Situated just west of the International Date Line, Tonga is the first country to greet each new day. The Kingdom of Tonga is made up of some 170 islands that are divided into three groups - Tongatapu, Ha'apai and Vava'u. Only 45 islands are inhabited; more than 75 per cent of the population lives on Tongatapu, the main island. Tonga's attractions showcase the South Pacific charms of coral reefs, clear blue skies and inviting atolls. Its gentle people maintain a traditional way of life that has changed little over the centuries.
Dutch explorers were the first Europeans to visit Tonga in 1616, followed by Abel Tasman. Captain Cook came ashore here in 1773 and labelled Tonga the Friendly Islands. From 1900, Tonga was a British Protected State until gaining its full independence in 1970.
Today, the country is ruled by King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who was inducted following the death of Queen Salote in 1965. The royal family traces its descent from ancient ruling chiefs whose names are preserved in Tongan history and legends.
Nuku'alofa, the seat of Tonga's government and home of the royal family, is located on Tongatapu's northern shore. Backed by a lagoon, the town features white frame, picket-fenced houses. Its small size makes it easy to be explored on foot. Most of the activity centres along the waterfront thoroughfare, with the Royal Palace at one end and the Yacht Club at the other.
The ship is scheduled to dock at Queen Salote or New Funa Wharf. The town centre is within walking distance, approximately a half mile (1 kilometre) from the pier. Taxis are generally available at the pier. As price is based on distance travelled, be sure to negotiate the fare before departing.
Tonga boasts one of the best marketplaces in the South Pacific for well-made handicrafts, such as finely woven baskets, woodcarvings and tapa cloth, which is made from a fibre gained from the bark of the mulberry tree. Intricate designs in brown and black make for a very attractive fabric. The local currency is the Tongan dollar, popularly known as pa'anga.
A Tongan feast is a special local treat, known throughout the South Pacific for the amount and variety of food served. Both local and international cuisine can be found in various hotels and restaurants in Nuku'alofa. Sample fresh fruit juices and kava, a brew made from the root of the pepper plant, served as an integral part at all local ceremonies.
Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua
This was the first basilica in the South Pacific and, undoubtedly, is one of the most impressive buildings on the island.
Fa'onelua Tropical Gardens
The gardens feature more than 100 varieties of hibiscus and numerous other plants indigenous to the South Pacific.
This is the site of the Trilithon, huge coral slabs which, according to legend, were built by the ancient god Maui.
Silver Shore Privato is not offered in Tonga, due to the limited supply of suitable private vehicles. Guests wishing to consider any private arrangements should enquire at ShoreConcierge@silversea.com for any availability and price.