After skipping an entire day as we crossed the International Date Line last night, we arrived in Tonga this morning to less than perfect conditions and unfortunately had to anchor out in the bay rather than going pierside due to a rather shabby and inadequate dock. Taking the ship's boats, called tenders in this case, into the port slowed things down considerably and shortened our visit a bit. Though I did capture some nice images of the sea and the sky upon our arrival as well as a nice one of the tender coming back to the ship...
The city of Nuku'Alofa is located on the island of Tongatapu, the largest of the 170 islands which make up the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga is the only Polynesian nation to never be colonized by European (or other) powers and maintains a royal monarchy extending back centuries. The island is very flat compared to the other Polynesian islands and has quite fertile soil with plenty of coastal fisheries, which comprise the two primary sources of income for the island nation. An interesting part of history is that Captain Bligh of the HMS Bounty came upon this island after the mutineers set he and his officers adrift, but Captain Bligh and his officers continued on through Fiji and Vanuatu to the Dutch settlement at Timor (a distance of 3,618 nautical miles in a small liferaft!) after finding themselves in the middle of a "dispute" between two Tongan tribes.
I joined another island tour to see more of Tonga. After a tour of the historical capital of Nuku'Alofa with stops at the Royal Palace, the Royal Tombs, and some of the city's many churches, we took a drive out past Tongan ranches, farms, and towns to the Mapu'a Vaca blowholes located on the western coast. At least a mile of the coastline is lined with a unique stone & coral formation which is littered with natural pools and vents as you can see in the photos. On the way back, we went through the small town of Kolovai and saw the hundreds of fruit bats (some with a three foot wingspan!) hanging from the trees before returning to Nuku'Alofa and the ship.
This evening we head south to our next port of Auckland, New Zealand ;) Our first taste of Western civilization since leaving Panama City on 10 January 2008!