Tonga, or officially the Kingdom of Tonga, is made up of 171 islands sprawling across 700,000 square kilometres in the Pacific Ocean – only 36 of which are inhabited! These islands are divided into three main groups: Tongatapu in the south, Ha’apai in the centre and Vava’u in the north. Isolated islands include Niuafo’ou, Niuatoputapu, and Tafahi (together known as the Niuatoputapu, or Niuas, island group). These islands are collectively stitched together by the volcanoes of the ‘Pacific Rim of Fire’, 800 kilometres long north to south.
Somehow managing to have skipped the influence of tourism thus far, Tonga is unpolished and gritty island where chickens still roam the streets – and there isn’t a glitzy hotel or cruise ship in sight. Many of the islands to this day function without electricity and operate outside any monetary system. With a significant percentage of the population working oversea – and this income largely supporting supporting the economy back at home – Western culture has started to slowly seep into the Tongan culture. Once you slow down to ‘Tongan time’, you’ll find these islands are awash with pristine beaches, incredible snorkelling and vibrant corals, hiking trials, water activities galore and low-key accommodations.
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