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TONGA


Is the king of Tonga really a king?

His Royal Highness King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV rules the only Pacific country never colonized by Europeans, although the British did run a protectorate there from 1900 to 1970. The Constitution of 1875 remains the law of the land and the king rules absolutely. He appoints the cabinet, governors, and speaker of parliament, and can dissolve parliament, dismiss ministers, veto legislation, suspend habeas corpus, and proclaim martial law at will. Direct criticism of the king is prohibited, and in early 2004 all opposition newspapers in the Kingdom of Tonga were banned.

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What's the difference between the three main Tongan island groups?

Many of Tonga's tourist facilities and sightseeing attractions are on flat Tongatapu in the south. Neighboring 'Eua Island is mountainous and undeveloped, a good hiking locale. The Ha'apai Group in the center of the country has Tonga's best beaches, and the budget-priced guest houses make for a relaxing stay. Vava'u to the north is the yachting hub of the South Pacific, and also an excellent sea kayaking, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, caving, bicycling, and hiking venue. Vava'u also has a good selection of resorts and hotels.

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When do I have to go if I want to see whales?

Humpback whales visit Tonga from July to October to bear their young in these warm island waters before returning to Antarctica for the southern summer. Whale watching is now highly developed at Vava'u with daily trips from Neiafu, the main town.

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Can I travel around Tonga by boat or do I have to fly?

Most of the islands mentioned above are linked to Tongatapu daily except Sunday by Peau Vavau and Airlines Tonga. Regular ferry services run from Nukualofa to Ha'apai and Vava'u twice a week charging deck fares a half to a third those of the planes. Several boats link Nukualofa and 'Eua daily except Sunday, although services are suspended in bad weather. At least one ferry ride is an essential part of any Tonga holiday.

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Doesn't everything close down on Sunday here?

On Tongan Sundays all offices and most restaurants are shut and all flights and bus services are suspended. Nightclubs and bars (except private clubs) also close at midnight Saturday, but some reopen at midnight Sunday and do their best to make up for lost time! However, most hotel restaurants remain open. In Nukualofa, the best thing to do on a Sunday is to take a boat trip to one of the small offshore island resorts for a day of relaxation. Another Sunday option is to peddle a bicycle rented on Friday or Saturday out to the east or west ends of Tongatapu Island where impressive archaeological remains are to be seen and beautiful beaches are to be enjoyed.

Peruse our online guide to Tonga
View a map of Tonga
Explore links to Tonga travel websites
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Moon Handbooks
South Pacific

covers 15 countries and territories in Polynesia and Melanesia

8th EDITION
ISBN: 1566914116
US$24.95

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