Backpacking Tonga

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

So our New Zealand Visa would expire after a year. What to do if we wanted to travel for longer? Well, there was always the option of a good old fashioned Visa Run. And as there are no land borders into New Zealand we had to fly somewhere.

Happy kid in Tonga

Diving in the sea

Roberto and I took this as reason enough to visit beautiful Tonga in the South Pacific. Situated in between Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands, the Polynesian Kingdom has never been colonized by anybody.

Bike trip to the East of Tongatapu

Bike trip to the East of Tongatapu

Backpacking Tonga has been a great experience. The entire Kingdom has less inhabitants than Christchurch and life just has a slower pace. This is what we enjoyed to the fullest.

Typical Tongan house

Typical Tongan shelter

There are many beaches, forests, caves, cliffs and much much more. We have had the chance to visit three islands: Tongatapu (the main island), ‘Eua (with plenty of nature and hills), and Pangaimotu Island, a small island very close to Nuku’alofa.

Ha'aluma Beachfront in 'Eua

Ha’aluma Beachfront in ‘Eua

Sunday is church day. Tongans aren’t allowed to work, do sports or cook. So most people spend their Sundays reading, playing, eating and going to church several times. Recently bakeries were allowed to open on Sunday, because it has happened several times that tourists didn’t know that they had to buy food in advance, and stayed hungry.

All churches are full on Sundays

All churches are full on Sundays

There are no flights operating, no buses running and no shops open on Sundays. Yet most guesthouse owners, few taxi drivers, all priests and the driver of the Pangaimotu ferry work on Sundays.

Camping on Ha'aluma Beach

Camping on Ha’aluma Beach

Religion plays a big role in Tongan culture. The most important things are the king and royal family, the church and the family.

Climbing the world's biggest Ovava tree

Climbing the world’s biggest Ovava tree

Many Tongans belong to the Methodist Church, and many others to the Church of Tonga, the Free Church of Tonga, the Latter-Day Saints, the Anglicans, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Catholic Church.

Cute Tongan child

Newest family member

Family extends to the entire family, including all cousins and their children.

Family visit in 'Eua

Family visit in ‘Eua

In Tonga all of the father’s brothers are a child’s fathers and all mother’s sisters are their aunts. The father’s oldest sister is the head of the family.

Backpacking Ha'aluma beach in 'Eua

Ha’aluma beach in ‘Eua

Tonga’s official languages are Tongan and English. But Tongan is spoken in most people’s houses.

Drinking from a branch

There is always water in the woods. And if you don’t find it in its liquid form, you can always grab it from a branch

In 2014, the Tonga Daily News published an article that claimed, that Tonga was, by percentage, the world’s most overweight country. Followed closely by four other island states. It didn’t state if the term “overweight” was used by measuring the people’s BMI, because Tonga is also a country of very strong bodies. Many people are skilled climbers, passionate boxers and great Rugby players. They are packed with muscles and weigh more than their BMI would allow.

 

The Tongan food is just delicious. On big celebrations an entire pig is baked in an underground oven. A lot of vegetables and roots are eaten throughout the day and coconut oil is present in most dishes. Another specialty is ‘Ota ‘Ika, raw fish with lemon and/or coconut milk, onion and other diced vegetables. This was my absolute favorite.

Delicious Tongan 'Ota 'Ika with Taro fries

Delicious ‘Ota ‘Ika with Taro fries

Dance and Music are important to the Tongan culture. Sometimes, when we rode our rental-bikes alongside a school, we could hear the kids practicing inside.

Roberto enjoying Pangaimotu Island

Roberto enjoying Pangaimotu Island

Rental bikes were easy to get. They were expensive as compared to Laos, but cheap compared to New Zealand. Eight out of the ten bikes had been rented, so we had to cope with the two worst ones.

One of the really big churches. Many other ones just looked like regular houses

One of the really big churches. Many other ones just looked like regular houses

Mine was so tiny that my knees hit the handlebar in curves and my calves and thighs touched when I pedaled. There was a backpedal-brake only, but it worked good enough.

My mini-rental bike. There's a cheap bike rental in Nuku'alofa just two houses east of the official Tourism Information

My mini-rental bike. There’s a cheap bike rental in Nuku’alofa just two houses east of the official Tourism Information

Roberto’s bike was slightly bigger and even had two brakes. But the saddle had been replaced with an awkward wooden board that was covered by something soft. His feet would pedal behind his butt and the cycling experience felt quite weird. But even Tongatapu, the country’s biggest island, is still small enough to be explored on those kind of bikes.

