Discovering the Solomon Islands & Tonga
The South Pacific is home to popular holiday destinations islands such as Fiji, Tahiti, and Easter Island. That’s without mentioning the clear winners, Australia and New Zealand. However, dotted in the southern half of the Pacific Ocean are countless archipelagos and stand-alone islands.
What may only appear as nothing more than a pin prick of green on a world map could hold some of the most unique people, breath-taking scenery, and unrivalled experiences on the planet. For this reason, we are exploring the Solomon Islands and Tonga.
Step back in time and visit the nation made from hundreds of islands. The Solomon Islands are not a typical tourist haunt which means the rainforests, beaches, and mountains remain virtually untouched. The largest island is Guadalcanal and home to the country’s capital, Honiara. However, if you want to escape, head to the outlying islands.
Throughout the Solomon Islands there are historical WW2 sites, groups of indigenous islanders and some of the most fascinating flora and fauna on the planet. One of the most fascinating islands is Gizo, the capital of the Western Province.
The population is just over 6,100 citizens, with the majority part of the Boboe community. They live in traditional villages and many have no running water and no electricity. Throughout the Solomon Islands, communities are dedicated to preserving traditional lifestyles, known as ‘kastom’. Expect to be welcomed by youngsters of the village, brandishing spears and banging shields, faces darkened further with mud. Don’t worry: the chief will come and save you from this traditional ‘welkam’ with a chuckle.
Near Vona Vona Lagoon is Skull Island, and the name is fitting. Headhunting enemies is part of New Georgia’s history and natives created skull shrines throughout the island. Expect to be shown around by the area’s Chief as Skull Island is extremely sacred. Visitors might find it eerie and morbid, but islanders are proud of their history and traditions.
Spread across 1,300 kilometres are 80 islands that make up the Vanuatu archipelago. Unlike tropical islands that boast flashy resorts and constant docking cruise ships, Vanuatu is virtually deserted. Untouched beaches and ancient culture are the backbone of the remote islands. Visitors will definitely need a sense of adventure.
There are over 20 active and extinct volcanoes throughout Vanuatu. From the capital, Port Vila, visitors can travel to Tanna Island to feast their eyes upon Mount Yasur. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and locals cannot remember a time when it wasn’t emitting blazing balls of fire and shooting lava. Visitors can scale the ash incline of Mount Yasur and stand on the craters edge and witness the breath taking natural experience.
Also known as the Friendly Islands, Tonga has 176 un-spoilt islands to explore. Only 40 are currently inhabited but visiting one of the desert islands can be an unrivalled experience. The country is made up of four major island groups: Tongatapu and ‘Eua in the south, Ha’apai group in the centre and Vava’u group in the north. Each have their own unique flavour.
The Sacred South, Tongatapu, is home to the capital city, Nuku’alofa. The quaint city, like nothing in the Western wold, is the centre of Tongan commerce and government. The island is also home to the Royal Family and around 70,000 citizens. Visitors can explore the tombs of Tongan Kings in Langi, visit the Flying Fox Preserve in Kolvai, or dive the coral reefs on the south-eastern coast.
Tongatapu may be the largest island but it is not the only one in the southern group. ‘Ata Island is just a 30-minute boat journey south of Tongatapu and is a remote paradise.
Legend states that ‘Eua Island and nearby ‘Ata Island were the first in Tonga to be created by Tangaloa; an important family of gods in Tongan mythology. ‘Eua Island is dense with forest, some of which climbs high over mountains and hills. It is a much-loved destination for those who enjoy ecology or adventure.
‘Eua National Park spans the central eastern coast and there are popular hiking trails criss-crossing through the lush rainforest. Northern ‘Eua has a dramatic landscape comprised of cliffs, caves, and sinkholes and the coastline of the south is rugged. Many enjoy watching humpback whales cruise close to the shore or the site of the rare crimson shining parrot taking to the skies.
The islands that make up Ha’apai are rarely ventured to by visitors but are authentic Polynesia. Despite only being home to a few guesthouses and boutique eco lodges, the locals of Ha’apai are incredibly friendly.
The 62 tropical islands are made up of barrier reefs, shallow lagoons and coral atolls. There are countless perfect backdrops for keen travellers, particularly those who want to experience volcanic action. The island of Tofua is an active volcano.
The islands throughout Ha’apai move to the beat of their own drum and explorers should prepare for a slow pace of life. Absorbing tales from locals will give a real insight into Polynesian culture and history.
The 61 islands of Vava’u are quintessential azure utopias. Coral reefs and crystal clear lagoons adorn the coastline. The islands are a world-famous yachting hotspot due to Tonga’s steady trade winds, undeniable beauty, and unparalleled weather. Another love of visitors is game fishing, with many wanting to get their hands on the peculiar blue marlin.
The islands of Vava’u are also the best for those wanting to snorkel or dive. Tropical fish beam like jewels amongst the coral and there are caves and reefs to be explored. Don’t be alarmed by any dark shadows if out in open water, it is often just a humpback whale leisurely perusing the ocean.