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Cruising Article – 2011-04-18

Learn all about the Tongan people in Nukualofa

Australia/New Zealand Cruise Destinations

The South Pacific is a fascinating and beautiful region, with a unique culture that you'll be able to experience on your Australia and New Zealand cruise. Many of your stops will take you to some of the most famous locales in Polynesia and beyond and while these hotspots are definitely worth the trip, some of the lesser-known locales, like Nukualofa, Tonga, can be just as exciting.

You may have never heard of Nukualofa or the country of Tonga, which can serve to make the experience all the more enjoyable. Tonga is an island chain that is technically located in the Polynesian region, and Nukualofa is the capital and largest town on the biggest island, Tongatapu. Tonga stands out in the region because this country has never been conquered or colonized by Western civilizations. That means that Tonga is perhaps the best example of pure, undiluted Polynesian culture in the world.

Of course, that's not to say that some modernity hasn't crept into Tonga. When you hear about Tonga's "Royal Palace," you might picture a stone structure that has stood since ancient times. In addition, the King of Tonga's residence is actually a modern white house that was shipped in pieces from New Zealand and assembled on the island. That doesn't make it any less spectacular, however, and you'll be able to learn all about Tonga's government - the last monarchy in the South Pacific - when you visit the Palace and nearby Royal Tombs.

To see something truly unique, be sure to stop near Kolovi to check out the island's "flying foxes." In reality, these are a species of fruit bat that resemble foxes. The creatures are considered sacred by the Tongan people and are definitely one of the more memorable sights you'll see on the island.

Tonga is also a great place to simply relax on the beach. Whether you stay on Tongatapu and visit Otuhaku Beach or decide to go offshore to the nearby Pangaimotu Island, relaxing in the sun and enjoying the crystal clear waters is certainly not a bad way to spend the day.