22 June 2016

Sunrise from our hotel in Tonga's mellow capital Nuku'alofa,

Flying east from Melanesia, the next countries to visit were in Polynesia, starting with sweet tiny Tonga, the last true kingdom in the Pacific.

•  Only about 100,000 in the whole country.
•  About the land mass of Singapore.
•  A very religious society with conservative Methodists at the top, while Mormons have displaced Catholics for second place.

My favorite Tonga memories are church and coast.

Travelers attend Sunday services at the large Free Wesleyan Church of Tongo (Methodist tradition) hoping to see the King of Tonga. But the reward for me was the astonishing congregational singing

Walking in I thought sure I was hearing recorded choral music of a famous choir. Turned out to be live! It was the best congregational singing I've ever heard anywhere.

The big simple auditorium was filled with rich harmonies in perfect sync. Even the rows of teenage school boys sitting behind me were singing out confidently and well.

I later learned that churches in Tonga take pride in polishing their congregational signing.

Left: The King of Tonga and his wife in their special pew.
Center: Our small contingent of North American visitors.
Right: All the locals were wearing traditional Tongan dress.

Tongan boys from the Methodist school on their way to church.

Turning now from church to coast...
Imagine miles of powerful waves ramming into an almost vertical rock ledge, plus blowholes to punctuate the show. My long coastlines photos were blurry, but multiply this shot times 100.

About to be baptized by the blowhole blast?

We wait for the next epic wave to hit and soar high. (Photo by Chris Tripodi.)

As in Micronesia's Pohnpei and Palau and elsewhere in the Pacific,
Tonga has a centuries old, massive and not entirely understood monolith.
This limestone trilithon is the unusual Ha'amonga 'a Maui on Tongatapu.
(Here with great guide Chris.)

One day was spent on Atata, a small pretty island near Nuku'alofa.

From Atata, I finally got the chance to do some nice snorkeling too.
(Photo courtesy of Clarence.)

Walking around Atata, I saw this oddly picturesque pigs and laundry tableau at the village.

Tonga is one of the Pacific countries that I would most want to revisit. Next time I'd also like to get to its popular island called Vava'u.