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1. Enjoy an underground swim
If the thought of small enclosed spaces doesn’t give you the heebie-jeebies, take a trip to Tonga’s Anahulu Caves and one the planet’s most unusual swimming spots. Located in Haveluliku, on the Eastern side of Tongatapu, these large limestone caverns are as beautiful as they are grotesque, with glittering swathes of rock, deformed crevices and contorted stalactites and stalagmites, but once you’ve navigated the inner pathways you’ll discover a secret plunge pool.
HOT tip: Take a guided tour and you’ll be rewarded with an underground fresh water pool at the bottom. Jump from the rocks into deep water and try to take an action shot with your GoPro.
2. Go birdwatching
Not as bland as it might first sound, some of the most fascinating wildlife exists in Tonga, particularly birdlife. Take a two-hour ferry from Nuku'alofa to Eua Park (or a seven-minute flight if you’re time starved) and absorb the spectacular natural surroundings. Hidden amidst a shroud of virgin rainforest and dramatic limestone, there exists Lorikeets, Musk Parrots and Pacific Pigeons, as well as one of our all-time favourites (for pure trivial knowledge alone) the Tongan Megapode. This native bird doesn’t like to incubate its eggs by sitting on them, instead, it’ll cover them with the warm volcanic sand. Clever, no?
HOT tip: Choose a guided Eua Park tour and you’ll benefit from all manner of facts like the one above.
3. Find tranquillity at the beach
There are enough glorious beaches in Tonga to swing a cat at, but if you’re determined to find a little segment that’s frequented by more shells than it is tourists, seek out Ha'atafu Beach on Tongatapu Island. Favoured by local surfers, the water is also good for swimming and kayaking while the snorkelling will bring you face to face with numerous tropical fish. The sand is beautifully white and for the most part, undisturbed by other beach-seekers. If you have an astute eye, sit on the beach and look out to sea; whales are often visible as they travel back and forth between the inner and outer reef.
Hot tip: Crack open a cold, local beer from the nearby shops, sit on the beach and wait for a spectacular sunset.
4. Get bewildered by history
Known as the ‘Stonehenge of Tonga’, Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon is a series of erected stone works that were (somehow) elaborately positioned as far back as 1200 AD. Their full purpose is still unknown, although like Stonehenge, the arch is aligned with the sun to distinguish the island’s seasons. The weight and sheer size of these structures has to be seen to be appreciated, especially as it’s believed they were sourced from Wallis Island. Once admired, you can buy a selection of Tongan art and handicrafts from local vendors and then saunter to the beach which is just a short stroll away.
HOT tip: Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon is located in the eastern village of Niutoua, 30km from Nuku'alofa.
5. Climb a coconut tree
Coconuts (niu) are found everywhere in Tonga but if you’re too impatient to wait for one to drop, why not climb a palm tree and fetch one for yourself? Not an activity that comes without peril, you might want to seek guidance from an experienced local, better still watch them do it instead! A palm tree is entirely un-notched so foot holes aren’t readily found; you’ll need a lot of strength and hands with incredible grip, but once sought, you’ll be rewarded with the cool, crisp refreshment of coconut water.
HOT tip: For fresh coconut water, pick yourself a ripe green niu, but for delicious coconut flesh, you’ll want to grab a brown and hairy one. Good luck!
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