Backpacking Tonga

Holidays in Tonga!

We visited Tonga at low Season. There were no whales to swim with and we had quite a bit of rain. But the whale tours were above our budget anyways, the rain felt rather refreshing after a long day in the sun and we never had to pre-book any guesthouses.

Camping at Taina's Guesthouse in 'Eua

Camping at Taina’s Place in ‘Eua

We had a great time, entered a pitch black cave and jumped into an underground lake, camped at a beach, jumped off a ship wreck, got lost in the fields on the way to a beach, walked through thunderstorms, went to church twice, saw traditional dances, cycled the island and met plenty of interesting people.

There's a flight (the world's shortest commercial flight) to 'Eua and most days there's a ferry too. We decided to take the ferry.

There’s a flight (the world’s shortest commercial flight) to ‘Eua and most days there’s a ferry too. We decided to take the ferry.

Our 13 days in Tonga were relaxing, interesting, delicious and adventurous. We’d come back immediately.

There was plenty of space on the deck.

There was plenty of space on the deck.

The waves did trouble me a bit. I decided to go somewhere near the water - just in case.

The waves did trouble me a bit. I decided to go somewhere near the water – just in case.

The sea was calm at first, the rougher. Just next to 'Eua, the sea is 10,882 meters deep! This is how it looked like to me, just before I let go of my breakfast.

The sea was calm at first, the rougher. Just next to ‘Eua, the sea is 10,882 meters deep! This is how it looked like to me, just before I let go of my breakfast.

Travel Diary entry to our very scary ferry ride over from Nuku'alofa to'Eua

Travel Diary entry with realistic art showing our very scary ferry ride over from Nuku’alofa to’Eua.

Tivo from Taina's Guesthouse in 'Eua

Our host Tivo works full time as a nurse in the hospital. Her femily helps her with the guesthouse business. Next to Tivo: co-backpacker Albe from France.

Camping at Taina's Guesthouse. The guesthouse is named after the owner's late wife.

Camping at “Taina’s Place”. The guesthouse is named after the owner’s late wife.

Backpacking Tonga: Ha'aluma beach

Albe, Roberto and I did a short hike to the Ha’aluma beach

Many different colors in the shore of Ha'aluma beach

Many different colors in the shore of Ha’aluma beach

Ha'aluma beach in 'Eua

The reef kept the big waves out and we could swim without worries

Backpacking Tonga

Cute little guy

Free camping at the beach in Tonga

Beautiful camp spot

Rocky beaches in 'Eua

Rocky beaches in ‘Eua

Nature's Wardrobe

Nature’s Wardrobe

We watched the sunset and danced under the stars. Improvisation is everything!

We watched the sunset and danced under the stars. Improvisation is everything!

Our little perfect swimming lagoon full of tiny blue fishes in Haaluma beach, 'Eua, Tonga

Our little perfect swimming lagoon full of tiny blue fishes

'Eua is famous for its hiking trails, nature, caves and cliffs. Tivo's cousin Matthiew guided us through the paths.

‘Eua is famous for its hiking trails, nature, caves and cliffs. Tivo’s cousin Matthiew guided us through the paths.

He showed us how to find water in the rainforest, when there was no stream nearby

He showed us how to find water in the rainforest, when there was no stream nearby

 

One of the two biggest Ovava trees in the world

One of the two biggest Ovava trees in the world

The world's biggest Ovava tree

Very old Ovava tree

Adventure Backpacking in Tonga: climbing an Ovava tree

We climbed it up, but not all the way

Hiking trails in 'Eua

The trails led through forest, high and sharp grass and through rocky surface

Everybody tried the fresh water from the stick

Everybody tried the fresh water from the stick

Coconuts in Tonga

Matt opened a coconut so fast, I couldn’t open a can of coconut milk in that time.

Rat's cave in 'Eua. No rats though. But an absolutely stunning view down into the National Park.

Rat’s cave in ‘Eua. No rats though. But an absolutely stunning view down into the National Park.

Matt, Albe, Roberto and Annika

Matt, Albe, Roberto and Annika

The upside of all the rain in 'Eua: Everything is green.

The upside of all the rain in ‘Eua: Everything is green.

