As we head north from New Zealand to Tonga, we have three sea days and with each day the weather gets a little warmer. We are leaving fall and heading back to warmer climes. Coming out of the shelter of New Zealand we run into some pretty rough weather, but by the next day all is well and we are enjoying some beautiful sunrises and sunny days.
Ta Lofa – Hello!
Nuku’alofa is the capital of the Kingdom of Tonga and has the only deep water sea port in Tonga. Again, as in New Zealand, we are the last cruise ship of the season to stop here. Nuku’alofa is the seat of government and home to the Royal family. Tonga is made up of 177 islands or atolls covering about 750 square kilometers. However, 70% of the population, just under 110 thousand, live on Tonga. Known as the “friendly Islands” because of the reception James Cook received in 1773. The captain and his crew were invited to join their festivities. According to history though, they really wanted to kill him, but could not come up with a plan.
Since 2010 is it a constitutional monarchy. Prior to this time, from 1900 to 1970, Tonga was a British protected state but maintained its sovereignty and remains the only Pacific nation to retain its monarchical government. Their citizens have free and mandatory education, secondary education with nominal fees, and foreign-funded scholarships for post secondary education as well as medical health care.
The royal family and the nobles dominate and largely own the monetary sector of the economy – particularly the telecommunications and satellite services. Our guide told us that the citizens would like to change this. Tonga was named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008. And yet again, the Chinese. The redevelopment of the Vuna Wharf at the port was funded by the People’s Republic of China. It’s surprising to see how many countries China has been investing in during this cruise.
They say time begins here, but also that time stands still here. And even though they have DVDs, cell phones, internet etc., they still have a chief in each small village to resolve issues in their traditional ways.
This area was hit by a cyclone in February and evidence of the damage is seen all over. Homes are being rebuilt and cemeteries put back together. We kayaked over to an island about two kilometres offshore and could also see the devastation of the hotel that was to host us for lunch. It was a makeshift “dining area” out under a tent with open walls, several dogs and a wild pig with babies The kitchen must have been OK because the hamburgers and fish & chips were very good. We had time to snorkel out to an old shipwreck and we saw several huge star fish as above before heading back to the mainland. Nice day. Lovely friendly people.