The Kingdom of Tonga is spread through 3 main groups of islands: Tongatapu with the capitol Nuku Alofa on the south, Haapai in the middle and Vavau group to the north.

We chose to sail to The Haapai group, because it has an reputation of being the most traditional, quiet islands, without many tourists and yachts. The life is slow here, no restaurants, nightlife and in fact not much of anything.

The local people are quite inquisitive, they like staring at the strangers, the more brave ones were asking questions, where we come from, what are our names and so on.

Tongan life is quite relaxed, they don't like being overworked. They grow vegetables and some fruits, catch fish, keep pigs, mainly to use themselves, not to sell. It is enough for them to have roof over their heads and food to eat, they do not care about carrier or anything like that. Houses are very basic, not many people have furniture, they only sit on mats. Not many people work (except keeping the garden and small plantations). Tongans in the Haapai group relay greatly on money that is sent to them by family members working in Australia or New Zealand. Almost all businesses on the islands are owned by Chinese or white people. Tongans do not have any interest in hard work and are not enterprising. Even if there is one person in Tongan family that shows signs of being entrepreneur, the tradition makes them share everything with the family which is extremely extended, so at the end of the day Tongan businesses are not growing. The white people that run companies in Tonga are thought to be greedy and selfish as they do not share theirs earnings with all members of family.

Most of Tongans are very religious, there are plenty of churches everywhere, there must be 20 or more in Pangai village. The biggest percentage are Methodist. The Sunday is a very special day, everything is closed, you can not do any work and everyone goes to church. Preparations for Sunday starts already on Saturday evening. People gather and practice singing. On Sunday celebrations starts at 4 in the morning with beating of drums and singing. Tongans are very good singers and they perform like highly professional choir.

Pangai village is the capitol of Haapai group. There are pigs running on the streets, lot of huts ithat are in a very poor condition, signs are lopsided at various angles because no one can be bother to repair them. There is an museum and library, but for last few years it is all closed and slowly falling apart, because the white person that looked after all of that, left Tonga. Tongans do not have any interest in keeping museum and certainly would not touch any books.

Tongan villages are quite dirty, all the rubbish is thrown behind the house or in the bush or just lying everywhere. There was an action run by a charity to teach Tongans about ways of dealing with rubbish. The people were encouraged to go and picked rubbish, but aid workers noticed that Tongans were picking up branches and leaves and leaving plastic and rubbish. For them leaves are rubbish and the real rubbish is pretty in some way because it brings colors-as some of them said. But these are theirs islands and if they want them to look like rubbish dump it's their choice, we can not do much about it. All efforts of aid workers were fruitless.

Tongans are definitely not eco-friendly, they do not care much about the environment, catching species that are in danger of extinction. You can not explain this to them, that if they eat it all now, than there won't be any left for the future. People working for environmental organizations are pulling their hair out, because nothing gets to Tongans, the example would be a giant clams sanctuary that has been establish to protect, watch and breed those enormous shellfish. The project failed, because shortly after they gathered clams in the sanctuary area, Tongans came and eat most of them. Tongans basically eat everything that moves, starting from raw fish and finishing on...dogs and cats! Our friends from Fins 'n' flukes have a dog and already few times Tongans told them that "yours dog is ready to eat".

But maybe I am being too harsh for Tongans, it is a different culture and I guess we shouldn't try to change them.

In Pangai there are many schools, children are coming from all surrounding islands and some of them stays in a boarding school. They wear very elegant uniforms (there is a few examples in our photo gallery).

There is one bar in Pangai, which is run by polish lady Magda, it is relatively expensive for us so we chosen to eat in small Tongan bar that offers simple food like chicken, goat, chips and...frankfurter, separate or all together on one plate ;-))))

We got friendly with couple (Brian and Sabine) running company Fins 'n' Flukes organizing whale watching, snorkeling, diving trips and renting kayaks, bikes and camping equipment. They set up the company 1,5 years ago and so far are doing very well, many happy costumers. They gave us a lot of information on Tonga, whales, where to go and snorkel. We could use internet free of charge and they were very helpful. One night we had bbq together and it was very cool. We also have a collections of films from them, some quite bloody, we are laughing that the least bloody was Gladiator.

Tonga is the best place to watch humpback whales, they come here every year between July and end of September to breed. We managed to see 3 of them lying on the surface, waveing their tails and fins and spouting water in the air. Brian and Sabine during whale watching trips are letting people snorkel near the whales (they are not aggressive and it is allowed). Brian makes sure everything is done in a safe manner and they never bother whales any longer than 20 minutes in order not to stress them.

The other interesting and strange thing about Tonga were so called faka-ladies. These are guys that sometimes dresses like women, wear make-up, nail varnish, and so one (Rich does this reminds you of some taxi driver?). We were told that this comes from an old tradition, that if there was no boys in the family, than one of the sons was taking a role of a girl, being dressed like one and had to behave like a girl. He was helping with cooking, looking after children and doing all female jobs. Some of them became perhaps gay after this but a lot of them are normal and finally get married. Nowadays I think that no one forces boys to be girls but still some guys choose to behave in feminine way, wears ladies hair style, make up. Apparently there is even a beauty contest Miss faka lady that takes place every year in Nuku Alofa. For me it is all quite strange and even if they are not all gay, I would not want to go out with a man that paints his nails and wears make-up and ladies hair style....

The tauvala is an traditional outfit in Tonga. It is a mat wrapped around the waist, underneath you wear long black skirt. We have bought this outfit for Si and he's been wearing it to church. On Sunday absolutely everyone walked wrapped in the mats, there is a few photos of people in tauvallas in photo gallery.

Some of our stay in Tonga we spent anchoring of small uninhabited islands with beautiful beaches, where we have picked some nice shells. There is a lot of interesting coral reefs with very clear water ( you can see 25m down) and lots of fish.

On Uoleva Island we found a little guest huts run by American lady Patti. She tries to run the guest huts in a eco-friendly manner and makes it looks like you are on a deserted island. We have spent few evenings there and were invited to bonfire with Tongan songs.

We really enjoyed our stay in Tonga and will to try to come back here one day. The sleepy atmosphere was very nice and we could relax before setting sail on our further journey.

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