Little break

Little break

We were very exhausted after this hike.

We were very exhausted after this hike.

Church of Tonga in Tonga

Tivo’s stepdaughter Luisa took us with her to the Church of Tonga’s service. We had brought long and formal clothes for this day, to show our respect. They didn’t match, but this was as good as we could do. Dog Fiff goes everywhere, the family goes.

 

 

We should have brought a fan to church

We should have brought a fan to church

Child dressed up for church in Tonga

The youngest dress up for church just as the older ones do

Went for a walk to Lokupo Beach. But after 2 1/2 hours of walking we still couldn't find it.

Went for a walk to Fangalahi Beach. But after 2 1/2 hours of walking we still couldn’t find it.

Hard to find: Fangalahi Beach

So near and yet so far

Wolfgang from Germany worked at the Ovava Tree Lodge in 'Eua. In his free time he built himself a Polynesian boat that he wants to travel through Tonga with.

Wolfgang from Germany worked at the Ovava Tree Lodge in ‘Eua. In his free time he built himself a Polynesian boat that he wants to travel through Tonga with.

This is Wolfgang's beauty

This is Wolfgang’s beauty

Paula and Ofis from Tonga

Paula invited his cousin Ofis to visit him in ‘Eua. Before his return to Nuku’alofa he bought a huge fish at the market, that he brings back as a wedding gift for his brother.

Paula and his father (or cousin?) Finao started the Ovava Tree Lodge. But Wolfgang built it.

Paula and his father (or cousin?) Finao started the Ovava Tree Lodge. But Wolfgang built it.

Everything was made of wood and everything just worked perfectly fine! This was the perfect blend of nature and comfort.

Everything was made of wood and everything just worked perfectly fine! This was the perfect blend of nature and comfort.

Hike along another beach in 'Eua

Hike along another beach in ‘Eua

It was a bit of a hike but we did reach our first nice and sandy beach after all.

It was a bit of a hike but we did reach our first nice and sandy beach after all.

Finding our way to the island's nice beaches

Finding our way to the island’s nice beaches

Beach and sunshine. Could this day get any better?

Beach and sunshine. Could this day get any better?

This was totally worth the hike through rocks, horny bushes and saltwater.

This was totally worth the hike through rocks, horny bushes and saltwater.

Little paradise bay only for us

Little paradise bay only for us

It was a hot day and Roberto needed refreshments.

It was a hot day and Roberto needed refreshments.

Backpacking on the ferry to 'Eua

Our new friend Ofis was on the same ferry back to Nuku’alofa.

Ferry 'Eua Tongatapu

I had been scared of the ferry back to Tongatapu, but fortunately the waves were easy and my stomach prepared. Roberto did not have any troubles at all.

Not only persons take the ferry from 'Eua to Nuku'alofa

Not only persons take the ferry from ‘Eua to Nuku’alofa

Kids in Tonga wear school uniforms

Kids in Tonga wear school uniforms

Jump into the sunset

Jump into the sunset

Pigs, cats, dogs and chicken are present everywhere all the time.

Pigs, cats, dogs and chicken are present everywhere all the time.

The King's tombs back in Nuku'alofa

The King’s tombs back in Nuku’alofa

We biked to a little cave in the East of Tongapatu. It was pitch dark inside, but we brought headlamps. In the end of the path there was a black and still freshwater lake

We biked to a little cave in the East of Tongapatu. It was pitch dark inside, but we brought headlamps. In the end of the path there was a black and still freshwater lake

We lit all candles that we could find. Some young locals came and jumped right into the underground lake. It looked dangerous and scary, but after some ten minutes and zero injuries, we decided to try it for ourselves.

We lit all candles that we could find. Some young locals came and jumped right into the underground lake. It looked dangerous and scary, but after some ten minutes and zero injuries, we decided to try it for ourselves.

We spent our second visit in Nuku'alofa with Yvette, the Backpacker's Townhouse's owner. She was so sweet and caring, we felt like a part of the family!

We spent our second visit in Nuku’alofa with Yvette, the Backpacker’s Townhouse‘s owner. She was so sweet and caring, we felt like a part of the family!

 

Blow Holes Tongatapu

We grabbed our bikes to cycle to a nice beach on the westernmost part of Tongatapu. Here we met a group of locals and visitors who gave us a ride in their pick up car.

