Is it time to start planning a South Pacific winter break?
As the weather starts to cool and the leaves start turning, many Kiwis cast their minds to planning a winter break. People will have noticed the advertising for South Pacific holiday packages has ramped up in the past few weeks, so now’s the time to bag the best airfares. Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia both operate direct flights from Auckland. Book now!
What is Tonga’s point of difference?
Tonga is one of the most cost-effective destinations with frequent flights and very reasonable prices for accommodation. If the travel brochured perfection of a mega-resort in the Maldives is your vision of holiday heaven, Tonga probably isn’t your bag. It’s not over-commercialised, it beats to a small-town vibe. Holidaying here feels authentic, organic and integrated with the local community.
Scenic Hotels has just opened its doors in Tonga?
Yes, the New Zealand owned company has spread its wings, and Tonga is its first international operation. The Scenic is located very close to the airport, so it’s a great base on the main island of Tongatapu. The standard of service and comfort is on par with what people expect from Scenic Hotels in New Zealand. And they have the Tongatapu’s biggest outdoor pool, which is quite a draw-card in the tropics.
What are the top sights in Tongatapu?
Captain Cook’s Landing Place? Yes, history buffs can walk in the footsteps of James Cook. A gorgeous reserve overlooking the lagoon commemorates where Captain Cook came ashore in 1773, and the reception was so warm, he of course named the area, “The Friendly Isles.”
Houma’s spectacular blowholes – Along the rocky terraced coastline at Houma, this is a spectacle to rival the Bellagio’s dancing fountains in Vegas. Water surges into a series of vents in the coral rocks, which then gushes out ,skyward, as 18 metre high water spouts. It’s a must see.
The Anahulu Cave – Tongatapu has fabulous coral caves, but if you want a spot of swimming while you check out the caves, Anahulu is a stalactite cave with an underground pool that you can take a dip in.
Flying Foxes. ( the animal version, not the tree ride.) Kids love these things…but they do nothing for me. Flying foxes or native fruit bats have a massive colony in Tongatapu. So they are easy to check out, if you want to.
Awesome village markets and coral churches in Nuku’alofa. I have to say the slice of life Tonga experiences have been the most memorable for me. Nuku’alofa has excellent market shopping. Tongatapu has churches everywhere, beautifully designed, some clad-in coral shell. But yesterday, I went to the local village primary school. It was sports day, and I have to say, it’s not just participating that counts for Tongan kids. They’re in it to win it. And good on them. The school visit was awesome, and Scenic Hotel can arrange that for you.
What about the outlying islands? Any recommendations for a more secluded experience?
My pick is Fafa Island. Just 30 minutes by boat from Nuku’alofa, the private tropical retreat of Fafa Island is recommended. Crystal clear water, safe swimming, superb snorkelling, and only a couple of dozen people can stay at anytime, in the Tongan style fales. Its affordable luxury for Kiwis. If you want more seclusion and a dose of wildlife, the Va’vau islands are very escapist, and humpback whales hangout in Va’vau to mate and calve, from July to October.
Best time to visit Tonga? May to November.
The rainy season is coming to an end about now, so dovetailing very nicely with our cooler months, the whales are in town, the days are drier and the temperatures not so scorching.
( As discussed on Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame Saturday Morning Show.)