Day 18 – 22nd January 2020, Tonga Tour

28 West coast blowholes 5

Today is the first of our private tours, which I researched extensively. The ship’s tours were all shorter and focussed on one specific area, but we wanted more of an overall tour around the entire island.

We booked a 6-hour tour of the island with “Toni’s Tour” and he definitely didn’t disappoint. OMG, in 8.5 hrs we almost saw the entire island. Yes, we started at 08:00 and he returned us to the ship at 16:30.

Read on for today’s tour report and photos.

Toni’s Tour

Toni is an ex-pat Brit, from just outside Manchester, who arrive in Tonga about 30 years ago and never left. With wife Leni, they run Guest Houses, the full island tour and a couple of other activities.

Check out their website here

Nukualofa wharf vendors

Nuku’alofa wharf

Since we had an early 08:00 start, we ordered breakfast from room service. Wow!, it was amazing, as the cooked breakfast was still hot when it arrived a couple of mins early. The excellent 24/7 service, unlike other cruise lines, is complimentary. Yet another way that Viking excels in customer service, compared to the others.

As we descended the gangway, it was raining, so we congregated in the tent for a few minutes, until the rain abated. Shortly before 08:00 we braved the weather, heading for the gate, where Toni met us with his sign. Unfortunately 4 of our group cancelled at 17:00 last night, so we all fitted in 1 van. However, Tony had already rented 2 vans.

01 Palm trees and corn growing at side of China Road

Sparse corn plants

Toni provided an almost continuous commentary, while his wife Leni drove the van. Departing through Nuku’alofa, we headed for the eastern end of the Island. Driving along “China” road, a road through farmland, he explained that land owners must grow crops, or else the Government will take back the land. Therefore both sides of the road had a multitude of crops.

02 Taro crop along China Road

Taro, with both leaves and roots being used

03 Sweet potato crop on China Road

Sweet potatoes

At the end of China Road, we turned right heading through Kolonga and Afa to reach the  Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon. Having visited both Easter Island and Stonehenge, we are constantly amazed how thousands of years ago and thousands of miles apart, they could arrange these similar structures.

04 Ha'amonga A Maui monument with Judi

Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon

Each of the 2 vertical stones are about 17 feet high and the visible parts weigh about 30-40 tons. The rock was hewn from the local shoreline. It dates from the 13th Century, so is much more recent than the others.

05 Three paths representing sun at tropics and equator

3-paths line up with rising sun at the equinoxs

On the longest day when the sun is at the Tropic of Capricorn, it aligns with the sun at sunrise. On the shortest day it aligns with Orion’s Belt.

06 Leaning Rock with monument in background

Leaning Rock

An upright rock that supposedly has indentations from a head, shoulders and back. Legend has it that the 11th King lay against the rock, causing the indentations.

07 Ha'amonga A Maui monument 3

Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon

Since we departed the ship at 08:00 and came straight here, we beat the ship’s tours, so were the only ones at the attraction. Departing Ha’amonga ‘a Maui, we drove along Taufa’ahau Road, or coast road around the East side. This provided great sights of the lagoon and some more fruits.

08 Noni fruit tree

Noni fruit tree, which has medicinal benefits

10 Papaya tree

Papayas

11 Looking over the Chinese built Tsunami wall

Tongan Lagoon with reef a couple miles off-shore

The breakwater seen above was a project completed by China or Japan and its purpose was for Tsunami protection. I agree with Toni in that all it does is provide boulders for a Tsunami wave to propel inland.

12 Fishing pig

Fishing pig

On this stretch we observed a couple of pigs wandering down to the lagoon and foraging in the shallow water. The locals coined the term “Fishing Pigs”, which Toni advised is included in the Lonely Planet series.

We took a side trip along a gravel road to Nukuleka, which was the first landing site of the European settlers. Wasn’t a specific site with information signs, so we didn’t stop for photos. Returning to the Main Road we continued through a series of villages – Hoi to Ha’ateiho. On this section we stopped at the Tiered Tombs, Capt Cook’s landing site and a couple of road side stands to check out the produce.

13 Tiered tombs 2

Tiered Tombs

The graveyards are for the families only, so Toni advised that we can walk along the outside, but in accordance with local customs, we should not enter.