Our nice little travel group. As we found out later, Ofa worked for the Prime Minister's Office and his Brother and wife from Samoa, who lived in Auckland, New Zealand, came for a visit.

Our nice little travel group. As we found out later, Ofa (in the grey shirt)worked for the Prime Minister’s Office and his Brother and wife from Samoa, who lived in Auckland, New Zealand, came for a visit.

Blowholes Tongatapu

Ofa knew all the cool places. His family still lived in Christchurch, but he had to return. Now he hopes that they can visit each other four times every year.

We took a detour to visit Ofa's sister's grave. She was a catholic nun and was buried in catholic grounds that one day will turn into a monastery.

We took a detour to visit Ofa’s sister’s grave. She was a catholic nun and was buried in catholic grounds that one day will turn into a monastery.

This night we did the single most touristy and awesome thing: We visited a traditional Tongan feast with Tongan food and dances.

This night we did the single most touristy and awesome thing: We visited a traditional Tongan feast with Tongan food and dances. Cheapest booking is with the official Tourism Information.

On the following Sunday we visited the big church in Nuku'alofa before we headed to the beach

On the following Sunday we visited the big church in Nuku’alofa before we headed to the beach

Tongan Music in the Church

The music gave me goosebumps

Memo to self: bring a fan to church!

Memo to self: bring a fan to church!

There was a dog, all windows were open and kids argued, until their father grabbed them by the arm and carried them outside.

There was a dog, all windows were open and kids argued, until their father grabbed them by the arm and carried them outside.

Everybody meets at church

Everybody meets at church

Boys in Tongan school Uniform

Boys in Tongan school Uniform

Time for a last visit to the beach

Time for a last visit to the beach

Paddling a motorboat in Tonga

Who needs a motor if the sea is so calm?

Swimming at Pangaimotu Island

Perfect weather and a great great beach!

Our Italian friend Bruno was full of energy and jumped, swam and run most of the time

Our Italian friend Bruno was full of energy and jumped, swam and run most of the time

Great times with our Argentinian friend Favi in Pangaimotu

Great times with our Argentinian friend Favi in Pangaimotu

Pangaimotu's water was crystal clear and warm as a bath tub.

The water was crystal clear and warm as a bath tub.

Pangaimotu Island Ship Wreck

Locals n a ship wreck. Earlier this day, the four of us have also climbed and jumped the wreck. But our techniques didn’t look half as elegant as the locals’.

Starfish!

Starfish!

Floating Roberto

Floating Roberto

Walk along the beach

Walk along the beach

Sorry I'm Fresh Cap

Very refreshed

Goodbye Pangaimotu Island!

Goodbye Pangaimotu Island!

The best beach day ever in Pangaimotu Island

The best beach day ever!

Ferry from Pangaimotu Island to Nuku'alofa

We took the very last ferry back to Nuku’alofa. One young passenger brought music and before we knew it, the entire group of passengers – including ourselves – were singing loudly “Eye of the Tiger” and “Charma Charmeleon” and taking turns in holding one passenger’s cake. Great people. Great ride.

Cute little ones

Cute little ones

Hugging goodbye our new friends and hostesses Yvette (middle) and her Fijean staff who had treated us so good. We had a wonderful time at their guesthouse.

Hugging goodbye our new friends and hostesses Yvette (middle) and the lovely Regine from Fiji. These two were the most caring friends and I will never forget all the laughter. We had a wonderful time at their guesthouse.

Time to hop back over the ocean to ...

Time to hop back over the ocean to …

... New Zealand

… New Zealand

5519 Total Views 4 Views Today
  1. How Awesome!!! It was our pleasure to have you stay with us at the Backpackers Townhouse in Nukualofa, Tonga. Thank you for sharing your travels and you are truly blessed. Ofa atu. Yvette

    • Hello Yvette!
      We’ve had such a great time with you at the Backpackers Townhouse and we are so thankful how you’ve taken us in, cared for us and made us feel like we were a pat of the family. I hope some day we can meet again!
      Many many hugs,
      Annika

  2. Hey! I’m potentially planning a trip to Tonga, this was so useful – thank you! Loved your pictures. 🙂

    • Hi Liberty,
      thanks a lot, I bet you’ll have a wonderful time. Tonga is amazing and I really hope we can return some day.
      Cheers from Germany,

      Annika

  3. Robyn says:

    Thanks, very informative and helpful to plan my trip to Tonga. I will contact Yvette after your recommendation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*