Updated: Oct 28
by Nina Sabin - Travel Blog
We had such an amazing day today I don’t know where to start. We are feeling a little bit down with our time in Fiji as it did not live up to our expectations. However, Tongo did.
We arrived in Tonga at 7 am. The sun was shining and everyone was excited about the day.
Nuku'alofa, the country's capital and major port along the north shore of Tonga. It is located along the sea and backed by a lagoon, the town features white- framed, picket-fenced houses. The towns small size makes it easy to explore on foot. Most of the activity centers along the waterfront thoroughfare, with the Royal Palace across from the port.
There was a tsunami that hit Tonga seven months ago. We did not know about the tsunami till yesterday. The tsunami covered the island for eleven hours. It took three months just to get the ash removed. We weren’t sure what to expect as we were concerned about what would be opened after the Tsunami.
As passengers disembarked off of the ship we were greeted with Tonga music and dance presentation at the pier.
The people from Tonga were very welcoming. They were so excited because we were the first cruise ship in three years and the first time the Zuiderdam has ever been to Tonga.
There was a ceremony in the morning where the Prime Minister came and presented a plaque to the captain and officers of the ship. This is the first time we actually saw the captain. Now we can put a face to the voice we hear over the intercom. The captain also presented the Prime Minister with some gifts.
After the ceremony we were off to explore. We set up with a taxi driver for a tour to see the entire island of Tonga.
We shared the taxi with our Canadian bridge friends. The driver, 'Inoke Fonua (77 78939), charged us $160 USD for all of us for the entire day. He is an retired economics high school teacher, spoke English wonderfully, and gave us a great tour of the entire island.
The day consisted of driving from the west coast of the island to the east coast. On the western part of the island we saw the three headed coconut palm, the place where Captain Cook landed and the furthest west part of the island where the Dutch missionary, Abel Tasmin, brought Christianity to the island in the 1600s.
The highlights of our excursion were seeing the fruit bats (like the one that was a stowaway on our ship); the tsunami rock (the house-sized boulders which were likely flung ashore by a wave rivaling the 1883 Krakatau tsunami, which is estimated to have towered 35 meters (115 feet) high); the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui arch (built in the 13th century by King Tuʻitātui in honor of his two sons. The monument is sometimes called the "Stonehenge of the Pacific"; the blow holes that were along the shore; and, swimming in the Anahulu Cave (a cavern 60’ into the earth filled with stalactites & stalagmites with an underground freshwater natural pool for swimming).
At the cavern, there were people jumping into the water from high parts of the cavern. We just walked down the steps to swim.
Between the western and eastern part of the island we stopped at a local restaurant to have lunch. John had a curry dish and I had Lu Sipi - known as the Tongan Parcel of Goodness. Tonga’s traditional dish of lamb drenched in coconut cream and baked in taro leaves served with tapioca roots.
On the eastern part of the island, we looked for turtles at the turtle sanctuary. We didn’t see any turtles; however, just up the road around where the tsunami first hit, we saw pigs and piglets.
Our day definitely captured the spirit of Tonga. The people of Tonga ended our evening with another performance on the pier with more dancing including traditional fire dancing from Samoa and Tonga.
We finished our fabulous day by going to a local restaurant and bar called the The Top. It is owned by an American from California. We had a nice chat with the owner. Many of the senior staff from the ship also were enjoying there time off at the establishment. A perfect ending to a fantastic day.
Tomorrow we have another day in Nuku’alofa. We planned to do the walking trail; however, the weather calls for heavy rain. So we will see. Maybe we will be out for just an hour or two.