in the middle of the Pacific sounds exotic and far away. I would love a chance for a visit one day. IN the meantime I will live through your experiences. Thanks for the historical information tied to Tonga too – the Captain Cook lagoon and the similarities to Stonehenge was interesting for me.

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  • March 22, 2019 at 7:34 am
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    I would love to go to Tongatapu Island! I didn’t know that Tonga is the only country in the South Pacific that hasn’t been colonized. As you said, that would make it for sure a unique island where you can actually witness the native culture with no other influences. I loved the comparison you made of Burden of Maui with the moai of Easter Island and the trilithons of Stonehenge. They are all so mysterious and fascinating. Thank you for inspiring me to go to Tonga even more. I would love to be the first one to see the dawn for one day 😀

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    • March 23, 2019 at 11:04 pm
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      Thank you so much Sara. I’m so pleased you like the article and are interested in the fascinating history as well as the natural beauty of Tonga. I hope you will let me know when you get there and if your experience is just as enjoyable as mine was.

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  • March 21, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    I am so glad that this is not another Tongan blog post about beautiful beaches! I have learned so much about Tonga and I am so glad I did! I can imagine the excitement of Captain Cook when he arrived at Tongatapu Island in 1777 and even now I think every tourist feels the same when arriving on the island!

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    • March 23, 2019 at 11:01 pm
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      Although it is true that Tonga does have some lovely beaches Dada, I agree with you that Tonga has other more unique features which I have tried to focus more on here. So pleased you learned more about different aspects of Tonga that I would argue are equally beautiful as their beaches. Thank you so much for reading and leaving such a great comment.

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  • March 21, 2019 at 12:37 am
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    Such a beautiful island to explore. So many fun things to do!

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  • March 20, 2019 at 12:50 pm
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    I would love to visit here! Just as I imagined visiting the South Pacific to be. Need to get here one day.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:53 pm
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      The South Pacific is certainly renown for being a beautiful part of the world Erin. Tonga is very much a part of that and I do hope you will visit one day as well.

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  • March 20, 2019 at 4:42 am
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    Wow how cool is this place ! And look at that location! How did you choose there ?

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:51 pm
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      Both James and I enjoy going to places where there is a lot of nature and that aren’t swamped with tourists Jennifer. Tonga definitely fitted that description so we were happy this was included on our itinerary and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  • March 20, 2019 at 4:40 am
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    Wow what a trip! I would love to travel to a tropical paradise like this one day! Bucket List!

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:48 pm
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      I’m pleased you decided to include this location on your bucket list Nicole! Hope you get to experience it and cross it off your list being happy you came. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  • March 19, 2019 at 3:52 am
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    I had absolutely no clue what and where Tongatapu island is. I always thought its Japan that gets to see the sun first. Now I know it’s actually Tonga that gets to see the dawn first every day. So much history and cultural treasures to explore on the island.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:46 pm
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      Thanks Archana. While Japan is known as ‘the land of the rising sun’, it is well west of Tonga and so begins its day hours later. I’m so pleased the history and factual parts of this post interested you.

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  • March 18, 2019 at 8:04 pm
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    GORGEOUS! I have heard of Tonga but hadn’t ever seen pictures. I’m so glad yours were the first for me!

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  • March 18, 2019 at 11:46 am
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    What a beautiful and interesting place to visit. It sounds like you had a great time exploring the island. I wasn’t familiar with this island.

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  • March 17, 2019 at 11:56 pm
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    This is such a unique place to visit. There is so much to see. The history is very cool! I love the detail you added earlier about this being the first place to see the dawn of each day. Love that!

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  • March 17, 2019 at 11:13 pm
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    Wow this is some great history with gorgeous photos! Excellent work on this article, I learned so much from it

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:38 pm
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      Thank you so much, Ashley. I do try to balance relevant factual information with a bit of a personal side to each location and I really appreciate that you liked it enough to leave such a lovely comment.

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  • March 17, 2019 at 9:26 pm
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    Wow what a beautiful island! I love visiting places like this, such beautiful scenery and so much to discover!

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  • March 17, 2019 at 8:11 pm
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    Tongatapu Island, Tonga looks like a gorgeous travel destination! Such a beautiful landscape, stunning architecture and rich history.

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  • March 17, 2019 at 6:08 pm
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    This island looks a beautiful place, need to add it to my to-do list. Very beautiful post too.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 3:19 pm
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    The trilithon is such a unique structure. I cannot imagine how it was built. Those stones are massive! Even the single stone slab, which was the “king’s throne” is also a mystery of how it was brought there. So many interesting things to see in Tonga! Happy to read about your experience!

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:31 pm
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      Thank you very much, Kristine. Even using today’s technology, trying to recreate this structure would not be easy so we can only wonder how they did it back at that time.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 2:51 pm
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    If I went to Tonga, I’d love to visit the royal tombs and get to appreciate the history of the locals…that would be perfect! You must have had a great time in Tonga, right?

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:29 pm
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      You bet Dalene! We sure did. A big part of that was getting to know the history and interacting with the friendly Tongan people. I’m sure you would enjoy that as well and thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 2:04 pm
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    Wow, what an incredible place! Looks cozy, friendly and so picturesque <3 Have you visited the island on your own or was it a guided tour?