14 Capt Cook landing site

Capt Cook’s Landing Site

15 Judi at Capt Cook landing site

Judi at Capt Cook’s Landing Site

16 Capt Cook landing site looking offshore

Overlooking the Lagoon at Capt Cook’s Landing Site

The Lagoon was so shallow that the ships must have anchored a considerable distance off-shore and they came ashore in small boats.

At Ha’ateiho, we turned onto Loto Road, heading for the northern tip of Tonga. This was a series of villages with many churches, religious schools and agriculture. Toni mentioned the Island had about 600 churches, with Mormons making huge inroads, especially with their schools. The Government schools only cover primary grades. Just passed a huge Mormon school we reached the famous 3-headed palm tree.

17 3-headed coconut tree

Three -headed coconut palm

Although it looks like only 2 heads, the one on the right also splits into 2 separate heads.

18 Single 3-headed cocunut tree

Three-headed Palm Tree standing alone next to road

At Matahau, Toni advised that the road ahead was rough, so we detoured over to Hihifo Road, to continue our journey to the North. After passing the joining of the 3 main roads we stopped at the Flying Foxes, which really are only bats.

19 flying foxs or bats

Flying Foxes (bats) hanging in a tree

We continued through a series of villages, where they have a program of cleaning up the villages, with clean streets and grass verges along both sides of the road.

road at north end of island by flying foxes

Well maintain villages

Just before the north tip we turned left onto Palm Avenue, towards Ha’atafu Beach. In addition to a beach stop, this was also lunch stop. Owned by an Australian lady, it was a great place for lunch and refreshments. Managed to try a Pale Ale from the local Tonga Brewery. After lunch we walked the 100 yds down to the beach.

20 Ha'atafu Beach and offshore reef

Ha’atafu Beach

Very course sand and rather steep. Even with fresh winds, the offshore reef provided a very calm and easy entry into the water.

21 Garden with Palm Trees above Ha'atafu Beach

Tropical Gardens above the beach

Once we were back aboard, we continued to the Northern tip of the island, with 1 quick stop to view the grass type plant used for making flax. Toni demonstrated how they slice the leaves length wise and remove the barbs from the edges.

22 Grass type plant used for making flax

Plant used for making flax

23 Abel Tasman landing site at north tip of Tonga

Abel Tasman’s Landing Site

The end of the road at Northern tip of island

Literally, the end of the road

Having reached the end of the road at the Northern tip of the island, we retraced our route down to the joining of the 3 main roads. We took Liku Road, which was to the right and follows the coast.

24 Tsunami Rock 2

Tsunami Rock

One of a series of large rocks, this one is about 1/4 mile inland from the coast. At about 30 feet high, this boulder weighs about 1.5 million tons. It is believe to have been propelled inland during a volcanic triggered Tsunami. However, local legend states that demigod Maui was awakened by a crowing rooster. He threw increasing large rocks to silence the rooster, with this one providing the killing blow.

Enroute to our next stop, we spotted a giant Tongan Spider.

25 Giant Tongan Spider

Giant Tongan Spider

The next stop was the amazing blowholes, where the reef is actually at the coastline.

26 West coast blowholes27 West coast blowholes 2

28 West coast blowholes 5

West Coast Blowholes

Departing the blowholes, we started heading back to Nuku’alofa,

09 Thin Tapa trees bark used to make mats

Thin trees, where the bark is used for making mats

In Nuku’alofa, we stopped at the Royal Tombs, Tonga Free Church and the Royal Palace

Royal Tombs

Royal Tombs

For additional photos of Nuku’alofa, please check the previous post of my walking tour yesterday.

As we stopped at the main gate of the Royal Palace, we noted the gate was open and a couple of Police motorbikes. A staff member was also standing by the flagpole, so we determined the King was about to depart. Sure enough, a limo was stationed at the door and we spotted the King & Queen heading for the limo.

Toni dropped us back at the ship about 16:30, after 8.5 hours of touring the island. This was a brilliant tour, we definitely received great value for Tongan $100, which is about US $44 and CAN $55.

If you are visiting Tonga and want to see the entire island, we definitely recommend getting in touch with Toni and booking a tour with him. You will find a plethora of taxi driver and tour hawkers on the pier, providing cheaper tours, but not as comprehensive and detailed.

3 thoughts on “Day 18 – 22nd January 2020, Tonga Tour

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