Tonga is an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. The Tongan archipelago consists of 169 islands, 36 of which are inhabited. Most islands have limestone base formed from uplifted coral formation; others have limestone overlying a volcanic base. The highest point is on the island of Kao at 1,030 meters (3,379 feet).
Environmental issues include deforestation resulting from land clearing for agriculture and settlement, damage to coral reefs from starfish and indiscriminate coral and shell collectors, and over-hunting of threatened native seaturtles. Lupe Matoto is the contact for the Ministry of Environment & Climate Change (mecc.gov.to). The Fisheries Department, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, is charged with the management and development of aquatic resources. The Tonga Energy Roadmap 2010-20 lays out the country’s path toward renewable energy. The NGO, Tonga Community Development Trust, is concerned with local development and climate change issues. Euakafa Island Research Centre is a multidisciplinary marine research center in Vava’u provence.
Protected areas include Eua National Park, Kao National Park, and Tofua National Park. Eua National Park has been proposed for biosphere reserve status. ‘Ene’eio Botanical Gardens is located outside Tonga’s second-largest town, Neiafu. ‘Anahulu cave is a popular underground swimming pool. Minerva Reefs are a group of two submerged atolls, between Tonga and Fiji.
The whale watching season in Tonga is from June to November. Swimming with whales is a featured attraction, and providers include Dolphin Pacific Diving, Swim With Whales Tonga, and Whaleswim Adventures. There are also more conventional whale watching operators, including Dive Vava’u, Friendly Islands Kayak Company, Melinda Sea Adventures, Whale Watch Vava’u, and Whales in the Wild.
Native Tongan people created large monumental stoneworks centuries before Europeans arrived. The Ha’amonga ‘a Maui is made of three coral-lime stones weighing over 40 tons each. The Langi burrial tombs are low, terraced pyramids marking the graves of former kings.
The first Europeans arrived in the 17th century to find the Tongans at war with each other. The British arrived in the 18th century, and Christian missionaries followed. In the 19th century, most Tongans converted to Christianity. Tonga officially became a British protected state in 1900, and joined the British Commonwealth in 1970.
In 2007, two sites were submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, the Ancient Capitals of the Kingdom of Tonga (including the Ha’amonga and Langi tombs), as well as the Lapita Pottery Archaeological Sites. In 2012, a local diver discovered a shipwreck, believed to be a pirate treasure ship. Notable living culture includes the Tongan kava ceremony. The Regatta Vava’u & Festival week is a popular annual event.
There is a variety of accommodation options from backpacker lodges to private island resorts. The lower end includes Holty’s Hideaway Ha’atafu, Lucky’s Beach Houses, Mafana Island Beach Backpackers, Matafonua Lodge, Nanisi’s Place, and Taina’s Place. Higher end resorts include Blue Lagoon Island Resort, Eueiki Island Eco Resort, Ha’atafu Beach Resort, Mala Island Resort, Mounu Island Resort, and Serenity Beaches Resort.
Aquarium Café in Vava’u offers wireless Internet. Friendly Islands Shipping Agency is Tonga’s inter-island ferry agent. The Ports Authority Tonga website includes a Ports Index. Real Tonga is a Tongan owned and managed domestic airline.
- Whale Watching and Tourism in Tonga by A Bowe, WW Vava’u & WW Vava, 2006
- Sustainable Resource and Environmental Management in Tonga: Current situation, community perceptions and a proposed new policy framework by N Pelesikoti, 2003
- Humpback Whales in Tonga: An Economic Resource for Tourism by MB Orams, 2002
- Tonga opens a gateway to space tourism by O Burkeman, 2002
- Ecotourism in Tonga: How Responsible, and Therefore Sustainable is It? by LA Filise, 2001
- Establishing tourism event strategies for island states: the case of the Kingdom of Tonga by R Harris & M Huyskens, 2001
- The economic benefits of whale watching in Vava’u, the Kingdom of Tonga by MB Orams, 1999
- Tonga Tourism Directions 2000 by J Calkin & G Mort, 1997
- Tonga: tourism sector review by P Kendell, 1995
- Tonga National Tourism Plan by N Clark, 1993
- Aid Funded Tourism Projects In Tonga: An Assessment by DJ Morgan, 1992
- The economic impact of tourism in Tonga by S Milne, 1990
- The Myth and Reality of Tourism in the South Pacific Islands: A Case Study on Tonga and Its Tourism Development Options by P Lorenz, 1990
- Air transportation and development of tourism in Tonga by SP Taumoepeau, 1989
- Planning and Development of Tourism in Tonga: A Planner’s Perspective by T Tonga, 1989
- Tourism in Tonga revisited: Continued troubled times? by CF Urbanowicz & VL Smith, 1989
- Research Requirements Of Tourism In Tonga by R Marriott, 1980
- The social and cultural impact of tourism in Tonga by L Akauola, L Ilaiu & A Samate, 1980
- The Impact of Tourism in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga by RB Johnson, 1978
- Tonga: a development plan for tourism, 1978-87 by R Lascelles, 1978
- Integrating tourism with other industries in Tonga by CF Urbanowicz, 1977
- Tourism in Tonga: troubled times by CF Urbanowicz, 1977
- Tourism in Tonga: A Case Study by RB Johnson, 1976