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:26 pm
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      Hi Anna. When James and I visited we did go on a tour but we also explored on our own as well. We find that a guided tour is good to do sometimes when you first reach a new location as this gives you a lot more information to make informed decisions about where you would like to explore on your own. Thanks so much for your comment.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 1:48 pm
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    I would love to visit places that are not usually on everyone’s bucket list. Tonga is a really interesting place. Beautiful and idyllic. What an awesome experience you must have had in the place.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:23 pm
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      Thank you very much, Annemarie. Like you, I also enjoy getting to see places which are less travelled as it feels so much more special. I honestly would recommend Tonga as such a place.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 1:06 pm
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    I love mysteries like that. Glad this world has still lots of them. Do I get it right, that the same stones were transfered to the Easter Island? This looks really impressive, and I wish I can visit one day.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:21 pm
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      Hi Anita. No, the stones used on Easter Island were from that island. Those would have been far too numerous and heavy to sail halfway across the vast area of the South Pacific anyway. I do hope you get to visit both Tonga and Easter Island one day to truly appreciate the sheer size and weight of these stones. Do check out a separate post I have done on my Easter Island visit when you get the chance. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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  • March 16, 2019 at 12:57 am
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    love how you write down these travel posts.. it gives us such a wonderful insight into the place..
    love that pic of the bicycle for sale in front of those ancient royal tombs 🙂

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:17 pm
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      Thanks so much Vidya! Your reading, enjoyment and commenting is really appreciated. Just for the record though, the bicycle was just there and I used it to show the ‘scale’ of the tomb, not that it was for ‘sale’ (although, who knows? It might have been).

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  • March 15, 2019 at 10:57 pm
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    Tonga has always been on my list of travel ‘must dos’. It is such an interesting country, to be honest, I did not know there were so many islands in the chain – 176 islands in total. The Stone Trilithon does remind me of Stonehenge. 30 – 40 tons of stone how on earth did they get the top one up there. Incredible. I guess we will never know how. I was interested to read about the Tongan people’s core values. Something that we have lost in our western culture.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:12 pm
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      I agree there is no doubt that there is a lot going for Tonga, Jane. I wonder if anyone has actually visited all 176 islands. Isn’t it great that similar to Stonehenge, the Tongan people also have this fascinating mystery? And their core values say so much about what wonderful and friendly people they are. It just makes it an integral part of an already wonderful experience.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 4:13 pm
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    Super breakdown here Nicole! I love the South Pacific. Chill vibe in that area of the world. I did 4 months in Savusavu Fiji way back in 2014. Magical spot. Locals were so relaxed, on island time. All was EASY, as they used to say LOL.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:07 pm
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      Thanks so much, Ryan. Fiji is certainly very similar in many respects, as are many of the South Pacific Island nations, where they don’t lead a life full of stress and pressure. We can definitely learn a lot about how to enjoy life more – especially when surrounded by such beauty and idyllic climate.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 3:58 pm
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    I had read about Tongatapu in the Captain Cook stories. I now know what a beautiful place it is. It is interesting that Tonga is the only South Pacific country never to have been colonized by a foreign power.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 10:03 pm
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      Definitely Pooja. Tonga does have an interesting history that is very evident in the cultures of the native peoples today. The fact they have never been colonized is something the Tongans are very proud of and their love of their Royal family is well known.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 3:55 pm
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    I have never heard of this island until now. This looks like a place I would love to visit. So much history and culture.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 2:17 pm
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    This is an excellent guide on the must-see historical sites on Tongatapu Island. I hadn’t heard about the stone trilithon located there – I’m fascinated by ancient structures such as this. I’d also like to visit the Ancient Royal Tombs. It was interesting to see your photos of those along with the modern royal burial site with its similar stepped design.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 9:59 pm
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      Thank so much for sharing your thoughts Carrie and for your kind words. Prior to planning the trip, I hadn’t heard about the trilithon or ancient tombs either. This discovery really added a lot to an already beautiful destination to explore.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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    The Tongatapu Islands look like heaven on earth. I think being way out in the corner of the world, it remains one of those destinations that are frequented by only a few people, and mostly by cruise ship passengers. It’s great to see so many cultural aspects to Tonga from the churches to the market stands, and of course the natural beauty of it all.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 9:51 pm
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      I totally agree Raghav. Even though tourism is increasing, it is nowhere near the numbers (yet) where we would be worried about the impact on this beautiful environment.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 1:56 pm
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    I’m glad you posted a map because I wasn’t exactly sure where Tonga is. I am fascinated by the theory that Ha’amonga was built by the god Maui!

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    • March 23, 2019 at 9:48 pm
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      Thanks, Lori. A lot of people are not sure of the exact location so I thought it best to include a map and there are many (myself included) that are equally fascinated by the theories of how this monument was built.

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  • March 15, 2019 at 11:34 am
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    It really does seem like an incredible and beautiful place to visit!

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    • March 23, 2019 at 9:45 pm
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      Thanks so much, Neely. I agree and the increasing numbers of tourists to Tonga are a testimony to the word that is getting out about this wonderful spot in the South Pacific.

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  • March 14, 2019 at 10:35 pm
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    I have always wanted to visit Tongatapu Island. The Ancient Royal Tombs of Lapaha especially interest me.

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    • March 23, 2019 at 9:42 pm
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      I can definitely understand that Tami. The Ancient Royal Tombs have fascinated historians, explorers and tourists alike for a very long time. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

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