2011 February 3 – Day 29 – Nuku’alofa, Tonga

Tonga was our last South Pacific island port-of-call.  We then had two days at sea before a marathon of 8 consecutive days in the ports of the North and South islands of New Zealand.

Tonga (comprised of about 100 islands) is a monarchy and the poorest of the South Pacific Islands so the influx of dollars brought by a cruise ship is very welcome.  Many of the islands are virtually flat and the high points that they do have are only about 200′ above sea level.

The little nation has always had strong ties with Great Britain and the 1875 constitution was largely influenced by British law.  In 1867 the Royal Palace was built in England on the shore of the Thames River.  It was then dismantled and sent to New Zealand before being re-constructed in Nuku’alofa.  The building is now only used on ceremonial occasions and is not open to the public.  It was a beautiful Victorian mansion. The only addition to the building since it was built is the second story veranda.  There are resident Royal geese on the grounds but we did not see them that day.
Tonga is also a very devout Christian island.  People were asked to dress appropriately.  Fines can be imposed for violation of the code by anyone.  Shorts and bathing suits are OK at the beach and poolside, but should not be worn elsewhere.

From the Royal Palace to the Royal Tombs, the official burial place for Tongan Royalty since 1893.    The Mapu’a Vaca Blowholes (the Chief’s Whistles) are on the south side of the island from Nuku’alofa.  The little salt craters and crevices on the rocks made very  interesting shapes. Once again, at a blowhole site, the wave action was too gentle to create any good blows.  I did like all the calcified shapes that created little pools.

The beautiful white sand beach of Otuhaka Beach stretched for several kilometers and had a very shallow protecting coral reef that kept the crystal clear water nice and warm and allowed you to walk or swim for a several 100 meters to the breakwater. We had our bathing suits on but decided to just wade along the shore and watch the spider starfish, look for shells, and check out the delicate aquatic plants.

After an hour or so at the beach we returned to town and the ship.  With co-ordinates of 173° 40′ W and 175° 20′ W Tonga is geographically last to end each day.  Holland America ships all celebrate the Netherlands Independence day (officially on Jan 30) with free champagne.  That night at dinner we also celebrated Chinese New Year, Chief Chef Bernie’s birthday, and the conclusion of our South Pacific ports-of-call.  Any reason for free champagne is a good reason as far as I am concerned. Mary Kay, Janet and KarenJack and two Johns.

We loved the South Pacific islands.  Many of them have no airport.  All of them are a long way from anywhere and take a long time to get to, by land or by air.  This cruise on our way to Australia was a great way to see some of them.  We also cruised back to British Columbia from Sydney, Australia at the end of our two months travel of the eastern half of the continent and stopped at some different islands so you will be reading more from the South Pacific later on.

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